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Woman's Club of Spokane, Jewels Helping Hands caught up in controversy over homeless shelter

The controversy comes after both sides disagree over the terms of the agreement to run the shelter, or if an agreement was reached at all.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A homeless shelter run by Jewels Helping Hands out of the Woman's Club of Spokane building on West 9th Avenue has caused controversy over the agreement to host the shelter in the building.

The shelter houses about 40 people, and both the club and the non-profit agree that the idea came about ahead of a February cold snap to create a temporary warming center.

"They signed those agreements on March 1. On March 1, we started moving our things in, but could not move our guests in until everything was approved," said Julie Garcia, Founder of Jewels Helping Hands. "Everything was approved on the ninth and we were able to start moving guests in."

But Joshua Awesome, Board President for the Woman's Club of Spokane, is surprised they are still there and even moved in at all, as he said an agreement was never reached.

"We never heard back from them, no emails, no phone calls," he said.  "So it was our assumption that they had stepped away and that they had found somewhere else."

Jewels has continued to operate the shelter, and the two sides have differing accounts about the events leading up to its opening and its operation since.

Garcia said her group fixed plumbing in the building, but Awesome said they simply replaced a toilet with one that wasn't fit for the building.

Awesome said that due to loopholes in how non-profits are handled in the city and the current statewide eviction moratorium, the club's hands are tied.

"There's not really anything that we can do that we know of," he said. "A lawyer, the city lawyers, have worked on this. Everyone has tried to resolve the situation amicably. And so far, we haven't found the perfect solution."

Awesome said the club finally resorted to sending a two-week notice to vacate the building, but Garcia said she never received a formal notice. Instead, she said once it was clear the shelter wasn't welcome, she reached out and said she would assume that was their notice.

But instead of two weeks, Garcia said it will take 30 days from April 11 to fully clear from the building. This poses a problem as the Woman's Club of Spokane has rented out the space for events on May 1 and May 8. 

"We really want this to be peaceful. So, if they are happy to leave by the 30th, we are fine. Our next rental is on May 1st," he said.

Garcia told KREM the occupants at the shelter will be out by the end of the month, but Jewels won't be able to get all of their equipment out until May 11.

KREM asked Awesome about what this means for their rentals but has not heard back.

There was also controversy surrounding a now-deleted post on the social media app NextDoor from a former Woman's Club of Spokane board member. The post asked for people to make nuisance complaints against the shelter so police would intervene.

Awesome said that board member deleted the post and has since left the organization. He also said the club doesn't want people making false reports, but that anyone with complaints needs to make them to Crime Check, as the club can't intervene.

As for the future for Jewels, she said it shows how badly beds are needed for Spokane's homeless population.

"Our future is, we've now realized that respite beds are so needed in the city, because it's really the reason we needed the 30 day notice," Garcia said.