SPOKANE, Wash. - The fight to find shelter space for Spokane's homeless picked up steam this year -- and now, some city leaders believe they might have the solution to the crisis.
The proposal, submitted by the Community Housing and Human Services Department to the Public Safety Committee this week, calls for the city to buy or lease three buildings throughout Spokane and turn them into homeless shelters.
If approved, the warming center on Cannon Street worth $395,000 would be renovated to offer 24/7 space for 60 adults, with 20 emergency beds and 40 continuous stay beds, where those in need could stay for up to three months. Council member Breean Beggs is hopeful this shelter would be open July 1 of this year.
The second space hasn't been picked yet, but the CHHS mentions in its proposal it cost an estimated $400,000 and would be similar in size to the Cannon shelter. Beggs told KXLY Wednesday this shelter may be located close to Spokane Valley, as there aren't many homeless resources there.
Should the proposal pass, the city would buy or lease the Spokane Housing Authority building on Mission Avenue for $1.2 million. Once the SHA moves locations, the property would turn into a space able to serve 18-24 year olds with space for case management and an emergency shelter with room for 30-40 young adults. The shelter could be operational as soon as the fall.
In total, these shelters would create space for 150 people, which would offset the number of spaces lost when House of Charity reduced its bed count in September.
So, how much will all of this cost?
The CHHS says it will cost anywhere from $650,000 to $800,000 to run each shelter. In their first year up and running, it would cost the city $5.4 million to buy, renovate and operate the shelters. Beggs said most of that money will come from the federal government.
"The city budget doesn't have the money for that necessarily," he said. "So we're gonna look to the county and the city of Spokane Valley for some of it, we'll look to private non-profits and funders, and we could probably use some federal funds to build the buildings or buy the buildings."
The annual cost would then drop to $2.4 million after the first year. Beggs believe giving the homeless a steady place to stay, apply for jobs and get connected to resources would cut down on calls to the emergency room, police and fire -- which would eventually save taxpayers money.
"It's proven throughout the nation that when you give people housing first, it's cheaper," he said. "Even though it costs a little bit of money up front, it's way cheaper and states and communities that have adopted that actually save money from taxpayers, but we gotta get organized and make it work."
Beggs said the only missing piece from this proposal is a day center for men.
"There's no place for them to go between 7 in the morning when the warming centers close and 7 at night when they open up," he said. "If we want people to get jobs, get stable with their mental health, substance abuse issues, get reconnected to family members, they have to have basic stability."
While Beggs believes there's more to be discussed, he said this is a step in the right direction towards ending homelessness.
"It's not that many people. It can be solved in this community," he said.
As of now, this is just a proposal -- nothing has been approved yet. Stay with KXLY 4 for updates.
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