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Council delays vote on relaxing Spokane City Hall visiting rules amid concerns it would become daytime shelter

November 13, 2018

A proposal that some say would turn City Hall into a daytime homeless shelter has been shelved for at least a month after city employees raised concerns about safety and cleanliness.

The union representing city employees asked the city to conduct a threat assessment for any security issues that allowing people to stay for long periods of time during the day might cause.

Kate Burke, the councilwoman sponsoring a new ordinance to allow people to stay in City Hall without time limits during business hours, along with City Council President Ben Stuckart, said the intent of the ordinance has been misinterpreted.

Stuckart said the ordinance was meant to make City Hall welcoming, not a warming center for those without shelter.

Burke said past time-limit policies did disproportionately affect the homeless population, and she wants to open the doors of City Hall to the public to ensure everyone is treated equally.

Councilman Mike Fagan is against the proposal because city employees may not be prepared for the influx of homeless people he anticipates could hang out in the lobby and bathrooms on the first floor.

“I think we can all agree that it’s the most vulnerable people who are having to be on the streets every day right now during this cold weather,” said Burke, “and should have a place to get a warm cup of coffee, maybe charge their phone if they have one, and just take a load off their feet.”

The council voted to allow the mayor to activate City Hall as a warming, cooling, safe air or emergency center when the situation aligns with existing city code. This would allow the mayor to open City Hall as a shelter if the ordinance passes.

The council will reconsider the ordinance in December.

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