SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane's new homeless shelter on Trent Avenue opened on Tuesday, after months of negotiations and planning.
When Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward first started campaigning in 2019, she did not want to add more shelter bed space. Now, however, she told KREM 2 that the new shelter is exactly what the city needs to try and turn the corner on homelessness in Spokane.
The mayor has previously said she wants to use the shelter for people currently staying at the homeless encampment.
According to the city's Point-in-Time count, the homeless population in Spokane County has almost doubled since 2018. Five years ago, more than 1,200 people were experiencing homelessness. Now, there are nearly 800 campers just on the WSDOT land near I-90.
Here's how the city's homelessness crisis got to where it is now.
Spokane's homeless crisis can be traced back to 2018 when homeless campers first set up outside of City Hall in protest. They were demanding more low-barrier shelter beds and a repeal of the city's no camping and sit and lie rules that prohibited sleeping on sidewalks and other public spaces.
The tents were later removed by authorities and the campers scatters.
Then-mayoral candidate Woodward campaigned for mayor in 2019 with the message that adding more shelter bed space would not solve Spokane's homelessness problem.
Months after Woodward took office, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the city. The pandemic forced the city to open temporary shelters are the Spokane Convention Center, the Spokane Arena and the downtown public library.
It wasn't until mid-2021 that Spokane's Way Out shelter transitioned into a bridge housing program, ending access to more than 100 low-barrier shelter beds. In response to this, campers once again set up outside of City Hall in protest.
Authorities responded, saying the camp was blocking access to the building and posed a public health hazard. This time, with help from advocates at Jewel's Helping Hands, homeless campers migrated to a plot of land located near Freya Street and I-90.
The new camp continued to grow, but this time, it was outside of the city's jurisdiction, as the land is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).
By late 2021, Woodward proposed a new 250-bed, low-barrier shelter in a warehouse on East Trent Avenue.
The new Trent shelter is just one of the projects that will utilize funds from the Washington State Department of Commerce. City leaders and Catholic Charities are also hoping to use Commerce funding to get the old Quality Inn on Sunset Hill up and running as transitional housing for those leaving that I-90 encampment.
The city is hopeful that the new shelter will encourage many of the campers on the WSDOT land will leave the camp and move into the shelter. Spokane is working with the Department of Commerce to move people out of the encampment.
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