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Spokane leaders at risk of losing $2.7M grant for young adult shelter

The grant expires at the end of the year if local leaders don't decide on a plan to use the money.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane's regional leaders are sitting on a $2.7 million grant from the state to fund a shelter for homeless young adults.

The three-year grant was awarded in August and expires at the end of 2020, unless elected leaders agree on a plan and put the money to use.

Spokane Council President Breean Beggs said the challenge is agreeing on a plan.

"At the last conversation, the regional partners were not all on the same page, and particularly the Continuum of Care Board," Beggs said. "I mean, one, we don't have a plan, and secondly, we certainly don't have broad consensus on a plan."

But city spokesperson Brian Coddington told KREM's Amanda Roley they are close to a plan. However, unforeseen obstacles during the pandemic have made it difficult to reach a decision.

"The original vision was to have a permanent location in place," Coddington said. "Given the timing, the short timeline, and then COVID restrictions and other things, that hasn't been possible to find that location."

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said she believes homeless services is a regional need and should be addressed regionally.

RELATED: Spokane County reports 888 new COVID-19 cases, 8 new deaths over weekend

She is concerned about the dense concentration of services in Spokane's downtown core and would prefer the new shelter be built elsewhere.

What is up for discussion now is building a potential new shelter in the city of Spokane Valley, but it will have to change its zoning laws for that to happen. That's expected to take about a year.

In the short term, elected leaders are considering using the grant to provide an additional 40-50 beds at existing shelters.

"Now we're back to the problem of putting youth, who are at risk and vulnerable, into adult shelters," Spokane Homeless Coalition Advisor Maurice Smith said. "Hello? Not a good idea. Don't do that."

He agrees the downtown core is not ideal for a young adult shelter because it's a bad environment. But, Smith said the need for this shelter is too great to be caught up in whether it's in one city or another.

"I think the idea of putting at-risk youth closer to a community college, or any college, frankly, is a great idea," Smith said. "And if that college happens to be inside the city limits, why would we limit that."

Coddington said leaders are meeting every Thursday to discuss possible plans. He is optimistic a plan will be agreed on soon.