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Spokane law enforcement hands out notices with intention to close I-90 homeless camp

WSDOT released a statement condemning the action as "extremely disappointing."

SPOKANE, Wash. — Behavioral Health Units with the Spokane Police Department and the Spokane County Sheriff's Office handed out notices telling I-90 homeless campers the camp is closing.

The notice comes with a full list of different shelter services and housing alternatives for people living at the camp, including the recently opened Trent Resource and Assistance Center (TRAC).

Jewels Helping Hands Executive Director Julie Garcia says the way law enforcement went about sharing this information was all wrong.

She says the effort was more based in fear than compassion.

"We have reached out to the sheriff's department and we reach out to the police department all the time trying to come up with a better way to do this," Garcia said. "We know that they have to be involved at some point. Can we create a better way to do it than intimidating these folks? It will help them respond better. It will help them engage more than just simply scaring them."

According to Spokane County Sheriff Corporal Mark Gregory, city and county BHU units went to the camp to help connect people there with resources to transition out of homelessness.

Gregory said the units were met at the gate by people in charge of the camp who kept them from going inside for 10-15 mins. They eventually got in and tried to talk to people living there, Gregory said, while others yelled at them and called them liars.

Gregory says the camp is going to "be gone sooner rather than later" and they hope they're able to connect people with services.

Washington State Department of Transportation released a statement condemning the city and county's actions as "extremely disappointing."

"After the exciting news of the Catalyst project yesterday and soon having the ability to get more people into housing, the actions today is only instilling fear into those who are there," WSDOT said in a statement.

WSDOT released another statement on Wednesday also said, "As state agencies have shared for more than a year, there simply isn’t enough shelter/housing available in Spokane to accommodate the now 416 people at Camp Hope. The city’s own shelter locator website clearly shows there is not enough shelter and housing in Spokane to house everyone at Camp Hope at this point, including at the city’s own Trent shelter."

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich announced his intentions to clear the homeless encampment known as "Camp Hope" back in September 2022. Knezovich had initially wanted to have the camp cleared by mid-October.

"We're going to inundate the camp with as much help as we can from all kinds of angles," Knezovich said in an exclusive interview with KREM 2 in September. "Mental health, drug addictions you name it, and help people get out of there." 

According to Knezovich, the camp is scheduled to close before Christmas this year.

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