With below freezing temperatures, agencies wonder if one warming center is enough
SPOKANE, Wash. — We’re expected to have some of the coldest weather of the season and it’s just beginning. While many of us are glad to have a warm place to go, not everyone is as fortunate.
Spokane’s City Council approved money to open an emergency shelter space on South Cannon, but is one warming center enough?
“We were hoping to not have warming centers,” said Julie Garcia, Executive Director for Jewels Helping Hands. Garcia was hoping the city would have come up with plans for another permanent shelter by now, instead of scrambling to find temporary shelter from the cold for the homeless.
However, she admitted having one warming center is better than none.
“This is a 24-hour facility, so there will be no gap in the time that they can sleep overnight that they have to leave and then come back,” said Garcia.
The warming center on South Cannon is one of three facilities that was used as a warming center last winter, but Garcia said the shelter needs work.
“We will be open for 60 to 80 beds while they install bathrooms and showers,” Garcia said.
The building currently only has two bathrooms and one shower. They’re hoping to eventually add four more bathrooms, which will allow them to serve 120 people.
Although the additional space is helpful, Garcia said it’s simply not enough.
“I don’t believe this is enough beds for everybody we need in the city to have a bed,” said Garcia.
The city added that while it’s not the best case scenario, it was their only option.
“They’ve looked at dozens of different places and funding situations have changed, so while the grocery outlet was something that seemed viable, in the end it wasn’t,” said Kirstin Davis, Communications Director with The City of Spokane.
Although this isn’t the outcome Garcia was hoping for, she hopes this is a wake up call for everyone involved.
“It’s supposed to snow tonight, so we were hoping to have it open and available to us before then. For next year, we need to have solutions starting now,” said Garcia.
Garcia hopes to have the warming center open within seven to 10 days.
On Monday, the city council was set to decide on spending $75,000 for the improvements at the Cannon shelter and on funding a 24/7 overflow space for Catholic Charities, which would serve an additional 45 people. Both of those votes were pushed back to December 2.
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