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Daily trespassing from Spokane’s homeless community concerns hotel owners, staff, guests

The Holiday Inn Express on Division and North River has seen an uptick in the amount of people experiencing homelessness disrupting their guests and staff.

SPOKANE, Wash — A local Holiday Inn Express has been asking for solutions to consistent trespassing by people experiencing homelessness, causing a feeling of unsafety for hotel guests and staff.  

The hotel overlooking the corner of Division and North River has been in Spokane since 1992, but just recently has had overwhelming trespassing problems. The general manager of the hotel, Julie Cohen, says she has had to kick non-guests out of the hotel for trying to take food and use their facilities. 

“I’ve pulled graveyard shifts where I’ve had folks come in and intimidate our guests to get in the door,” Cohen said. “The confrontation that typically happens when we ask them to leave is difficult.” 

She feels compassion for the situation the trespassers are in; however, it causes unease for hotel guests and staff. They deal with break-ins, loitering, fires, encampments and drug-use in hotel bathrooms.  

The most disruptive event in recent history was November 2020, when a homeless encampment in a cave below the hotel sparked the building’s natural gas line. Owner Kent Clausen said they had to evacuate part of the hotel, while flames were shooting into the roadway.  

Clausen owns different hotels in several states. This location is the worst for trespassing. 

“We don’t have issues elsewhere near as we do here. It’s really no comparison,” Clausen said. 

It’s an issue a lot of local businesses and hotels are facing in downtown Spokane. Cohen is also the president of Spokane’s Hotel and Motel Association. 

In the height of the pandemic, she spoke with Spokane City Council and Mayor Nadine Woodward over zoom about the issues. Since that conversation, a lack of staff and increase in business has prevented her from pursuing more long-term solutions. 

Holiday Inn Express staff call police when these issues arise, but the police department can’t do much unless an actual crime happened. 

Corporal Nick Briggs with Spokane PD said if a business has made it clear to the offender that trespassing is unwanted on their property, it gives police more legal grounds to stand on. He suggests hanging signs and verbally telling any offenders to leave the property.  

This is not just an issue for Holiday Inn Express. Corporal Briggs said he has heard from several businesses downtown there has been an increase in trespassing from people experiencing homelessness.