Spokane City Council approves $250K for shelter expansion, improvements

Months of frustration surrounding Spokane’s homeless crisis may have come to an end Monday night, as the Spokane City Council voted to set aside a combined $250,000 to cover improvements to two local warming centers.

The bulk of that money will go toward Truth Ministries on East Sprague, which has been taking in homeless men for the last 17 years but has never partnered with the city — until now. It came together last year, when volunteers saw city leaders scrambling to find shelter space and realized they could have helped.

“Last year when they needed to open the warming centers, we felt like ‘oh no,’ it didn’t seem like they even knew who we were,” said director Marty McKinney. “We’re getting to know them, they’re getting to know us and we just kind of lost that for a few years, so there’s some good things all the way around.”

Truth Ministries has 56 spaces now, but that will nearly double to 100 beds for men with this funding. McKinney isn’t phased by the big increase — if anything, he’s inspired by it.

“This is just a little spot in your life. You can move forward. You can move beyond this. You can get out of this,” McKinney said. “It’s hard, you know, and it can take a lot out of you. But when you see one make it out, after you’ve seen so many not, it’s pretty cool.”

Truth Ministries will look a little different than Spokane has seen in the past. Dinner is served by volunteers every night and the men staying there will be sleeping in bunk beds on mattresses, instead of on sleeping pads on the floor.

“They have a community. Right? And so it’s a little different than our temporary warming facilities that are set up for the winter so that people don’t die,” said city councilwoman Kate Burke. “We need to make sure we’re providing meals, because a lot of times, folks can’t go to a meal site that’s provided somewhere and get to the shelter on time. So, we’re kind of putting people in a bad position.”

The six-month, $175,000 contract will cover the costs of bedding, food, gas and security improvements. McKinney said he’s planning to use some of the money to create fire exits, as well as storage space and a smoking area outside the building. He hopes to spend the rest on educational classes for his staff on administering CPR and Narcan in the event of an overdose, plus hourly wages for his volunteers.

Truth Ministries is open every night from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

The rest of the money approved by city council Monday will go toward installing bathrooms and showers at the Cannon Center, which will be staffed by Jewel’s Helping Hands 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I’m just excited that we have communication with folks that we didn’t before and that they’re stepping up to do the right thing,” said Burke.

Burke said the council’s focus will now shift to finding a new place for 50 women staying at the House of Charity, which she hopes will streamline its services for men.

“I think we’ll have our bases covered after that,” Burke said. “We’ve got a good culture down where this is how you humanize the experience. This is how you give back to people who are struggling.”