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City of Spokane, Jewels Helping Hands reach agreement about clearing I-90 homeless camp

This agreement means that the City of Spokane won't be making an unlawful sweep to clear the encampment. Something Jewels Helping Hands wanted all along.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The City of Spokane and Jewels Helping Hands (JHH) have reached an agreement regarding the homeless camp near I-90. The agreement is on track to be finalized by the end of the day Friday and filed by Monday.

The agreement says the city will not work to shut down the homeless encampment near I-90 and Freya Street, commonly referred to as Camp Hope. The encampment sits on property owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

In October 2022, JHH and Disability Rights Washington filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on behalf of people living at the camp on WSDOT property. The 25-page lawsuit claimed forcing people out of the homeless camp is unconstitutional and arresting those who refuse to leave violates their rights. 

On Friday, a new agreement was reached between the city and JHH. The attorney representing the city of Spokane said they would no longer engage in efforts to clear out the homeless camp.

Julie Garcia, the executive director of JHH, said this is a big step in the right direction.

"I'm glad with the agreement," she said. "I believe that in order to finish clearing this camp and to solve homelessness, or move the needle in homelessness in our community, we need a community table, everybody at the table, and this is a good step in the right direction on all parties to building bridges instead of hurting them."

Garcia also pointed out the size of the camp has shrunk significantly. At it's peak, more than 600 people were living in the encampment. At last count, less than 150 people are staying there, and work continues to transition people still at the encampment into permanent housing. 

Spokane County dropped the abatement lawsuit against WSDOT on Monday. Spokane County spokesperson Jared Webley said the decision to drop the lawsuit is the county's effort to extend an olive branch to WSDOT so they can work together to close the homeless encampment and get citizens there into more humane housing.

Attorneys expect to finalize the agreement with the city on Friday and file it on Monday.

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