North Notes
Spokane-North Rotary Club Bulletin
August 29, 2022
            Sept. 5: No meeting – Labor Day.
            Sept. 12: Noon lunch, at the Bark. Anthony Escobar, ED BSA Cub Pack Community Ctr
Happy Bucks:
            Art Rudd, celebrating our club membership since 1969, was happy to add $53, perhaps the largest contribution ever to the kitty.
Does Houston offer solutions
 for homeless in Spokane?
            As local leaders search how to place hundreds of homeless people in Spokane, one city with some successful solutions have emerged – Houston, Texas.
            On Aug. 29, some 17 members, spouses and guests crammed the Bark meeting room to hear how Houston, the country’s fourth largest city, are working through its issues with issues of homelessness.
            The speakers were former City Council Chairman Ben Stuckart and Gavin Cooley, who served six mayors during his tenure as the City of Spokane’s top financial and budget officer.
            Stuckart is now executive director for the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium.  He helped developed Housing & Help, a web series of documentaries seeking “proven solutions to end the homelessness crisis.”
            Both Ben and Gavin have met with leaders in Houston to see their solutions and a video of Gavin’s introductory film was shown at the club’s Aug. 15 lunch meeting.
            Showing that nothing about dealing with homelessness is easy, Ben tried four laptop computers to show episode two of the video series, but none of the options work.
            “Homelessness is not a political issue; it’s a people issue,” Stuckart said.  “We have to have people working together,” he said.
            “Criminal justice is the last thing to deal with homelessness,” he added.
            Stuckart said adding all the direct and indirect costs rises to $40,000 for each homeless person in Spokane, much more than the $17,000 to $25,000 per homelessness in Houston.  Part of that cost here, he said, is that January weather is much colder than Spokane than in Houston.
            Ben said the new East Trent shelter for the homeless may cost up to $10 million a year and he doubts that many of the 600-plus “Camp Hope” homeless people will go there.
            Talking about unifying the efforts, Stuckart said some “14 local, state and federal organizations fund homelessness and eight agencies make the decisions.”
            He also said other private firms and agencies need to help with the process.
            “There is no guiding document, so the eight agencies are going in their own way,” Stuckart said.  “We have to stop the bleeding.”
            Cooley said, “I don’t know anything about homelessness, but I do know systems.”
            “Going to Houston was an eye-opener,” he said.
            “The city got out of homelessness, largely for statuary reasons.  In Houston, they out-sourced everything.”
            Gavin said, “In Houston, they can track every homeless person and offer services, but not in downtown.”
            Asked there about local funding, Cooley added, “In Houston, we don’t raise taxes.”
            “When everyone is under the roof, people talk together, so they are in sync,” he said.
            Gavin said, “Government shelters often are a waste of time.  Nobody wants any part of them.  Government has to get out of the business.”  Ben suggests a goal of 2,000 units.
            Both Ben and Gavin stressed that units for the homeless must be scattered and should be countywide.
            Asked if the programs for the homeless will draw more here, Stuckart said a few homeless from eastern Washington and North Idaho might move to Spokane, but he doesn’t expect homeless from Seattle and Portland to migrate here.
            With costs rising, Gavin fears that the new large shelter on East Trent “in three years it won’t be running.”
            The difficult homeless challenges await.
            As Gavin said, “Not everything can be done with a group hug.”
Bulletin editors: Chuck Rehberg and Sandy Fink