City to install indoor plumbing in Trent shelter

City to install indoor plumbing in Trent shelter

The Spokane City Council decided to install an indoor installation in the Trent Resource and Assistance Center shelter.

The shelter, a former warehouse, often accommodates more than 300 people a night. Those currently staying there must use portable toilets and a shower trailer. During the coldest months, these facilities have frozen, causing serious sanitation and health problems.

City council members funded the new restrooms with $1 million in property tax money, money typically used to raise grants for roads or other long-term projects. The City Council is also awaiting a second budget proposal from Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward to pay for additional operating expenses.

Spokane City Councilman Michael Cathcart, the only councilman who voted against building the toilets, said the city is facing a budget crisis caused in part by large, unforeseen investments in the Trent shelter.

“That’s my fear, we’re going to put a million and a half to two million dollars into a building that we don’t own, that we can’t afford to buy and the seller has no intention of selling us, and then what happens, when we can no longer afford to operate this facility,” said Cathcart.

Several city council members, including Zack Zappone, said they were also concerned about the financial viability of the shelter – but the current conditions are a public health concern.

“It’s an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money to fund a building that we don’t own, so 100 percent agree with Councilor Cathcart there,” Zappone said. “But then I also agree with my other council members that doing nothing is immoral. And that’s a choice, being financially responsible or being immoral, and in that case we have to spend the money because there’s a humanitarian crisis out there and we have to do something.”

The shelter has been operating without indoor toilets since it opened last September. It opened in response to Camp Hope, previously the state’s largest homeless camp, and an ordinance passed by the city council that required the mayor to provide warming and cooling shelters.

City council members said the new toilets will take about a month to install.