Jewels Helping Hands forced to turn away 40 people as Spokane’s only warming center opens

Months of back-and-forth between the city and its only warming center operator may finally be coming to an end, but some of Spokane’s homeless are still being left out in the cold.

READ: Jewels Helping Hands refuses to vacate warming center, despite city’s orders

Jewels Helping Hands founder Julie Garcia told 4 News Now because the Cannon Center is not up to city code, her staff had to turn away more than half the people who came to them for help Saturday night as doors opened.

“We did take three van trips to the shelters that had bed availability, and we did that until there was no bed availability left,” Garcia said. “We had a lot of calls from service providers — the hospital, the police, looking for beds for people and had none available.”

Until the city can install fire exit signs and replace a door to bring the building up to code, the center can only sleep 30 people. Garcia said 12 people snagged beds, while the other 18 slept mat-to-mat on the floor Saturday with a room full of bunk beds, with space for 50 people, sat empty on the other side of the wall.

“The hardest part of all of this is knowing that we have all this space and we can’t let people in,” Garcia said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking because people on the street are truly sick and suffering right now.”

The city expects the Cannon Center to be up to code in mid-December.

“We cannot function with our policies and protocols and procedures in this small of a space,” Garcia said. “We just need the capacity to be full so that we aren’t spending all of our nights out on the street handing out coats and blankets, when we have all of these beds here that they could be sleeping in.”

READ: Despite recent concerns, City of Spokane moving forward with homeless shelter operator