Spokane
56° F
Mostly Cloudy
Mostly Cloudy
Coeur d'Alene
54° F
Overcast
Overcast
Advertisement

Spokane's homeless shelters underutilized

By Colleen O'Brien, Reporter / Weekend Anchor, colleeno@kxly.com
Published On: Jan 04 2013 06:37:51 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 04 2013 08:32:13 PM CST
Spokane tent city
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The City of Spokane says it'll get tough on a tent city that's been pitched under I-90 downtown by first offering social services to the homeless camping out there, and then giving them 24 hours to vacate.

That might make you wonder where will they go, and the answer is there are shelters in Spokane for the homeless right now that are not full.

At the House of Charity, where men can go even if they've been drinking, there's 108 beds, and they've only turned away 12 men so far this year due to capacity issues. At Hope House for single women there are 34 beds and they haven't turned anyone away this winter.

At the Union Gospel Mission on Trent, the men's shelter hasn't been full since 1990, when they opened. They said they'd gladly welcome anyone from the tent city inside their shelter when they're ready to straighten up but, they added, it will take a concerted effort from the entire community to help make that happen.

"We want to end homelessness by teaching responsibility, choices and then when you make the right choices, these are the results," Union Gospel Mission executive director Phil Altmeyer said.

At the Union Gospel Mission, there are plenty of beds at night. Though the women and children's shelter does fill up they never turn anyone away. But the men's shelter has never been full since it opened.

Altmeyer thinks Spokane's citizens have created a place under I-90 that's comfortable for the homeless so they stay.

"If you feed those people while they're there, they will stay there and we want to bring them out of that," he explained. "That's why people bring them the food, they want to help them, they have compassion, but I think sometimes we don't realize we're enabling people to stay in the condition they're in."

If there's no more help under I-90 they'll need to seek out one of Spokane's shelters, he added.

At the House of Charity, where men can go even if they've been drinking, there's 108 beds, and they've only turned away 12 men so far this year due to capacity issues.

At Hope House for single women there's 34 beds and they haven't turned anyone away this winter.

Altmeyer had one more point to make: When you see the tent city in downtown Spokane, you're only seeing 10-percent of the city's homeless population.

"I believe there are so many that want life change that want help and that's what we need to focus our energy and efforts toward," Altmeyer said.

Advertisement