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Woodward Discusses Temporary Shelter Idea

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at 2 p.m.

Discussion about using existing resources to add temporary warm spaces to the shelter options for a defined period of time evolved over the weekend to evaluation and consideration of a City-owned property at 5205 N. Florida Road. The City was beginning to discuss the concept with stakeholders, many of whom passionately expressed their opposition to the concept. Mayor Nadine Woodward issued the following statement about the situation:

“City staff is continually discussing ideas and options for enhancing shelter resources. Many additions over the past several months have given us a stronger base to build from as we continue exploring partnerships and new ways to meet the need. One of the ideas we consistently hear from the community is to evaluate City-owned property as a potential resource. The rationale is it’s already under City ownership and likely quicker and easier to activate.

Recent conversations have been about potentially using land on North Florida Road in northeast Spokane that already has a perimeter fence for safety and security, and power for heat and other electrical needs. The challenge when ideas are developed is to take the concept far enough that a conversation with stakeholders is meaningful and based on at least a basic set of facts.

As we discussed the Florida Road concept with the councilmembers who represent the northeast and several neighbors to the property, it became clear that the concerns about using that location, even for a defined length of time like had been done with the downtown library, Spokane Arena, and the Mission Avenue property during the early months of the pandemic, outweighed the benefits we were seeking.

So a decision was made to not pursue the idea any further and refocus our time and resources on the bigger picture priorities, which include a new temporary shelter location to meet emergent needs on short notice and a separate permanent shelter with day-use space and ready access to services. We will continue applying lessons learned about location, access, security, health and safety, transportation, size of space, and many other considerations as we evaluate new ideas.

We appreciate and share the urgency of providing additional resources and have chosen a partnership and collaborative approach that typically produces better outcomes even if it takes a little longer to achieve. We are committed to adding more shelter space to the system for on-demand activation and as permanent resources that will treat people with dignity and respect, set them on a path to permanent housing, and address the environmental considerations expressed by so many in our community.

The work is as difficult as it is worth it. We will get there with everyone’s help and support as we embrace the challenge.”