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Federal judge: Closing I-90 homeless camp would do 'irreparable injury'

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian granted the restraining order requested by Jewels Helping Hands, residents of the camp and Disability Rights Washington.

SPOKANE, Wash. — A federal judge granted a temporary emergency restraining order Monday against Spokane city and county, which could effectively stop the clearing of the homeless camp along I-90. 

U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian granted the restraining order requested by Jewels Helping Hands, residents of the camp and Disability Rights Washington. 

"In this case, the Court finds that Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on one, several, or all their claims," Bastian wrote. "The loss of Plaintiffs’ temporary shelter and the services provided at Camp Hope presents an immediate risk of irreparable injury. It also demonstrates a balance of hardship tipping sharply for Plaintiffs. The public interest lies with keeping people in temporary shelter with services until the legal action is concluded."

According to federal court documents, City and county law enforcement may not take part in either of the following:

  1. Arresting and/or removing residents of Camp Hope from their current location, or seizing their property, without specific and individualized probable cause to arrest a person for a criminal offense unrelated to an order given by Defendants to disband, move, or otherwise leave Camp Hope 
  2. Utilizing infrared imaging or similar technology to surveil or record the residents of Camp Hope, without first obtaining a judicial warrant for such a search 

Court documents say the order will remain in effect until the court issues an order to resolve it following a preliminary injunction hearing scheduled for Dec. 28 at 1pm in Yakima. 

Executive Director of Jewels Helping Hands Julia Garcia posted a screenshot of the decision on Facebook Monday morning saying, "Oh my goodness! Today is the best day ever! We can exhale, if only for the moment."

On Wednesday, a request for a temporary restraining order was filed on behalf of the campers, Jewels Helping Hands and Disability Rights Washington. The request seeks to "prevent irreparable harm to plaintiffs and the exceptionally vulnerable residents of Camp Hope."

The request states that despite the filing of the lawsuit to prevent the clearing of the camp, the defendants - Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, the city of Spokane and Spokane County - have already "taken active and vigorous steps to initiate an immediate sweep of all residents of Camp Hope."

This includes handing out flyers to camp residents telling them "a sweep is imminent," according to the request. 

The original lawsuit was filed in October and asked a judge to pause efforts to clear the camp, commonly referred to as Camp Hope. The lawsuit stated doing so would allow the hundreds of people camping on the state-owned property to stay there.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward issued the following statement regarding Monday's ruling:

The City remains focused on getting people out of the cold and into a warm bed, regular meals, and services. We want people to know they have options other than living outdoors in the snow and freezing temperatures. We have added considerable space to our night-by-night inventory over the past few years as a bridge strategy while more permanent housing options come online and become available. Although it is a necessary asset, night-by-night space is expensive to operate and maintain. Permanent housing is the long-term sustainable option. Our message to people is to come in out of the weather while you get connected to a more permanent housing option.

KREM 2 has reached out to Spokane Police and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office for comment but have not heard back.

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