(The Center Square) – The Spokane City Council has approved a $6.5 million contract with the Guardians Foundation to operate the Trent Resource and Assistance Center through the end of 2023.
Having an operator onboard allows the 33,000 square foot shelter to open its doors to the city’s homeless population by next week, says Mayor Nadine Woodward.
“The center immediately gives us the ability to offer individuals a safe, heathy, and humane place to get out of the elements, eat regular meals, and connect to services and supports they need to take the next steps in their journey out of homelessness,” she said in a statement. “This is a significant accomplishment for the region and our partners. It takes all of us working together to meet the needs of everyone in our community.”
The Guardians and city will jointly host an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, to give neighbors and community members and opportunity to tour the center and meet its staff.
The council voted 5-2 Monday to hire Guardians, with Councilors Michael Cathcart and Karen Stratton opposed.
Cathcart released a statement following the meeting that said his vote “should not be construed as opposition to the proposed operations provider, service provider or our unhoused community members.”
The reason he voted against hiring Guardians, said Cathcart, was because of the city’s financial standing.
“The general public likely hasn’t grasped the severity of the city’s current budget position which could reach $30-50M in potential unfunded expenses,” he said in a written statement. “This astronomical and, quite frankly, unknown total combined with the impending if not existing recession, we are not in a strong financial position to make financial commitments of such magnitude without a sustainable funding source at this time.”
The city is leasing the new shelter space from developer Lawrence Stone for a $26,100 base monthly rent plus a $2.5% lease management fee. The total cost over the five-year term of the lease is expected to be at least $1.6 million.
The city is looking to fund the shelter’s first year and four months through a mix of state funding through the Department of Commerce, American Rescue Plan dollars, housing sales tax revenue and the city’s criminal justice fund.
The city has requested more than $3 million from the Department of Commerce for shelter operational costs and to make building improvements, including construction of a laundry room, kitchen and 60 two-person enclosed “pods” for guest privacy.
Since finalizing the lease with Stone a couple of months ago, the city has made improvements to the vacant warehouse at 4320 E. Trent Avenue that included insulation, ADA accessibility, fencing, walls to create separate spaces and installation of fire safety equipment.
The shelter could open as early as Monday with 40 beds and about 100 sleeping mats available. Eventually, capacity is expected to grow to at least 250, with separate sleeping spaces for men, women, couples and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Showers will be available in a trailer on site and operations will begin with portable toilets.
Not yet available will be wraparound services to help shelter guests stabilize their lives and get into permanent housing.
The city is still working to get a provider for case management services onboard.
The Trent shelter is one component of the city’s plan to relocate more than 600 people out of the tent city known as Camp Hope at Second Avenue and Ray Street. Other community partners, such as Catholic Charities, are also exploring options to create more temporary housing for the homeless population.
Camp Hope is located in the right-of-way owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The city, on behalf of more than 20 public and private entities, submitted a plan to Commerce in July seeking $24.3 million to create at least 650 spaces for individuals on the property, half of them permanent housing.
“The city stands ready to move individuals into substantially better and safer environments than they are living in now,” Woodward said.
The 2022 Point-in-Time count in Spokane found that about 1,800 people are homeless.