‘Several weeks out’: Delays complicate new shelter, City Council prepares to pass new resolutions

SPOKANE, Wash. — The search for a homeless shelter isn’t getting any easier. After months of work, the city of Spokane says it’s starting over on the process to find an organization to run a new shelter.

The city says a conflict of interest and breach of process forced them to start over. The mayor says some of the people tasked with recommending a provider were also involved with one of the submitted proposals.

The Mayor says this is a severe delay to help people find housing. She plans to once again open up the request for proposal process and is still discussing who would be part of the board to help select the provider. She is still set on the building located at 4320 E. Trent Ave.

“We’re talking several weeks out. This is quite a delay,” said Mayor Nadine Woodward.

It took months of work to first find a space and then secure a provider. Today, there’s still no end in sight for a new shelter.

“We’re having to do this because the process the first time, unfortunately, was compromised,” Woodward said.

She says the delay is costing taxpayers money.

“It’s costing the tax payers. I do not have a dollar figure for you. Every time that we wait, it is costing tax payers,” she said. “The fact that we have to do this whole process all over again is costing tax payers, and tax payers should be concerned about that.”

On Monday, the City Council didn’t approve an emergency zoning change for the new shelter. City Council President Breean Beggs says he isn’t even sure that shelter would be sustainable.

“I think the biggest issue that we heard from the community and the subject matter experts was trying to have 250 people crammed into one location was not going to be effective,” Beggs said.

Beggs says the Council has other plans for how to solve the issue.

“We would have three locations, instead of one location,” he said. “We’re going to recommend that instead of one location with 250 people every night, we maybe use that same location with 120 people and then we have a couple other locations.”

The Mayor says finding more locations isn’t possible.

“If we can’t locate one larger facility, we’re not going to be able to locate multiple smaller shelters. We’ve seen the NIMBY-ism. We’ve seen the pushback from neighborhoods and businesses,” Woodward said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

It isn’t getting any easier to find a solution city officials agree on.

“City council are the policy makers for how we’re going to do homeless shelters, and it has to meet our criteria,” Beggs said.

“We’re doing what City Council asked us to do. They want more shelter space. Now, allow me to do my job to open up a shelter to provide that space,” Woodward added.

The lease on the building Woodward wants to use still isn’t signed. Larry Stone, the developer who owns it, says he’s disappointed with the setback. Stone said in a statement:

“We cannot hold this building for the City for an indeterminate time. Given the fact that the City apparently has to do a new RFP for the providers, there seems likely be at least three or four weeks of delay. If the City Council does not promptly on the zoning issue, then I will probably have to lease the building to a private party. I love my City and I desperately want to help it. But, I do not have the power to overcome obstruction in the City Council or other obstructions.”

READ: City to restart selection process for provider of new homeless shelter