City says warming shelter openings prompted Camp Hope closure
SPOKANE, Wash. — For the last month outside City Hall, Spokane’s homeless have protested for more access to the city’s warming shelters in near-freezing temperatures at Camp Hope, a makeshift homeless camp. The men and women who slept and protested outside City Hall said the city’s warming shelters did not have the capacity to take in Spokane’s homeless.
The city says there are openings at a handful of shelters, which is why it ordered the removal of the camp on Thursday.
“We knew that we were going to have additional warming center space available on Friday night so we determined that was about the right time that we should provide notice, knowing that those spaces would then be available for the folks that were staying outside,” said Marlene Feist, a city spokesperson.
Feist mentioned openings at the Open Doors Family Shelter, the Crosswalk shelter for teens, the Salem Lutheran Church’s warming center, as well as space for women at the House of Charity.
Since the closure of Camp Hope, the Open Doors Family Shelter, which has room for 80 people, saw a slight increase in families staying the night, from 42 people on Saturday night to 47 people on Sunday night. The shelter only takes in people caring for children and pregnant women.
Crosswalk, which serves 13 to 17-year-old kids and can hold 18 people, did not see a change since Camp Hope was torn down, with five children staying at the shelter.
But the warming center at Salem Lutheran was seeing double this weekend — from 17 people staying the night on Saturday to 34 people using the center Sunday night. Pastor Liv Larson Andrews told KXLY the center can still hold about 30 more people. Andrews believes there may be a reason why more people aren’t reaching out for help.
“You know, we’re only open at night, not during the day and we have no storage. So, I’m hearing that one reason folks won’t come to a warming center is they don’t have any place to secure their belongings,” said Andrews.
Feist said the city is working to explore more shelter storage options, as that was a big concern brought to the city during the protests at Camp Hope.
The warming center just received a shipment of new sleeping mats Monday, which means people won’t have to sleep on the gym floor anymore.
“I mean, it’s just a roof, warm air, and you know, preventing hypothermia, which is important,” said Andrews.
Andrews knows it’s not much, but while it’s better than nothing, she’s hoping for more.
“What we can provide as a warming center is not — it’s an emergency measure and we’re glad to do it, we’re glad to not have people freeze to death — but it is not the bigger, longer-term solution,” said Andrews.
Some shelters are still working to open their doors, including Women’s Hearth. The shelter told KXLY Monday it needs to hire and train three employees before it can open to the public.
Feist said the city is working to open a new permanent shelter by next summer.
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