Emergency warming center closes: What’s next for people experiencing homelessness in the community?

SPOKANE, Wash. — After two weeks, the emergency warming center at the Spokane Convention Center is closed. It’s been an invaluable resource that helped some people find stability and a pathway to housing.

“I praise God. That is a blessing,” said Anthony. He’s been staying at the warming center for the past two weeks. “Had not the city done this for everybody, I would not have gained this opportunity, and I am so grateful.”

Anthony was living on the streets and said he found the warming center on a whim. Before the center closed its doors, the city worked to try and connect people with resources. They brought in providers to help people maneuver the existing shelter services. However, the city says not everyone was interested in the connections.

“Over the last week, we spent a lot of time working with individuals here to try to connect them to existing shelter resources,” said Brian Coddington, the Director of Communications and Marketing for the City of Spokane. “Half or more of them indicated they would just go back to where they came from and weren’t interested in looking for services.”

Coddington says they were able to help around three dozen people find more permanent housing.

It cost the city around $400,000 to run the two-week operation. There’s also around $10,000 worth of damage to the space. They served nearly 9,000 meals, provided shelter and a safe space for people from the cold weather. Now, the city’s looking for another long-term location and another emergency shelter location to create more shelter space.

“It’s not happening as fast as people would like it to, us included, but know that there are a lot of people spending a lot of time and a lot of effort and a lot of resources on helping the most vulnerable in our community,” Coddington added.

The Health and Justice Recovery Alliance was one group there helping people leave the warming center. They say adding more resources to help our unhoused neighbors come fast enough.

“The city has to come to a place where we’re not in a place of reactivity,” said Carmen Pacheco-Jones, the Executive Director for Health and Justice Recovery Alliance.

Her team transported people to new places to stay after the center closed.

Anthony’s just thankful this resource opened up his eyes to more help and stability he’s cherishing for the future.

“I came here, and this not only reinstilled my faith, but it showed me that there is hope,” Anthony added. “Thank you, Spokane. Thank you.”