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Business owners blast Spokane City Council plan to relocate House of Charity

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(The Center Square) – Local downtown business owners are protesting a proposal by the Spokane City Council to relocate the House of Charities homeless shelter less than a mile away to a former hotel building.

Though supporters believe it will improve the homelessness situation in the neighborhood, the businesses say it’s merely a continuation of existing, and failed, city policy regarding homelessness.

At the council’s Monday meeting, city staff portrayed the move as a way to get the homeless into better temporary housing, as House of Charities isn’t open during much of the day, and decentralize the homeless shelters concentrated around the House of Charity’s existing location. The presentation was given by Dawn Kinder, the director of the city’s Neighborhood, Housing, and Human Services division. Kinder was a former chief stabilization officer with the Catholic Charities, which runs House of Charity.

The city’s proposal provoked criticism from many business owners, including Larry Stone, president of Stone Group of Companies. In a Wednesday email that was cc’d to a very large group of recipients including city councilmembers and state legislators, he wrote that the homeless shelters “are not only ruining small businesses but radically hurting the low income neighborhoods in the West Central, Lower South Hill, and East Central neighborhoods. The vagrants camp and loiter around the homeless centers, then ravage our low income residents who do not have security systems in their homes, frequently don’t have garages, do not have cameras, and must suffer the consequences.”

“We should be removing homeless centers from Downtown Spokane and near Downtown,” he wrote further. “It is incredibly harmful to our businesses that work so hard and our low income residents who are trying to raise their children and make a living to continue to have homeless facilities present.”

In a reply to Stone’s email, Berg Group Founder Ryan Berg wrote that “we do not need to bear the entirety of Spokane County’s homelessness solely in our downtown. I am disheartened to hear the City has had discussions to relocate existing HOC facilities only a few blocks away; even closer to our downtown core. There is a significant lack of communication what is being done behind the scenes and what we are told is happening.”

He added that “I fully support closing HOC and the blight it has cast on our beautiful downtown region. Additionally, I oppose supporting and investing in Catholic Charities and CAT (Compassion Addiction Treatment) in the downtown area.”

Also writing on that same daw was Councilmember Jonathan Bingle, who represents downtown. In an email he noted that “things sure went from ‘We’re moving House of Charity out of downtown…’ to ‘We’re gonna open several homeless operations downtown’ pretty quickly.”