For once, pretty much everyone was happy. The city administration, local activists and the City Council have fought intensely over the struggles to provide shelter for Spokane's homeless population, but on Monday night, the mood was far more positive
"I just want to say, this is what I'm talkin' about," says Councilwoman Kate Burke, who chained herself outside of City Hall last year in protest of the lack of shelters.
The cause for celebration was the decision to open up the former Pura Vida building, south of the Browne's Addition neighborhood, as a temporary warming center for 120 adult single men and women this winter. But unlike the warming centers used last year, it will be a 24/7 facility, it will have storage space for homeless people's belongings, and there will be a shower trailer outside to allow people to take showers.
The warming center will be run by a relatively new local nonprofit, Jewels Helping Hands.
City Council members hope that it will be upgraded to a permanent shelter in the coming months. The city is taking out a two-month lease with an option to buy at a cost of $395,000 — a fraction of what the former Grocery Outlet facility would have cost.
City Council President Ben Stuckart argues that the city is essentially committing to buy the shelter. If it does, he notes, the purchase would happen before a new mayor takes office. His opponent, Nadine Woodward, has opposed the purchase of a new low-barrier 24/7 shelter.
City spokeswoman Kirstin Davis says the Condon administration is "just looking for solutions."
She says the former Pura Vida facility space could be a youth shelter in the future.
The city is also planning to work to increase the amount of family shelter space to accommodate 45 additional people at Catholic Charities' Rising Strong facility, increase the service hours for Hope House and Women's Hearth, and bump up the capacity at Truth Ministries by 50 spaces.
It's all part of the city's strategy to give people a path out of homelesness, Davis stresses.
"The numbers are declining for chronic homelessness," she says, "We're not warehousing people. That is not the intent."