Why not try real solutions?
Spokane could just decide to love its community more. Everyone wants less crime, but leaning on police to do all the work just creates more prisoners. We need to actually invest in our community; in each other.
Camp Hope began in December 2021 at Spokane City Hall as a protest of the city administration’s inaction to provide warming shelters, beds, and social and health services for people experiencing homelessness in Spokane. It was called Camp Hope based on a similar protest in 2018.
Notice of Removal
In both instances, the city issued a 48-hour notice, without providing any options for housing, emergency shelters, or social and health services. The protest group in December of 2021 – already totaling more than 80 people – moved en masse onto empty WSDOT property. WSDOT reached out to city officials immediately in the hopes of partnering with the city to proactively and productively address the encampment and, more importantly, the challenges its residents faced.
WSDOT-WSP-Commerce Response City of Spokane
In February 2022, Spokane police placed WSDOT on notice because of elevated crime, waste, noise, and drug use. In July, the city ordered WSDOT to remove a large cooling shelter that was set up to protect Camp Hope residents from the heat. WSDOT did not comply. On Sept. 8, the city sent a letter to the state demanding the camp be taken down. State officials responded on Sept. 20, criticizing the city’s lack of action and outlining steps the city would need to take in order for the camp to be removed, as well as identifying responsible jurisdictions:
1. The offering of shelter and services to people living there (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers; funding offered by Commerce)
2. Secure storage of their belongings (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers)
3. Safety and security for people on-site and work crews (local law enforcement & WSP)
4. Restoration and cleanup of the property (WSDOT)
The State’s Response to the city: Direct Quotes
“While the city’s letter outlines purported state agency roles and responsibilities as they relate to working with people experiencing homelessness, it fails to acknowledge the city’s responsibility for much of the hard work necessary to find long-term, meaningful solutions for the residents and businesses living and operating near Camp Hope, the first responders that operate within the area and for the people living within the encampment.”
“…the city remains resolute that homelessness and those experiencing it is a state problem and not a local one.”
“…a problem created by both your actions and your continued inaction.”
“Sadly, to date, the city seems more preoccupied with blaming the state for the problem it ultimately played a hand in creating and not acknowledging its own roles and responsibilities regarding residents of its own city.”
The Trent Shelter and the Criminalization of Poverty
The city opened a much-anticipated new shelter on Trent Avenue in September. The 75-bed facility still lacks indoor plumbing and has the feel of a warehouse. “After all, it wasn’t designed for people to live, it was built for products to move” -Range Media
Even if the shelter reaches total capacity, the effort falls far short of providing shelter for Camp Hope’s 600+ residents. The shelter is leased for about $26,000 a month and is slated to cost $8 million for the next 16 months in operating expenses.
With the Trent shelter opening up, the Spokane Police department posted on their facebook page, “The creation of additional shelter capacity has allowed Spokane to resume enforcing the city’s sit and lie ordinance”. With adequate shelter capacity, the city can remove encampments and issue citations to people sitting, lying, and camping on public land and stay in compliance with the Martin v. Boise decision.
Lack of Adequate Shelter Even with Trent
Trent’s additional shelter beds have been filled as soon as they become available. Their now 170 beds have been full almost every night since Oct. 12. Cannon St Shelter and Hope House–the only other low-barrier shelters that accept women–have similarly had every bed full for months. There have been 0 shelter beds reliably available, even with the addition of Trent’s quickly-claimed beds.
Homeless men in Spokane don’t have many more options, with around a dozen available low-barrier beds split between Truth Ministries and House of Charity shelters depending on the night.
With 600+ residents at Camp Hope today–not even counting the additional homeless persons outside of this one community–there is not nearly adequate shelter availability. There are not enough empty shelter beds in Spokane to enforce the sit-and-lie ordinance and stay in compliance with Martin v. Boise.
Not Just Camp Hope
The focus on Camp Hope in the news has made it harder for all of those experiencing homelessness. An increase in public pressure from the Chief of Police Craig Miedl, Sherrif Ozzie Knezovich, and Mayor Nadine Woodward, is passed down through violent actions and words to those who are unhoused. These fear-mongering politicians need to be held accountable for their words and actions by producing reports instead of spewing unproven allegations.
Instead of proposing solutions to prevent crime and theft. The city continues actions that create crime such as sweeping people and their belongings, creating situations where people are left with nothing but desperation.
Jewels Helping Hands provided a number for those in the East Central neighborhood that need assistance with any person experiencing homelessness that may be causing an issue or in crisis in the neighborhood and neighborhood businesses. The phone number is (509) 666-9902.
See the next slide deck for the Call to Action and other ways you can support Camp Hope and our unhoused neighbors.