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City of Spokane responds to WSDOT deadline to clear homeless camp near I-90

Spokane City Administrator Johnnie Perkins sent a letter to WSDOT on Thursday, stating the department has until Oct. 14 to clear the homeless encampment near I-90.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The city of Spokane has given the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) until Oct. 14 to clear the homeless encampment near I-90 and Freya Street.

The property is owned by WSDOT and has been occupied by homeless campers for nearly 10 months.

There are more than 600 people currently living at the camp, according to an employee with Jewels Helping Hands.

In a letter obtained by KREM 2, Spokane City Administrator Johnnie Perkins said the city expects WSDOT to begin clearing the camp by Sept. 23 and remove the entire camp no later than Oct. 14. 

Perkins said the property has "become a burden to the City of Spokane" due to the conditions at the camp, which include "illegal camping, code violations, health concerns, excessive amounts of solid waste that have resulted in expensive removal costs at taxpayer expense, unsanitary human waste disposal, hundreds of neighborhood complaints, a significant increase in criminal activity," among other conditions.

Perkins also said WSDOT failed to use its resources to clear the camp quickly, with the camp being on the property for 10 months.

According to the letter, WSDOT was "placed on notice" in February by the Spokane Police Department (SPD) that the property represented "an ongoing nuisance issue" to the "quiet enjoyment and tranquility of the nearby area."

In June, WSDOT, the Housing Assistance Unit and the Community Services Housing Division of the State Department of Commerce attended a meeting with the city of Spokane to discuss the camp. According to Perkins, WSDOT representatives identified Spokane as "one of eleven high-priority areas" that required outreach and assessment of the encampment.

During that meeting, Perkins said WSP indicated they would take the lead on clearing the camp. He also said the Department of Commerce indicated it had funding for the process.

However, Perkins said this never happened.

In the letter, Perkins requested that WSDOT take "significant and immediate steps" to clear the camp, including all properties adjacent to the camp being fenced and secured from trespassing. He also requested Washington State Patrol (WSP) troopers join SPD officers in watching over the camp from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.

Perkins wrote that the city is prepared to take legal action against WSDOT if the camp is not cleared, which will consist of deeming the property a chronic nuisance and a citation. If a citation is given, WSDOT will have 10 days from service to "eliminate the conditions which constitute a nuisance."

The letter also claims that the city of Spokane has spent more than $350,000 since March 1 to address the issues at the camp. The money spent on the camp was reportedly supposed to be used "to provide additional housing options," according to the letter.

"This is unacceptable and the City of Spokane intends to seek reimbursement from the State of Washington is an abatement agreement is not immediately established, which includes fulfillment of the Department of Transportation's verbal commitments made during the meeting on June 2," Perkins wrote.

The city gave WSDOT until Monday, Sept. 12, to respond to the letter with a plan of action. Roger Millar, the WSDOT Secretary of Transportation, sent Perkins the following letter on Monday afternoon: 

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