Running out of time: shelter plans stall with city council as cold temperatures roll in

It seems as though city leaders are no closer to addressing Spokane’s homeless crisis than they were a few months ago, putting the men and women living on the streets in limbo as cold temperatures settle into the region.

“We’re in the middle of a situation — I think it’s a, I would call it a crisis,” said city councilwoman Karen Stratton at a meeting Monday. “Coming into cold weather, we have nothing solid. We have no plan.”

The city has been planning to turn the old Grocery Outlet building on East Sprague into a shelter for months. Now, that plan is off the table and time is running out.

“You think it’s gonna work and then you go in with your subject matter experts and really start looking at the facility, the location, all of those different things — and the kinds of services that we want to provide from that shelter and it just wasn’t feasible that it was all gonna come together,” said city spokesperson Kirstin Davis. “The weather is a huge factor, obviously and the intent and the goal was always to have something in place by now for sure.”

For months, it seemed as though the Grocery Outlet building would fulfill that plan. Now that the old storefront is no longer an option, Davis said the city will get $50,000 in earnest money back to invest in another location.

“Just because it’s not maybe out there being talked about, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t out there looking at different sites,” Davis said.

Wherever the shelter stands, the city needs volunteers to staff it — but city council members say they need more time and a better idea of possible locations before they can agree to a $240,000 contract with The Salvation Army.

Frustration with the situation came to a head at Monday’s city council meeting, when Stratton said Mayor Condon is to blame.

“We all want the same thing. We all care about doing the right thing,” Stratton said Monday. “And we’re all getting angry at each other because this is so frustrating and I understand it. “The administration has sat back and watched this slow down to a halt and here we sit.”

Stratton’s comments caught the attention of council president candidate Cindy Wendle, who fired back Tuesday afternoon on Twitter.

“The Council President sets the tone, and the current tone is unacceptable,” Wendle said. “We’ve seen this Council degenerate into the lowest tier of political theater. It’s embarrassing to watch. Instead of leadership, we get hand-wringing and blame-shifting. It’s time for a change.”

The city council is set to hold a special meeting on emergency shelters and warming centers Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. A crew from 4 News Now will attend the meeting and provide updates as they get them.

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