City of Spokane announces temporary shelter space ahead of bitter cold snap

SPOKANE, Wash. – The City of Spokane has announced plans for temporary shelter space as frigid temperatures move into the region. 

Temperatures are expected to dip into single digits overnight over the next few days. 

A release from the city says about five dozen new spaces are being temporarily added to the shelter system for the upcoming cold snap. This is being done through a combination of “hoteling and expansion strategies.” 

READ: Why wind chill can be dangerous

A contract for hotel space has been expanded through a new partnership beginning Monday night. People at the Cannon Street shelter will be referred to these spaces to open up access to 40 low-barrier beds at the shelter. 

The Union Gospel Mission will also make 14 emergency weather beds available for women during the bitter cold temperatures. 

The city is also finalizing a process to seek proposals to contract for the operation of a location that would be opened on an as-needed basis to meet extreme cold, heat and air quality needs. A location has not been finalized. 

READ: City of Spokane in search for new temporary homeless shelter

The city says a separate search for a new permanent shelter location that is in this year’s budget is also ongoing. 

“We share everyone’s sense of urgency to meet the needs in our community,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said. “That’s why our City teams have been working nonstop to continually enhance the shelter system. Partnerships that bring meaningful, lasting solutions take time to come together.”

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City law says Spokane has to open a warming shelter if temperatures dip below 32 degrees and its designated low barrier shelter hits 90% occupancy the night before.

A city spokesperson says the occupancy rate at its low barrier shelters were in the 70% and 80% range.

Homeless advocates say there are currently more than 400 people living outside, and 200 people living at Camp Hope, a homeless encampment in east Spokane off I-90.

They believe the city is not doing enough for the homeless community.

“Imagine being in 8 degree weather with a wind-chill of minus 20, and all you have to protect you is a tent, a sleeping bag, and a handwarmer, and that’s what’s going on this week. It’s going to be a brutal week,” said Maurice Smith, a leader with the Spokane Homeless Coalition.

Smith says it isn’t just about being warm, it’s actually about being safe, too.

“This current administration acts like it’s not a big deal and it is a big deal people could die over the next week,” Smith said.

But city spokesperson, Brian Coddington says they’ve been actively engaged in conversation to find space for a permanent shelter.

“Nobody thinks that the work is done. The work is definitely not done. There definitely needs to be more space in the system. The mayor has been very clear about that and that’s been the directive to the team and that’s the work that’s been happening,” Coddington said.

Coddington says the city has been working on other enhancements over the last several months, such as adding additional space for young adults and women, as well as adding a 24-hour space to the Cannon Street Shelter.

Coddington says they hope to have news on both a temporary shelter and permanent space in the coming weeks.