City Council approves new homeless shelter on East Sprague, raising concern among neighbors

click to enlarge City Council President Ben Stuckart - DANIEL WALTERS PHOTO
Daniel Walters photo
City Council President Ben Stuckart

It isn't unusual for neighbors to get upset when they learn a new homeless shelter is being constructed next door. And that's what happened when the Spokane City Council unanimously voted to purchase the old Grocery Outlet store on East Sprague for $1.8 million.

But, in this case, it was a nonprofit who works with a different sort of vulnerable population that was raising concern. Project ID is an organization dedicated to giving intellectually and developmentally disabled adults community and camaraderie through a variety of activities, including fielding the largest Special Olympics team in the state.

"We've seen some tremendous growth," executive director Bob Hutchinson says. "We've seen folks who are nonverbal their whole lives become verbal."

But Hutchinson says the population of people they work with are at risk of being taken advantage of.

"This is a trusting and loving and caring population," Hutchinson says. "If you walk up to one of our members and say, 'I need five bucks,' they'll give you five bucks."

He says he's less worried about the homeless people who will be staying in the shelter, and more worried about the people who aren't allowed to stay at the shelter who linger outside. Hutchinson says Project ID has already struggled with existing levels of prostitution, drug abuse, and homelessness around the building.

"We have volunteers saying, 'We're afraid,'" Hutchinson says. "My concern is, how do we overcome those fears and make this a safe place."

City Council President Ben Stuckart says he understands their worries, but believes it's important to move forward.

"A lot of the homeless population is developmentally disabled, too. And they fall through the cracks and end up homeless," Stuckart says. "I think there's actually ways our shelter and their organization have an opportunity to work together to help people."

On that overall goal, at least, Hutchinson agrees.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, staff writer Daniel Walters is the Inlander's City Hall reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...