‘Are we safe as a congregation?’: Crime pushes Spokane Redemption out of downtown

SPOKANE, Wash. — For many people, a church can be a safe haven to put the difficult things happening in the world aside. For one local landmark, that safe haven is starting to crumble.

“For sale” signs are up at Redemption Spokane, and the congregation is now looking for a new place to call home.

The church is situated at the corner of 2nd and Division. It’s busy at all hours of the day and night. Straight across the street is the vacant building that at one point, not too long ago, was a Starbucks, serving customers hand over fist. They closed their doors too.

That iconic building has cornerstones from the late-1800s, and at one point in time, it was a Swedish tabernacle.

The pastor tells us this decision did not come easy. It’s something the church had been considering for some time, but after a series of unnerving events, a decision was made. The safety of the congregation was paramount.

When Redemption first chose this spot, the livelihood of that Starbucks straight across the street served as a gauge as to what this community spot would look like. They described it as “vibrant.” Business meetings happened outdoors under umbrellas, students stayed for long stints of studying, and families stopped in to get drinks and snacks.

“As the years progressed, we saw criminal activity that started getting worse and worse,” explained Pastor Jonathan Bonetti.

Members of the church remember the need surrounding them as well, and they were ready to “love thy neighbor.” Since that point, about 8-years-ago, there’s been a big shift in criminal activity, getting worse, and worse.

Windows have been broken in, and they’ve dealt with vandalism, theft, a nearby murder, and ultimately, gunshots across the street in the middle of a service. This was a tipping point.

“After those two events, we really started looking seriously at what our future here looks like,” Bonetti said.

At the end of 2022, the church’s insurance provider dropped coverage because this location was too much of a liability.

“You want to be able to come into a community where you have the energy to pour into people who are in need- and to the homeless community that we have around us. I think we’ve been stretched so thin with trying to clean up around the building, trying to mitigate the vandalism that we’ve had around here that many times, it’s more of an exhaustive thing coming in to work here,” added Bonetti.

Now, another page is being turned in the history book of that iconic building.

Redemption is on the hunt for a new spot, and the pastor hopes to stay within a few miles of this current location. In the meantime, services will continue inside that building.

Spokane Police Department and City Administration tell us they’ve prioritized the area and it has been a constant focus for the Downtown officers, working with businesses and community members to find solutions and make it a safer area for everyone.

A spokesperson for SPD added, “We are saddened to hear of the pending move of Redemption Church as City Administration and SPD both seek a vibrant, thriving Downtown area where all community members feel safe.”

Meanwhile, Downtown officers have designated that area about the 7-11 on Division, just across from Redemption Church as their mission during the past two weeks.