Homeless community moves into Spokane Arena for next three months

SPOKANE, Wash. — In less than 24 hours, 69 people moved from the downtown Spokane library and into the Spokane Arena as it becomes their new home for the next 90 days.

The city and county officials, the Guardians Foundation and the Arena agreed to house those without a home inside the event venue. The decision comes after a lot of back and forth between temporary shelters as officials try to contain the novel coronavirus among the homeless population.

On Saturday, empty beds were ready.

“In the parking lot, folks will check in and they’ll come in,” said Mike Shaw, CEO of the Guardians Foundation “We’ll assign them a bed, and they do their thing that they’ve always been doing, which is staying in a safe environment in which they can navigate their activities.”

Before going into the building, their temperatures are checked. If they are showing COVID-19 symptoms, they’re placed in an isolation room. From there, staff members will take the person to the fairgrounds for a COVID-19 test.

110 people will be housed in a 7,500 square foot space. However, not all the beds have someone sleeping on them.

RELATED: Spokane Arena to temporarily house homeless, shelter operator says

“Due to social distancing for a larger crowd of 110 people and being able to create an environment for social distancing, we’re going to phase in Cannon [Street Shelter] the very first part of the week,” Shaw explained.

On the property, security is present on the outside and inside. It’s provided by the Guardians and a third-party company.

If someone is caught loitering outside on someone’s property, they’ll be given a warning.

“If they’re headed to the park, head to the park, but there will be no loitering or any of those activities,” Shaw said. “We’re giving them a great space. We want them not to take advantage of the situation. Educate them about what the expectation is out in the community if they want to continue to use this space.”

Shaw explained that the community is another top priority for his foundation. Weekly neighborhood meetings are being set up to address any concerns.

A second shelter for woman has also opened.

The contract for the shelter expires in mid-August.

RELATED: City, County confirm plan to move homeless into Spokane Arena