Cannon Shelter opening date pushed back, shelter organizer speaks about controversy

The opening date for Spokane’s newest warming center has been postponed, as the city works to finalize permits and operating procedures.

Jewels Helping Hands is the organization set to run the warming center located on South Cannon Street. They had hoped to open Friday or, at the latest, Monday.

Now, the city says services won’t be up and running until November 22.

“Ensuring the safety and security for patrons accessing services at the facility is the first priority
and additional work is necessary to provide the minimum legally permitted level of operations,”
said Interim Director of Community, Housing and Human Services, Tim Sigler.

The city said the opening date of the shelter has “always been contingent on necessary requirements being met.” This means they building needs to have some safety precautions in place, such as an evacuation plan and more.

However, Julie Garcia, the founder of Jewels Helping Hands, said she didn’t know the opening date was pushed until later this month.

The center is part of the $2 million the City of Spokane is using for shelter services this winter.

Jewels Helping Hands had its hands busy to get it all set up. They were given $740,000 to run the shelter. To start, they will have a total of 30 bunk beds and at least 20 mats for the homeless to sleep on.

RELATED: Spokane City Council decides on warming center location

The city will be putting in bathrooms and showers, too. But, for now, they will have to use portable toilets and a shower trailer.

There will be another section of the building that will be opened later for more beds. Right now, they will be able to help out 60 to 80 people, and in a month or so, that number will go up to 120 people who are in need.

It was one day four years ago that volunteer Daniel Beedle needed help of his own.

“My brother gave me the opportunity to get clean [from drugs] and he pretty much detoxed me at his house. Four years later, and still doing good and staying clean,” he said

He’s now trying to pay it forward by helping out in the community.

“The opportunities for others to be able to have this opportunity is a blessing,” he said.

He will be one of 25 people that will be working for the Cannon Shelter once it opens.

“We’ve been community focused, so our community has stepped up in providing the things we have not been able to provide,” Garcia said..

As they are getting ready to open, there is some controversy surrounding the shelter.

A man who works with Jewels Helping Hands is being questioned for his criminal history. He’s a convicted felon with a history of stealing from an organization he worked for.

The city sent a release Thursday evening saying it has amended its contract with the organization. They required the organization to provide an insurance policy in case of employee theft.

The city typically reviews expenses with organizations once a month. In this case, they do it every two weeks.

The city said the reason Jewels Helping Hands was chosen to operate the shelter was because they could be ready to open quickly.

“Our stance here at Jewels, is no, we will not ask Jason to resign from his position in Jewels. I think it is the wrong message that we would be sending the city and our clientele,” Garcia said.

That message is to help others regardless of their past.

“We teach them and want them to work hard. We want them to be sober, we want them to reintegrate back into society,” she said.

So, those employed by Jewels Helping Hands might have a rough background, but now have a new chance to make it better.

“Part of what Jewels does is create that environment, a safe, friendly environment. That’s why the mural on the wall is so important, the beds are very important. We want to welcome people into our center,” Garcia said.

The shelter will be open for 7 days a week, all day. Garcia said cleaning the place will be a group effort, because they won’t close at certain times like other shelters do.

The Cannon Shelter is not the only place that was given money to be open this winter.

Truth Ministries added nighttime shelter capacity along with Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington.

Women’s Heath Program and Hope House extended their daytime hours.