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Spokane enforces restrictions on sitting, lying on downtown sidewalks

The city of Spokane is now enforcing its code against sitting, or laying down on sidewalks in downtown Spokane.

The prohibition, commonly known as sit-lie has been in on the books for years, but Spokane has not been enforcing it because of a 2018 circuit court decision. That’s when the court decided cities cannot criminalize people for being on the street if they don’t provide a low-barrier place for them to go. In practice, that means a city must have shelter beds available for different genders identities without religious restrictions.

Mayor Nadine Woodward says Spokane has met that requirement with a new shelter and resource center on Trent Avenue. She says Tuesday, the shelter’s first evening open, around 30 out of 150 spots were taken.

“I think we can all agree as a community that it’s not compassionate, or humane to normalize a life of homelessness, where we have people living under viaducts on sidewalks or in open fields,” Woodward said, “As a community, we want more for people. So these are tools we can use to assist people to connected to services and that's the outcome that we hope to see through all of this.”

The shelter, located in an industrial area, currently has outdoor showers and portable toilets. It does not yet have any social services available.

Woodward says the city is working toward indoor bathroom facilities, along with in-house laundry facilities. She says the city is also working toward an agreement with a social service provider, and she hopes they’ll be in the building working with people in the next few weeks. The shelter operator, the Guardians Foundation, is providing transportation from downtown to the site.

Sit-lie will only be in effect downtown Spokane, from 6 a.m. to midnight. The boundaries are roughly in the area of Interstate 90 to Spokane Falls Boulevard and Division to Maple Street. Police officers will base their decision to remove people on shelter availability the previous night, or a phone call to a shelter.