Downtown Spokane Library opens as temporary homeless shelter

SPOKANE, Wash. — Offices and storage rooms on the ground floor of the Spokane Public Library are now filled with beds and mats; each spaced 6 feet apart.

The library, which is closed for construction through 2021, opened Monday afternoon as a temporary homeless shelter.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said without the extra beds, more people would be on the street. Social distancing rules mean local shelters can’t help as many people.

“Instead of 6 inches, it’s 6 feet, so we did an assessment and realized we would probably be losing about half of our shelter beds,” Woodward said.

One wing of the ground floor is being used by Jewels Helping Hands, the non-profit that operates the city-owned Cannon shelter. A separate area is reserved for Hope House, which serves women only.

In all, there’s enough space to sleep 110 people.

“Even during an emergency like we’re experiencing right now, we want to make sure that our vulnerable population has access to resources and the services that they’re used to getting,” Woodward said.

Everyone entering the building will have their temperature checked. People showing symptoms will be isolated in a different area.

We can separate them if they’re feeling sick before they’re triaged and it’s determined whether or not they have to go to the hospital,” Woodward said.

Urinals in the men’s restroom were removed over the weekend and replaced with four showers.

People coming from the Cannon shelter will have separate showers and bathrooms outside.

Woodward said the space will be available until May 15, possibly longer depending on the spread of Covid 19.

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