Salvation Army, again, will wait for shelter funding

<p><p>As its members pushed for the Salvation Army to negotiate a “good neighbor agreement” with the city, the Spokane City Council Monday again held off on committing to fund a new homeless shelter on West Mission Avenue.</p></p><p><p>The council delayed a vote on a resolution that would offer financial backing to the bridge housing program supported by Mayor Nadine Woodward and county leaders.</p></p><p><p>The matter is now scheduled for a vote on Oct. 18.</p></p><p><p>City Council members have insisted that the Salvation Army be forced to sign a “<a href=”https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/sep/15/should-spokane-homeless-shelters-be-required-to-si” target=”_blank”>good neighbor agreement</a>” with the city administration and City Council to ensure its potential impact on the surrounding Emerson-Garfield neighborhood is mitigated.</p></p><p><p>They’ve also sought certainty on whether portions of the building not dedicated to the bridge housing program will ever be used as a low-barrier emergency shelter.</p></p><p><p>“I do have a problem that we have not come to any kind of consensus on. If that is going to be used as a low-barrier shelter, how does that fit into the agreement, and will Salvation Army support that?” asked Councilwoman Karen Stratton.</p></p><p><p>Spokane County purchased the building with coronavirus relief funds last year and opened it as an emergency, night-by-night shelter operated by the Salvation Army during the pandemic.</p></p><p><p>The building is now owned by the Salvation Army, which is renovating the space and preparing to reopen it under a new model, bridge housing, that is open to people only by referral. The concept is to provide shelter for people believed to be prepared for the transition into permanent housing.</p></p><p><p>The bridge housing program was intended to be funded regionally, with commitments from Spokane Valley, the city of Spokane, and Spokane County.</p></p><p><p>But the Spokane City Council has hesitated before passing a resolution committing $3.5 million over five years to the shelter, $1 million of which is to help with upfront costs.</p></p><p><p>Stratton and others have asked if the building will ever also be used for low-barrier shelter.</p></p><p><p>The Salvation Army has not committed to using the building for emergency low-barrier shelter, but has not ruled it out.</p></p><p><p>Councilwoman Lori Kinnear successfully amended the resolution on Monday to make the funding contingent on the Salvation Army signing a good neighbor agreement with the city council and administration.</p></p><p><p>Councilwoman Betsy Wilkerson acknowledged that Kinnear’s amendment “gives the administration a little bit more fire to make this work out,” but she said “let’s not penalize the people who will be using that bridge housing.”</p></p><p><p>Woodward has touted the project as a product of regional collaboration. Like the Salvation Army, she has questioned what would be included in a good neighbor agreement and how it would be enforced.</p></p>