City Re-Starts Shelter Operator Search Process

Brian Walker, Communications Manager, 509.655.1387

Friday, May 6, 2022 at 10:11 a.m.

The City has re-started the process to select one or multiple providers to operate a possible new regional flex capacity homeless shelter with wrap-around services at 4320 E. Trent Ave. in east Spokane.

A new Request for Proposals seeks submittals for two separate project types – shelter operations and services – that help adult men and women escape homelessness. Providers may submit applications for one or both project types. Proposals are being accepted through 5 p.m. on May 19.

A broad-based independent group as described in the RFP will make a recommendation on the proposals to Mayor Nadine Woodward, who will then decide whether to forward the recommendation to City Council for final consideration.

The RFP asks:

  • How the existing space will be utilized or subdivided to ensure safe, sanitary and appropriate sleeping and day space for six sub-populations;
  • How entry into the facility, including data collection, bed placement, storage, pet/service animal management; security/weapons management, and entry/exit policy, will be organized;
  • What the rules, including entry times, re-entry policy and trespassed/temporary ban, will be;
  • How core services, including restroom access, meal distribution, storage, hygiene resources, clothing banks and showers, will be managed;
  • How the shelter will be staffed with the capability to scale for flex capacity during inclement weather;
  • How proactive communication and maintaining a favorable relationship with the neighborhood is planned; and
  • For a budget narrative that outlines costs for operations, support, administration and data collection.

The re-start on the search for a shelter operator comes after conflict of interests concerns arose last month when members of the regional Continuum of Care board who were parties to one of the proposals participated in a discussion about which proposal to recommend.

Although those board members did not vote on the proposals, their participation violated the board’s conflict of interest policy. The board’s Annual Conflict of Interest Acknowledgement Form, which members must sign, states: “Whenever a Member or any of their immediate family members have a financial interest or any other personal interest in a matter coming before the Board or one of its committees, they must fully disclose the nature of the interest and recuse themselves from discussing, lobbying or voting on the matter.” Additionally, the three proposals were shared outside of the board evaluators before the board completed its process, which creates the potential for outside influence. As a result, that search was halted and a recommendation wasn’t forwarded to the City Council for consideration.

“While the pause was disheartening because the demand to provide basic shelter needs to those in crisis is immediate, this re-start in the search process was the right decision in the name of transparency and being careful stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Mayor Nadine Woodward. “This new process opens up more options for operators and is customized on how to best address the needs of both our vulnerable individuals and neighbors.”

Technical assistance workshops and a site tour will be offered to potential operators.

The City is negotiating a lease to open the shelter that has about 32,500 square feet of indoor space for a shelter and office/meeting space. The operator will manage the facility with an initial estimated daily usage of, at a minimum, 150 beds, scaling to a minimum of 250 beds based on demand, and with additional surge capacity due to inclement weather. An interim zoning ordinance to temporarily operate a shelter in any heavy industrial area citywide is also required. Both of those proposals are subject to City Council approval. The City has evaluated about 100 locations as potential spots for temporary shelter space since last summer.

Over the past 18 months, the City has partnered with regional governments and providers to add more low-barrier space for women, men, and young adults, bridge housing for men and women, and 24-hour shelter space while also meeting pandemic needs for social distancing. The City Council also approved Woodward’s budget request to add another permanent low-barrier shelter location outside of the downtown core. That search is ongoing.

Woodward announced a Homelessness Plan 2.0 last month, the next evolution of a plan she announced in July 2020. The plan is built on community collaboration and relies on resources from providers, nonprofits, private industry and government to further build a regional system of assets and resources that meet people with services, prevent them from becoming homeless or get them temporarily housed, and move them out of homelessness.