‘We care about people not enough to let you die on our sidewalks’: Hello for Good symposium offers practical solutions to Spokane’s homelessness crisis | news

SPOKANE, Wash. – The 2022 Hello for Good Symposium drew a crowd, the room packed with our own city officials, police officers, business owners, and private citizens, all eager to hear experts from San Diego sharing their experience handling the same type of homelessness crisis as Spokane .

According to the Lucky Duck website, homelessness went down by 16% in San Diego between 2017 and 2019, while the rest of the state saw homelessness numbers climb.

“There is nothing perfect about addressing it—it’s never going to be solved. But it can be meaningfully addressed,” said Drew Moser, executive director of the Lucky Duck Foundation. “We fund, activate, and lead high impact homelessness programs throughout San Diego County.”

Locally, Spokane’s situation is not as positive. The recent Point-in-Time count showed a notable increase for unhoused Spokane residents, with a 52% increase in unsheltered individuals and a 13% rise in the homeless population overall, compared to the numbers from 2020.

To that end, Hello for Good, a non-profit representing a coalition of private businesses in Spokane, created the symposium to tackle the issue heaad-on.

The two major takeaways?

“You have to work together, it takes everybody. It takes your business community, it takes local government,” said Kevin Faulconer, former mayor of San Diego. “But you have to have that political will that says it is not okay to allow tent encampments, that political will that says we care about people enough not to let you die on our sidewalks.”

Faulconer said the key to his city’s success was taking immediate action.

San Diego has invested in comprehensive shelter systems, bridge shelters, interim housing shelters, youth shelters, as well as safe parking programs for those living in their cars or RV’s.

Where many cities go wrong, Faulconer said, is over-analyzing and inaction.

“I think a common mistake a lot of cities make is they study it to death. They don’t actually take action,” Faulconer warned. “There are always numbers that are thrown around, but one of the things that I always stress: it’s not about numbers, it’s about real people who need help and need support.”

While the message seemed to resonate among attendees, whether or not the symposium will light a fire under the city to take action remains to be seen.

At the very least, it seems steps towards a solution are in progress. City Administrator Johnnie Perkins said the City is negotiating a lease agreement for the shelter on Trent later in the day.

While it sounds promising, there are still many more steps needed before any new shelter in Spokane opens its doors, namely a vote from City Council on potential zoning changes. A vote on the issue struck down a proposal for zoning changes in their April 25 meeting, citing a lack of planning in the proposal.

A new vote on the matter is set to happen at the City Council’s May 23 meeting.