With the help of $1 million dollars from the state Legislature, plans are coming together to move Crosswalk teen shelter out of downtown Spokane.
Crosswalk, established in 1985, provides emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth. It's currently located on Second Avenue downtown, a couple blocks away from Lewis and Clark High School.
But the plan is to move it out of the downtown core by 2021, says Fawn Schott, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, which operates the shelter.
"It's just a safety issue for our young people," Schott says.
The shelter provides support services including substance abuse and mental health counseling and education. Schott says the setting of downtown can distract kids from those services, and that there are "influences" downtown that the kids maybe shouldn't be "right next door" to, Schott says.
Moving the shelter out of downtown could help connect kids into educational and employment opportunities, Schott says. Volunteers of America is currently looking for a space near Spokane Community College for the new shelter.
The new Crosswalk would have space for around 20 kids in its shelter on the ground floor, similar to its capacity now. But it would also add around 20 more "dorm-style" rooms above the shelter that can serve as transitional housing for kids 16-20 years old. Those teens would ideally be connected with educational opportunities on the college campus at SCC and given opportunities for livable wage employment "to help stabilize them for self-sufficiency outside of the system," Schott says.
Schott says the goal is to break ground on the new building by 2020, with completion by 2021. In the meantime, VOA will be working on finding additional funds to complete the project. Schott says she anticipates the project will cost about $5 million.
The $1 million from the state was passed as part of a two-year capital budget that passed unanimously this legislative session. It's now on Gov. Jay Inslee's desk awaiting a signature. The budget includes money for other projects in Spokane as well. Those include projects to build a new University District facility for Joya Child & Family Development, a new community center called the Carl Maxey Center, upgrades for the Carlyle Housing Facility, and $2.4 million overall to expand capacity for community behavioral health treatment.
"This is a win for Spokane," Sen. Andy Billig (D-Spokane) said in a statement. "The strategic investments in our community will increase access to behavioral health services, quality early learning and housing support for teens and other vulnerable groups."
The planned move of the shelter is the result of a two-and-a-half year process analyzing how to better serve homeless youth. As part of that process, VOA learned more about where vulnerable kids are coming from and what they need.
"Young people don't always come from the downtown core, and they don't want to be engaged in the downtown core," Schott says. "They want to be in a neighborhood and in a community embedded in education opportunities and job opportunities like any young person in our community."