The Spokane Convention Center’s warming center that provided refuge from recent bad weather closed on Sunday, with service providers rushing to place people in shelters as temperatures continue to hover around freezing.
The Guardians Foundation and the Spokane Public Facilities District worked with other city departments to keep the convention center open for a week with temperatures plummeting to single digits.
At 8 a.m. on Sunday the center closed and service providers and guards worked to make alternate arrangements for people, city spokesman Brian Coddington said.
“It was always meant to function as a temporary shelter,” Coddington said.
The 24-hour shelter has acted as a low-barrier center for people who are often exposed to the elements, Guardians executive director Michael Shaw said in an interview the day the center opened. two weeks.
The center also had a 24-hour soup kitchen and distributed donated essentials such as hand warmers and canned food, Shaw said.
Now that it is closed, service providers are scrambling to find beds in other shelters, said Stephanie Ullah, outreach specialist for the Health and Justice Recovery Alliance.
“There is no central place that I can go to find the number of beds, and they are not exact,” Ullah said.
Ullah said she came to the convention center at 7 a.m. Sunday to help people find other available beds.
Many people helped by Ullah said they would have moved to another space if there was one available, Ullah said.
“They were very confused as to where they could go,” Ullah said. “They kept asking me if there is a space where I can go? … They didn’t know how to navigate from there.
Coddington said the city was looking for an alternate location and had assessed “dozens and dozens” of potential spaces, none of which were successful.
“It continues,” he said. “We haven’t given up on that.”
The criteria they must consider include access to public transportation, a living space of at least 20,000 square feet and accommodation for people’s daily living needs, according to a press release sent by Sunday. the city.
Coddington said the estimated cost of operating the heat shelter over the past two weeks would drop by about $ 400,000.
He said it could take tens of thousands of dollars to repair damage to the floors and bathrooms at the center.
About 150 people a day used the shelter, according to a press release from the city. At its highest level, 343 people would have used the space at a time, Coddington said.
The day before it closed, it hosted 158 people, Coddington said.
Signage had been placed the week before to remind people the center was scheduled to close on Sunday morning, he said.
While the shelter has remained open during the arctic cold and blizzards, this week’s weather is expected to bring freezing fog. A low of 18 degrees was forecast for Sunday evening, according to the National Weather Service Spokane office.
There was also a slight chance of snow and rain in the forecast, the weather service said.
Ullah said the need seen at the warming center highlighted a greater need for housing in Spokane.
“They make everyone leave at eight in the morning, and where do these people have to go during the day? Ullah said. “In my opinion, there are definitely not enough beds in the system. “