SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane police were giving out notices to RVs near a homeless camp off I-90 near Freya that they need to leave by noon Friday.
KREM 2's Nicole Hernandez spoke with a Spokane fire battalion chief who confirmed the campers are not being forced out. The battalion chief said one person from the camp was taken to the hospital due to concerns for the person's health.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) threatened to clear out the camp if tents were not removed by noon on Friday. WSDOT owns the vacant lot and said campers have been trespassing since mid-December.
WSDOT asked the City of Spokane and code enforcement for help, but the City said its hands are tied and they can’t legally ask campers to pack up.
City spokesperson Brian Coddington said there are not enough shelter beds available and previous court rulings prevent the City from taking action. Code enforcement, however, will still visit the site.
“Code enforcement goes in and it's a voluntary pickup of litter and garbage that the occupant says is no longer needed or desired in their camp. It won't be a clearing out of that camp at this point," Coddington said.
Homeless campers like Allen Toler-Jones wonder where else they are supposed to go.
“There's not many places available and unfortunately with the way everything is and Covid and the overwhelming displacement that we're dealing with as a nation it just leads to a lot of doors not having availability once you've gotten there,” Toler-Jones said.
WSDOT said it's growing more concerned with safety at the camp. Julie Garcia, founder of Jewels Helping Hands claims there have been zero police calls or incidents.
Spokane police told KREM 2 that's not true. Between Dec. 21 and Jan. 13, 15 calls for service originated between Ray and Pacific, and Ray and Second Avenue where the camp is located. SPD said officers also responded to an assault Jan. 11 between two campers. Garcia claims the fight happened off WSDOT property and the other person involved wasn't living at the camp.
Mayor Nadine Woodward is working with City Council members to develop plans for a new shelter space. Councilman Zack Zappone called Thursday’s meeting “productive” and said both sides “understand the direness” of the situation.
The City recently closed a warming shelter at the Spokane Convention Center. The facility suffered $90,000 in damages. According to the City, people using the shelter shattered mirrors, put holes in walls and damaged 90 banquet chairs — some of them were used as toilets.