City weighs new 'sit and lie' sidewalk rules



Posted on June 17, 2014 at 7:18 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 9:22 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- City leaders are talking about whether Downtown Spokane's new “sit and lie” ordinance is working.

The city’s Safety Committee met Monday to discuss the impact of the law.

The ordinance bans sitting or lying down on public sidewalks between 6 a.m. and midnight. The rules took effect February 1.

MORE: Spokane City Council expands sidewalk ordinance aimed at homeless

Some critics worry the law unfairly targets the homeless, while other people say the rules were making positive changes.

Dennis Smith pushes close to 100 pounds of belongings along Spokane streets every day. When he recently stopped to take a rest, he said he couldn't believe the citation he received.

“I was sitting down and he gave me a trespassing ticket for no reason,” said Smith.

Smith is one of 22 people who have been cited under the ordinance. One hundred and sixty other people received warnings.

City spokesman Brian Coddington said while some of the warnings and citations have been given to the homeless, the law is not designed to target them.

“Most of the services and cases that we're seeing are being directed into community court, which is direct access to services for homeless housing and other services, like mental health counseling, that are necessary and needed for some folks,” said Coddington.

Joan Medina, who works at the Downtown library, said the law is having unintended consequences.   

“A co-worker of mine was hassled for sitting on the ledge of the building. We were at work and she was threatened with arrest,” said Medina. “She showed her badge to the police officer she talked to and he didn't care.”

As for Smith, he said not resting on city sidewalks is just about impossible for him, considering most homeless shelters like the House of Charity put homeless people back out on the street at 7 a.m.
“Sometimes, they don't give you no fine. They give you jail time,” said Smith.
Some Downtown business owners told KREM 2 they were happy the homeless are being forced off the sidewalk along with so-called “street kids.”

As for the effects of the ordinance so far, city officials said it's really too early to tell, so the discussion will continue.