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Spokane Valley to replace homeless outreach provider

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(The Center Square) – Frontier Behavioral Health is one step closer to representing Spokane Valley after a homeless task force recommended awarding the provider with the city’s Homeless Outreach Services contract.

Previously, Spokane Valley Partners performed the city’s outreach efforts, connecting homeless individuals with available resources. However, in March, SVP said it could no longer provide services due to staffing issues, leading to the city issuing a Request for Proposals.

The Spokane Valley Homeless Housing Task Force then had to decide between Frontier Behavioral Health, a local provider already offering outreach services, and The Salvation Army, which also operates around the county and runs Spokane’s controversial Trent Resource and Assistance Center, or TRAC, the city’s main homeless shelter.

While the city set aside $200,000 to fund the outreach services, FBH responded with an annual budget of $200,419, and The Salvation Army set its price at $148,587.

Joshua Pratt, a deputy with the Spokane Valley Police Department, said ideally, the contract would go to a provider who could pick up where SVP left off. Right now, the city’s approach to homeless outreach is twofold: a law enforcement side paired with onsite outreach partners.

Pratt said the two-pronged approach allows SVPD to enforce as needed while also providing resources and services that people are less used to seeing from officers.

“The goal was to hopefully not have a lapse in this,” Pratt said.

Eric Robison, Spokane Valley’s housing and homeless coordinator, said the city already works closely with FBH. The provider has a location in the Valley and is familiar with existing clientele; currently, FBH is working to transition two households out of RVs and into apartments.

He said The Salvation Army also has great resources but is less interactive with the Valley. While it does perform outreach and other services, The Salvation Army does not directly work with the city, nor does Robison know who the provider partners with.

When people think of Frontier, the mental health side comes to mind, Pratt said, but its outreach team operates under the same umbrella. So, both are entitled to FBH’s streamlined process that connects clients with resources and other services within the network.

City Services Administrator Gloria Mantz said the one downside to FBH’s proposal is that the provider would have to hire additional staff to take on the task. However, it expressed interest in using the city’s existing staff to avoid gaps in service.

When fully staffed, Mantz said one of the new team members would ride along with Pratt while the other person at the office focused on fulfilling clients’ needs.

“We’re hoping that with the efforts that city council is doing to expand our police team, that we may actually have an expansion to provide another homeless outreach officer,” Mantz said.

Despite notable differences in the providers’ budgets, the task force recommended that FBH take over the Homeless Outreach Services contract during its meeting on Friday.

The Salvation Army’s proposal included a regional approach that would cover Spokane, Spokane Valley and the rest of the county. However, its outlined budget only would have funded services for the Valley since it failed to acquire funding from the City of Spokane or Spokane County.

Spokane Valley City Council will vote on whether to award the contract as discussed at a later date.