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Spokane poised to clear homeless protest camp in front of city hall

Doug Nadvornick/SPR

The city of Spokane says it will clear a homeless encampment from in front of city hall Thursday. The mayor’s office says there is shelter space and city-contracted hotel rooms available. Activists argue those resources are not enough.

A group of people who are homeless and community activists set up camp outside Spokane’s city hall last Friday. The demonstration, organized in part by the non-profit Jewels Helping Hands, is meant to push city leaders to fund more low-barrier options. Jason Green, the co-founder of Jewels Helping Hands, says the city needs a solution now.

“The mayor at this point has to be willing to open a shelter or open up land for a tent city,” he said. “But in both cases, she says she is not willing to act. I read her most recent statement, and she has funded a budgeted 2022 shelter, but hasn’t even identified a building.”

Brian Coddington, a spokesman for Mayor Nadine Woodward’s office, says the mayor has acted, setting up a temporary hotel program, which most often serves women when there isn’t room in existing women’s shelters. He says the city has also contracted with Truth Ministries to remove barriers, and has an agreement with Union Gospel Mission to set aside a dozen low-barrier beds for men.

"Mayor Woodward in July of 2020 outlined a plan for homelessness that included several items,” he said. “Those have all taken some time because of COVID and other reasons, but over the last several months all of those items have been completed."

Coddington said the camp in front of city hall is a safety and sanitation risk, and belongings that are still in there when code enforcement arrives will be removed. He says people are still free to continue to protest in front of city hall. Green says Jewels Helping Hands may provide transportation to public land elsewhere for people who don’t have a place to go.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.
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