Cannon center will lack permanent bathrooms, showers through winter

As the weather is cold and wet, the Cannon Warming Center is still turning about 25 people away. They’re helping nearly 100 people, including some staff, but it still doesn’t have a proper bathroom or shower.

The City of Spokane said it won’t be able to do additional renovations like the bathrooms and showers inside the building because then the center would have to help fewer people for a certain amount of time.

“If we were to go in and do that work now, we would have to reduce that capacity in order to achieve that construction. We don’t want to interrupt that at a time of high need,” said Kirstin Davis, with the City of Spokane.

Every night for the last few weeks, Sean Morgan is one of the lucky 80 or so who has a warm place to sleep.

“I was actually here the night they were supposed to open. I’ve been here every night since,” Morgan said.

He’s been through a lot, seen a lot, much like others who stay at the center.

“I was traveling with my best friend whose family lives here. I wanted to get him back home, now I’m ready to go back home,” Morgan said.

Although he misses home, at least he’s got a roof over his head right now.

“The one thing I don’t have to be right now is cold,” Morgan told 4 News Now.

Each day the Cannon Center staff is busing people wherever they need to go, from doctors appointments to a YMCA to shower.

“We still have no showers or bathrooms installed,” said Julie Garcia, the founder of Jewels Helping Hands, who is operating the center.

“We have been supporting their mobile showers, we’ve been doing everything we can to support the systems they have in place, the facility as it is,” Davis said.

The center won’t get them either. Davis said they wanted to turn the Cannon Center into a shelter eventually, but it didn’t happen and won’t until after winter is over.

“We knew it would be a space we could operate, or an operator could use as an emergency warming center,” Davis continued. “However, the whole idea was to then convert it into a shelter for young adults, targeted population for young adults.”

There is a difference between a shelter and a warming center. Davis said there’s been confusion in the community about the “expectations of those different services.”

The Cannon Center, which is an emergency warming center, is for immediate need in a temporary space, Davis said. A shelter is a place where people are referred to by providers.

“They get assessed, and then they are referred to a shelter which then they can have continuous stay opportunities where they can get stabilized with their housing,” Davis said.

Other than the Cannon Center, another example of a warming center is the House of Charity. These places have check-ins daily.

“Those are temporary, you show up that day, you get services right then and there,” Davis said.

She added that Hope House or Women’s Hearth are examples of a shelter.

Regardless of the title, the Cannon Center is making due with what they have: Port-a-potties and a new shower trailer they just received.

“Since then, the YMCA up north has been amazing and allowed us to take 15 people in every day to shower,” Garcia said.

“It’s one of the most wonderful facilities I’ve been in,” Morgan added.

Since the center opened almost a month ago, Garcia said a few people have been able to find housing. Those who are experiencing homelessness are getting treated for medical issues they otherwise might not be able to get on their own.

“Our goal was to stabilize everybody’s health, first off. So, we’ve had the health department here twice. They’re coming in and immunizing for flu and Hepatitis A,” Garcia said. “We’ve had mobile medical here assessing our guests’ needs.”

She said everything else is going well.

“They’re acclimating well, there’s a stream of new people, but we have about 40 of the same regular people that are here every day,” Garcia said.

One of those regulars happens to be Morgan.

“Everybody’s accepted here and that really touched my heart,” Morgan said.

For clients that the center is turning away, Garcia said they give them items they might need and help them get to other centers.

Those in need can find center openings by dialing 211. Garcia said they’ve had some issues with it, but are still updating their openings on it’s Facebook through a Google document.