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Camp Hope now under 200 residents, state agencies say

Savanna Rothe
Camp Hope, which now has a much smaller footprint, is now enclosed by a shielded fence for residents, and neighborhood security.

At its height this summer, Washington’s largest homeless encampment had an estimated population of more than 600. Since October, the population of Camp Hope has shrunk to fewer than 200.

Camp Hope, located next to Interstate 90 in Spokane's East Central neighborhood, has been a source of contention between state agencies and the city.

Zeke Smith is the president of Empire Health Foundation, the organization contracted by the state to lead housing and other social service efforts at the Camp. He said the reduction is a result of new housing options coming online, people seeking emergency shelter during dangerously cold weather, and efforts to reconnect residents to family and friends.

“We're feeling pretty optimistic that you can see the end in sight in terms of closing the camp,” he said. “There's going to be a lot of additional work to get individuals into sustainable housing options. Luckily we have the resources to provide peer navigators to support them.”

Smith said there may have been some people the count missed that may return to the once the weather changes. He said if that happens, they’ll receive the same support they would have if they stayed through the cold weather.

During the most dangerous temperature drop, the most vulnerable residents of the camp, older adults or people with medical conditions, were temporarily housed with volunteers or others, Smith said.

He said a few more housing options should soon come online. The state, which owns the land where Camp Hope is located, has allocated more than $25 million to house people through their Right of Way Initiative.

A program to put camp residents in 18-month leases with private landlords, a detox beds, and other housing options should soon be available for residents. The Catalyst Project, a recently launched transitional housing facility led by Catholic Charities, is also still filling beds.

The city of Spokane and Spokane County have pushed to clear Camp Hope as soon as possible, but were hit with a temporary restraining order filed by camp residents. Both parties have agreed to let that order stand until late January while they work through legal challenges, according to court documents filed this week.

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.