Approval of up to $7.6 million in funding for homelessness services in Spokane

Spokane’s officials are set to grant up to $7.6 million on Monday evening, to address the city’s persistent homelessness crisis. The funding will go towards providing aid to those in need.

After months of discussions between Spokane’s Community, Housing, and Human Services Department (CHHS) and local homeless providers, a decision has been made.

Last autumn, Spokane released a Request for Proposals that garnered 36 applications. However, there were concerns raised about the potential consequences of the initial recommendations. Advocates and providers pointed out that the proposals could have unintended impacts on the local homeless services network, prompting the RFP Committee to re-evaluate the applications with more insight.

The CHHS Board has recently released a new list of recommendations, suggesting award amounts ranging from $40,000 up to $3.5 million. The funds are intended to support emergency shelters throughout the city, as well as provide additional services like street outreach and diversion.

The aim is to grant the funding in a way that allows the contracts to begin by July 1. However, this can only occur if the city council approves the appropriations on Monday night. Currently, there are four amendments under consideration that could have a significant impact on the funding, potentially resulting in a difference of $3 million.

Michael Cathcart, a council member, has put forward a conservative proposal that awards a sum of $5.8 million, instead of the entire amount. In addition, his amendment includes withholding funding to Catholic Charities, which operates the local shelter, House of Charity.

The controversy surrounding Catholic Charities is not new, but a recent proposal by the city council to relocate its shelter has brought the provider back into the spotlight. The proposed location is less than a mile away from the current one, sparking discussions and debates among the community.

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Councilmember Lili Navarrete proposed three amendments, each with minor differences. Her suggestions allocate the entire amount but prioritize Catholic Charities and include Goodwill, amounting to $3.7 million, resulting in a total allocation of approximately $7.65 million.

Navarrete’s proposed amendments include a resolution that disapproves of a $120,000 award given to the Salvation Army, which runs the Trent Shelter, the biggest shelter in Spokane.

According to the resolution, the City Council is not in favor of granting multi-year awards for some of the grants, particularly those that rely on general fund allocations that may require reconsideration due to ongoing financial difficulties. The resolution explicitly states, “City Council does not approve of multi-year awards for many of the grants,” emphasizing the need to be cautious with grant funding in uncertain economic times.

The city of Spokane is transitioning from its Trent Shelter to Mayor Lisa Brown’s new scattered site model. Unfortunately, this move may come at a hefty cost of up to $8 million. It’s worth noting that the city has already paid the organization approximately $10 million for operating the Trent Shelter.

In a recent development, Brown took action to address Spokane’s opioid crisis by declaring a state of emergency. As a result, she was able to enter into contracts with multiple providers, which facilitated the reopening of shelters and the simplification of funding processes without the requirement of going through the RFP process.

Using funds from opioid settlement awarded to the city for participating in ongoing litigation, Brown made the initial investments. Despite the city’s $50 million deficit, Brown has the authority to spend other funds almost unilaterally.

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Although a significant portion of the deficit comes from Spokane’s general fund, which makes up around 21% of the city’s $1.2 billion budget, Brown has the ability to transfer funds to and from other areas.

According to the resolution ratifying Brown’s declaration, emergency procurements can be made by the Mayor or her delegate in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 7.06, as per [Spokane Municipal Code] 7.06.180. However, it is stated that such contracts or procurements should not involve general fund dollars or funds received by the City under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

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