SPOKANE, Wash. — After the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) threatened to clear out the homeless camp off I-90 near Freya if tents were not removed by noon on Friday, they decided to temporarily rescind the order, according to a statement from the department.
According to WSDOT Spokesperson Ryan Overton, they decided to take back the encampment vacate order because they want to remove it in a safe and humane way that has a positive outcome for all involved.
WSDOT previously asked the City of Spokane and code enforcement for help, but the City said its hands are tied and it 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.
WSDOT said they want to work with the City of Spokane to find potential short-term options that would provide additional time for social services to find a more positive solution for those located at the camp.
WSDOT sent the following statement regarding the encampment on it's property:
"Regarding the encampment near I-90 on WSDOT property. For nearly a month the organization, Jewels Helping Hand, has continued to use right-of-way owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation to create a safe space for the homeless in the area. Our desire and goal, related to the encampment, has been to remove it in a timely, safe, and humane way that ends in a positive outcome for all involved. We (WSDOT) are not an organization that deals with social services, nor do we have law enforcement resources.
On Wednesday, Jan. 12, we posted a 48-hour notice for those on the property to vacate from the premises by Friday, Jan. 14, at noon.
As of today, we are temporarily rescinding the notice to vacate the encampment located at E. 2nd Avenue and S. Ray Street. WSDOT has entered into discussions with the City of Spokane to explore potential short-term options that would provide additional time for social services within the area to find a more positive and acceptable solution for those located at the camp. During discussions with the city, it has become clear there are not enough beds at local area shelters to house those at the encampment. It remains WSDOT’s position that housing these encampments on right of way is not a long-term solution. However, we want to actively participate in the solution."
Spokane police and fire crews informed people in RVs near the camp Friday morning that they needed to move or get a ticket. 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.