Woodward Announces Health, Safety Initiatives

Brian Coddington, Communications Director, 509.625.6740

Wednesday, April 27, 2022 at 2:34 p.m.

Mayor Nadine Woodward challenged the community to continue working together during her annual State of the City Address today and made three significant announcements:  the formation of a Spokane Police Department Violent Crimes Task Force, the next evolution of her homelessness plan, and a partnership to relocate the House of Charity out of downtown.

Woodward emphasized collaboration as critical to recent successes and how the City will overcome its current challenges to reinvigorate the region’s economic engine coming out of the pandemic. She added mental health and operational sustainability to her initiative areas of public safety, housing, homelessness, and economic development.

“We have invested a great deal of time building relationships and establishing trust in the name of collaboration,” Woodward said. “Listening to learn. Learning to grow. Growing to build. Building from unique perspectives, for collaboration, from a foundation of strengths.”

The new seven-member crime task force will address the community’s most egregious offenders to eradicate the violent crime and the accompanying drug and property crime. It will include two sergeants as supervisors and a mix of five other officers at different levels and is built based on the learnings and successes of other specialty teams the department has operated.

The Homeless Plan 2.0 is an extension of the one Woodward announced in July 2020 and built around eight focus areas, including several identified during discussions with former Governor Christine Gregoire, who leads an organization that did extensive research about attitudes toward homelessness statewide and in Spokane. The local plan is the culmination of months of listening to providers, nonprofits, private industry, and government, reviewing recommendations, and searching for common ground to further build a regional system of assets and resources that meet people with services, prevent them from becoming homeless or get them temporarily housed, and move them out of homelessness.

The City has also formalized a partnership with Catholic Charities to pursue a new permanent shelter campus that would relocate House of Charity out of downtown. The vision is to significantly increase space for women, provide comprehensive services that will help people become more stable and help them move into permanent supportive housing, and offer even greater flexibility in giving everyone a fresh start toward making Spokane a model for how the community supports the individual journey.

That campus will be in a different area than the drop-in shelter currently being finalized with another partner, outside of downtown, and become part of a transportation loop being developed to connect people to shelter and additional supportive services.

“The plan we’re announcing today is built on community collaboration and relies on resources from providers, nonprofits, private industry and government to further build a regional system of assets and resources that meet people with services, prevent them from becoming homeless or get them temporarily housed, and move them out of homelessness,” Woodward said.

Among the numerous other highlights:

  • A Mental Health Task Force of advocacy, community, education, healthcare, and youth representatives and honorary co-conveners, state Representative Marcus Riccelli and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rogers, is focusing on the pandemic impacts on youth.
  • The Behavioral Health Unit, a partnership between law enforcement and behavioral health specialists, contacted 4,090 people in crisis, a nearly 10% increase over the previous year. Of those encounters, 0.8% were arrested and more than 4,500 calls were diverted from patrol and freed up those officers to respond to other needs.
  • Fire department teams rescued six people from residential fires last year and have already made harrowing rescues from three separate fires this year. Another 100 people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest were resuscitated by paramedics, and more than 1,000 people are alive today as a direct result of the department’s expanded medical partnerships to improve clinical care related to pediatric, stroke, cardiac, and sepsis emergencies.
  • The city experienced the biggest growth in multi-family units since at least 2005 at 695 and more than doubled the annual average for apartments and other multi-unit residential.
  • New and remodeled Spokane Public Library branches, each accomplished through partnerships with either schools or parks, opened in the northeast, northwest, and south.
  • Investments in neighborhood parks and trails are adding to livability and are great complements to the transformation of Riverfront Park as the region’s front porch.
  • Additional cleanup crews will be able to remove graffiti, litter, and camps more quickly and will soon go to 7-day-a-week operation.

Woodward also announced Jessica Winfrey-Atkinson, owner of Sweet Frostings Blissful Bakeshop, as the U.S. Small Business Administration regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year and recognized Kris Brewer, a man who had recently moved into his own apartment with help from The Way Out Center after three years of homelessness.

She closed by quoting former high school football coach and life coach Art Williams, saying, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”