SPOKANE, Wash. - It’s been two weeks since the City of Spokane began directing all calls for homeless encampments to its "My Spokane 311" hotline and so far it has been a success.
The city says prior to its centralization of homeless encampment calls, residents had been calling the Mayor’s Office, the police and even Code Enforcement and that in between all the departments, responses were getting delayed.
In just two weeks of operation the 311 hotline has taken 22 calls which has led to the complete cleanup of two camps and police visits to five others to give 24 hour notices.
“Our primary goal is to get them to a safe place where they can be warm and where they can have food,” said Carly Cortright, who oversees the hotline.
She says calls are passed to the city’s community outreach team and that before removal, homeless individuals are given resources they can use to get off the streets.
At the House of Charity, which has partnered with the city to provide 24/7 shelter for homeless individuals, over 300 people have been overnighting as the weather has begun getting colder. The shelter says calls made to 311 should be done compassionately.
“It allows our system of care to look after those who are the most vulnerable in the city,” said Sam Dompier, the shelter’s director.
The circumstances behind an individuals homelessness can be varied, but she wants Spokane’s homeless to know that they have options and a place to go.
“At House of Charity we serve people at any time in any condition,” she said. “As long as people can respect themselves, the other people and the building they are welcome here, along with their pets.”
She describes the shelter as a preliminary, short term triage where they will work with the homeless to find long term housing solutions.
“Sleeping outside during any season is not safe,” she said. “But especially during the winter when you can get frostbite and other sicknesses.”
Catholic Charities, which oversees the House of Charity, says the week following Thanksgiving they will be opening a new 50 unit housing development for chronically homeless individuals. The development is expected to have a large impact on the growing homeless problem in Spokane.