‘There’s a disconnect’: Council president candidates address Spokane’s homeless crisis

Homelessness has dominated headlines this year on and off the campaign trail, as the Spokane City Council has accused Mayor David Condon of not doing enough to address the issue while candidates looking to replace him and council president Ben Stuckart have offered up their solutions.

Between Stuckart and his opponent Nadine Woodward, the mayoral race has taken center stage in Spokane this year — but Breean Beggs and Cindy Wendle say even though their race hasn’t gotten as much attention, it is just as important for the city.

“There’s a lot of momentum that this city council, on its own, and working with the mayor and staff, have really come up with,” Beggs told 4 News Now.

Beggs believe that momentum comes with its own set of challenges and if the mayor and council president don’t work together to solve them, that momentum could come to a stop altogether.

“It will take us working together and I feel like, in some ways, we have been working together, but in some ways there’s a disconnect,” Beggs said.

Beggs said the cracks began to show last June, when Mayor Condon proposed downsizing operations at the House of Charity.

“Council thought and expressed, ‘but we have to build a second House of Charity, or lease one,” Beggs said. “Because we can’t just put those homeless people out on the street or they’ll be overrunning the entire downtown, not just that location.”

But that didn’t happen.

Beggs’ opponent Cindy Wendle said she hasn’t seen the same momentum he has.

“I look back and think, ‘in the last three years, is our downtown better than it was three years ago? Are things in Spokane better than they were?,'” Wendle said. “And if [Beggs] has a great plan to do it, why hasn’t he done it yet?”

Beggs said his hands are tied — then criticized Wendle for not giving specifics on her plans for the city.

“City council can’t negotiate agreements, we can’t negotiate places for people to shelter at. We can only sign them,” Beggs said. “I’ve heard from my opponent, ‘we need to listen more and we’ll come up with a solution,'” Beggs said. “But I really haven’t heard any specific solutions.”

Wendle believes the crisis stems from open drug use and mental health issues within the community. She says the solution lies in enforcing laws more strictly, in hopes of leading men and women on the streets to services and resources across the city.

“We do have a section of open drug use that’s happening that I don’t think we’ve paid attention to and that we’ve done a good enough job of enforcing our laws and I think that’s played out and it’s almost put gas on a flame,” Wendle said. “We have to enforce our laws. It is not okay and it’s not okay just because it’s a law on books, but to me, it’s not okay because I want something better for that person.”

Beggs, on the other hand, thinks it would be best to invest directly in those resources — and put them in Spokane’s shelters.

“We want this to be 24/7, we want to have showers available, they might come in on a trailer and just be there a couple times a week,” Beggs said. “We need storage, we need social workers on site so we can move people out of their current predicament. We need access to treatment.”

No matter what happens in this race, Beggs will still sit on the city council.

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