People in need seek shelter in City of Spokane’s new temporary ‘safer air center’

SPOKANE, Wash. — There is a new place people can access to get out of the smoke. The City of Spokane opened the “Safer Air Center” this weekend, in response to the hazardous air quality.

It’s located at the Spokane Convention Center, and it is open 24 hours a day, for anyone—in any situation—to get away from the smoky air.

The temporary center supplements the city’s other community shelters.  About 200 people can come in to the new center. It can be expanded, if needed.

Arthur Robinson slept outside Saturday night, in all the smoke covering Spokane.

“I had a little bit of difficulty breathing, but it wasn’t too bad,” he said.

4 News Now saw nonprofit Jewels Helping Hands drop him off at the center. They let him know that the shelter just opened Sunday morning.

“I think it’s great. It helps the community out, it doesn’t matter if they’re homeless or not,” Robinson said.

City of Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward echoes that, saying anyone, regardless of their housing situation, is allowed to be there.

“Anybody who, whether they’re houseless or whether they don’t have filtration at their own home,” she said. “Certainly, we want to be able to help those vulnerable populations that don’t have a means of escaping the air we have right now.”

Mats are laid out and kennels are available for anyone who brings their pets.

Woodward says the city has been working on plans since last week, when they knew Spokane’s air quality would get worse.

She said they asked community shelters to expand capacity and hours, if possible, to help those experiencing homelessness have a place to stay.

The center did allow a few people to stay inside Saturday night, but officially opened Sunday morning. Woodward added that they will be providing three meals a day, as well.

The City says it costs about $5,000 per day to run the center. Funding comes from the contingency fund, which is earmarked for emergencies, like unhealthy air quality. The center is open 24 hours, run by city staff and volunteers. Security is also on-site.

They are in need of more volunteers. People can sign up for shifts starting Sunday. Roles include jobs like greeters, sanitizers and organizers. Call 509-703-0671 or email to help out.

The center will remain open as long as the air quality index is higher than 250, which is in the “very unhealthy” to “hazardous” categories.

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