SPOKANE, Wash — On Sunday morning, Spokane police and city crews cleared the homeless camp formed in front of city hall.
Spokane police officers told the remaining campers to leave the city’s property around 10 a.m. on Sunday. A city abatement crew cleaned up the tents and whatever else was left behind. Post Street between Spokane Falls Boulevard and West Summit Parkway was closed until about noon.
On Thursday, city leaders announced they would enforce the protection of public lands ordinance which prohibits camping on public property. The city issued a 48 hours’ notice to the people staying outside city hall.
Homeless residents had been camping out in front of city hall for weeks to protest the lack of adequate shelter space in Spokane. In late November, demonstrators set up about two dozen tents in front of city hall.
In response, the city approved more beds for homeless residents.
Spokane police arrested two people for obstructing a law enforcement officer during the clean-up process. Alfredo Llamedo, 59, and Charlie Johansen, 20, were taken into custody. According to police they refused to follow the police officers' orders.
KREM 2 spoke with Llamedo, a local activist, when the city council was considering opening more warming shelters as tents started going up in front of city hall.
Steven Bessermin, who was staying in the camp, said while the police were polite he did not like the way the abatement crew handled the tent clean up.
"They just bundled all the tents up with the gear inside of it what can literally be protecting people's lives and threw it away," Bessermin said.
Bessermin said he has been homeless on and off since he was 13-years-old. He is on track to get permanent housing, but was not quite there yet. He said he chose to stay in what many began to call 'Camp Hope' to make sure women, children and those who are disabled had a chance to get a shelter bed.
"Camp Hope, this was a beacon of hope, this was a twenty-four-seven place that people could come and actually be given advice, given food, given clothing, given medical supplies," Bessermin said.
A city spokesperson said they gave the people almost three days to clear out. City leaders encourage people to use the warming shelters that are now open.
"We're hoping that they make the choice of not sleeping outside, but sleeping in one of warming centers tonight, where they can have a warm, dry, safe space," City Spokesperson Marlene Feist said.
According to a press release from Spokane Police the warming shelter at Salem Lutheran has a capacity of 60 beds. It said 46 spaces were available Saturday night. The House of Charity also had space was available for females Saturday night.
The city plans to open a new 24/7 shelter in July.
John Lemus, a commissioner with the Spokane Human Rights Commission, said the city needs to do more right now.
"It's not enough to just have warming shelters, folks have to have a place to go everyday so that they can stay warm so that means getting another shelter on line and doing it quicker than next year," Lemus said.