SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward announced Wednesday that the city will begin enforcing its new sit and lie ordinance in the downtown area effective immediately.
Under Spokane's current illegal camping ordinance, camping is not allowed on public property and a person cannot sit or lie on the sidewalk between 6 a.m. and midnight. However, the ordinance is also not enforced if there is no shelter space.
“We are setting an expectation that individuals take advantage of the opportunities available to them to receive services in a safe, healthy, and humane environment,” Woodward said in a statement. “Our downtown needs to be a safe and healthy place for everyone and living on streets, alleyways, viaducts, and fields is not in anyone’s best interest.”
Spokane police began telling homeless residents that the new shelter on Trent Avenue would be open last week, according to Woodward. Police also began informing people of the city's available resources.
“Our first priority is to get individuals connected to services that will help them take their next steps in their homelessness journey,” Woodward said in a statement. “Adding the enforcement element presents those who are reluctant to accept help with an option and an opportunity.”
Woodward announced proposed changes to the city's camping and sit and lie ordinances that will limit when and where people are allowed to camp on city property in July. During a press conference, she said Spokane makes it easy for people to be homeless and said officials need to focus on getting homeless individuals into assistance rather than pushing them around the city.
The city's camping ordinance has not been updated since 2018 and the sit and lie ordinance has not been updated since 2014. The current ordinance prohibits camping on city-owned public property when there is not enough shelter space.
Both the city council and the mayor's proposals called for removing the blanket exemption "when shelter space is unavailable." Both also allow for enforcement at all times in some specified locations.
Both proposals would also enforce the camping ordinance in the following areas:
- Within 100 feet of railroad viaducts
- Within 35 feet of the Spokane River
- All city parks and city-owned property
Both proposals also have no effect on people camping on private or state-owned land, meaning the people camping in the lot near I-90 would be exempt from both ordinances.
The mayor's proposed changes, however, take the ordinance a step further. Woodward's proposed changes would expand enforcement to within a half-mile of city-supported congregate shelters, as well as within the boundaries of the Business Improvement District and the downtown police precinct.
Under Woodward's proposal, camping would be illegal from Cataldo Avenue to the railroad tracks near First Avenue, from Walnut to North Division, from the north bank of Riverfront Park to I-90 and from Sherman out to near Inland Empire Highway.
Spokane City Council is set to consider updates to the unauthorized camping ordinance during its next meeting on Monday night.
One homeless resident in Spokane, Oliver Stuart, said he is not worried about the sit and lie ordinances because he is disabled, an exception according to the Spokane Municipal Code. However, Stuart says he understands why the mayor is bringing the ordinance back.
"There are people that won't even move for people that are coming down the sidewalk and I think that's messed up," Stuart said. "Little kids being pushed in strollers and people will just leave their crap all over the place. If I was a parent and a regular part of society I'd be pissed too if I had to walk in the road."
When asked why he was still living in the streets and not in a bed at the Trent shelter, Stuart had this to say.
"I just don't like being around that many people because they are slobs," Stuart said. "So many of the homeless are just slobs and they are gross."
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