SPOKANE, Wash. - People who receive rent through a state-funded program are being removed from a downtown apartment building because of poor living conditions.
Three people who receive money for rent and aid through the HEN program are being removed from the New Washington Apartments downtown. The HEN program is run through Goodwill here in Spokane County, and recipients are referred to the program through Washington Department of Social and Health Services. The HEN program helps people who are homeless or about to be homeless.
According to Goodwill, for someone to receive aid, they must first be approved by DSHS. Goodwill then investigates to make sure the person is actually homeless or on the verge of being homeless. The information also has to be verified by a third party, like a homeless shelter, or a family member.
Goodwill says recipients of the program must find housing on their own, then bring a lease back to Goodwill. The landlord of the building is then required to fill out a habitability form for a person to be approved for aid. Goodwill does not inspect the building unless a complaint has been raised.
As of February 1, Goodwill says no HEN program recipients had complained about the New Washington Apartments. However, an alleged incident involving a woman who lived at that building caught the interest of the city council. Several Spokane City Council members, along with a representative of Goodwill, visited the apartment complex Friday and determined conditions were too deplorable for HEN recipients to be living there.
Councilwoman Kate Burke initiated the tour of that building when she found out about the incident involving a vulnerable woman. Burke wouldn't confirm exactly what the incident was, but described it as "horrific." She also said it happened because the woman did not have a working latch on her apartment door.
"When we have a landlord saying it's habitable, and it's not, and we trust them, that's a breach of contract for the HEN program," Burke said.
Burke said she was invited to tour the building by someone who lived inside. She said when she looked inside the building, all the reports she had heard turned out to be true.
"There were leaks, clear leaks coming through all sorts of places. Signs on a lot of the bathrooms, saying "out of order" or "no running water" or "no hot water." And a couple of the residents did come out and chat with us about their experiences and it seemed some of the rooms didn't seem to have heating services, electricity," she said.
Goodwill says it immediately removed the woman who was involved in the incident, and is working on removing the two remaining HEN recipients now.
KXLY tried calling the New Washington Apartments for comment, but the manager immediately hung up the phone.
KXLY has done an extensive investigation into the New Washington Apartments. In a report in 2016, KXLY revealed that the Department of Corrections had stopped placing released sex offenders in the building because of unsafe living conditions. That report showed the building was infested with vermin and bed bugs and several security cameras were not operational.