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Tentative closure date of June 30 set for Camp Hope

The remaining campers are working with peers and housing navigators, says Julie Garcia.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Camp Hope could be empty as soon as June 30.

That's the target date to get the remaining handful of campers into housing and off the plot of Washington Department of Transportation land near I-90.

Ryan Overton with WSDOT says there are about 20 campers still calling the camp home for now but maybe not for long.

“We’re getting closer to the end of Camp Hope," Overton said. “We’re looking towards the end of June to have housing lined up or offered to individuals.”

Inside the fenced-off area, it's a much different view with only a smattering of tents and a few RVs. Two RVs were towed away Thursday, another sign camp is shrinking.

For Julie Garcia it's a sign of hope.

“This, the emptiness of the camp signifies one a reduction in the footprint of this neighborhood but also the real help that is given and being offered to people experiencing homelessness," the founder of Jewel's Helping Hands said.

Garcia says her group, along with WSDOT and partnering agencies, are working to identify housing options for each person. 

"Whatever that looks like. What are the barriers to getting housing and then how do we break down those barriers in order to maintain and sustain housing?" Garcia said.

She adds they're averaging 5-6 campers going into housing a week.

One of those people enjoying his own apartment is Henry Grisby III.

“So this is the Audi Quatro that I acquired," he said, looking over the green car he bought Wednesday. "That’s from hard work, I guess that’s what I’d say. That’s what they tell me is my hard work.”

Grisby had been in Camp Hope for around a year after moving back to the area from Spokane. He says a cousin was living in 'tent city' and he decided to join. He watched it grow to more than 600 people, calling it a learning experience that was part good and bad.

“It was like an unruly college campus," he said, adding that it was like any other community where people learn to coexist. 

He frowns at the perception from outside that it was a "circus full of savag animals." 

"Majority of the time people were helping each other," he said.

That kind of help has led to him getting an apartment three weeks ago and a steady job.

“It’s a sense of stability. That’s something that was one of my barriers was being stable somewhere and having my stuff, my property and me in good state of mind in one place and being able to build off that," he said. "For me it does something for me that makes me walk taller."

WSDOT and the City of Spokane still have pending legal issues after the city sued in March; both sides agree they're collaborating on a plan to close camp.

“We expect that shortly with the state we’ll have a joint filing with the judge regarding a plan to close and a date certain to close," said Brian Coddington, communications and marketing director for the city.

WSDOT is still finalizing plans for 'mitigation' of the land once camp is vacant. Overton says the fences may stay up for a time after campers are gone.

For Grisby and so many others, Camp Hope is already shrinking in the rearview. Who knows what's ahead.

“And I got this Audi to do that with me," Grisby said. "We just stay in our own lane and try to go forward. That’s it.”

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