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Spokane approves $700,000 renewal to continue operating TRAC through May

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(The Center Square) – With hours to spare, the Spokane City Council voted on Monday to renew its contract with the Salvation Army to continue operating the controversial Trent Resource and Assistance Center.

The approval follows a December vote that extended the current contract through the end of April. Last summer, the council called for proposals to replace the Salvation Army and have another organization run the homeless shelter, but the request was later canceled.

In early April, Dawn Kinder, director of the Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services division, proposed a one-month extension of the prior contract with the Salvation Army to continue running the shelter. The approved extension runs at a ticket price of $700,000.

TRAC will continue as is throughout May until the city finds another solution, bringing the total receipt to more than $13.5 million.

During the meeting, one resident called on the council to provide more transparency regarding the city’s long-term plan with the homeless shelter. Councilmember Paul Dillon said there is no official closure date yet, but Spokane had secured funds to guide the process.

The funding that Dillion mentioned includes $4 million to “help the City of Spokane transition people from the TRAC shelter to smaller shelters and extreme warming centers,” according to a news release from the city.

Mayor Lisa Brown highlighted the impending TRAC closure as one of her priorities during her inaugural State of the City address on Tuesday. The move is part of a larger effort to shift Spokane’s approach toward homelessness.

“During my second week in office, Spokane was hit with a days-long cold snap,” Brown said. “Despite an ordinance by the city council requiring a plan, there was no plan beyond the Trent Shetler and only a small amount of resources.”

Brown believes it’s time to move away from a model that only responds when a person is in crisis or committing a crime. Cycling homeless individuals through emergency rooms and then back to the street or jail is not a solution, she said.

As part of the new path forward, the administration plans to move from large congregate shelters to a dispersed shelter model. According to Brown’s priorities, the decision is based on community feedback that supported a mix of smaller congregate shelters and additional scattered-site locations.

As part of the new model, Brown said her administration plans to construct a “navigation” center. However, she was unclear whether the $4 million in state funds would finance the venture.

“The idea here is that individuals will come and stay with their own space for a limited amount of time,” Brown said, “while they are assessed and navigated in coordination with our many nonprofit providers.”

Erin Hut, director of communications and marketing for the city, confirmed in an email to The Center Square that the $4 million in state funds would “go to stand up the navigation center” as people are transitioned out of TRAC.