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Spokane judge orders state, city to plan closure of Camp Hope

Savanna Rothe
Camp Hope, which previously had an estimated 600 residents, is now down to around 60 people. State leaders say those remaining have the most barriers to finding housing.

A judge has ordered the city of Spokane and the Washington Department of Transportation to come up with a plan to close Camp Hope, formerly the state’s largest homeless encampment.

Last week attorneys for the city of Spokane asked a judge to order everyone living at Camp Hope to clear out. They also asked for the state to cover the cost of cleanup.

Instead, the judge ordered the two parties to come up with a joint plan to close the camp.

At its height last summer, the camp’s population was estimated to be more than 600. Since then, state leaders have spent more than $24 million dollars to open a transitional housing facility, hire caseworkers to help people find housing, and retain or grow capacity at low-barrier shelters.

The city, which has pointed to crime around the camp and fires caused by accidents with camping equipment, argues all of that work should be taking place at the Trent shelter, a converted warehouse with more than 300 beds.

“The judge’s ruling takes us one step closer to restoring the health and safety of everyone in that neighborhood and establishing a firm expectation for those staying at the camp that it is closing by a date certain,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a statement. “The closure plan will include the availability of services to those in an indoor environment with a bed and regular meals.”

In a statement, Washington State Department of Transportation workers said the ruling would allow them to continue the work they have been doing - helping resolve the issues that keep people homeless.

“By not granting the city’s abatement plan, the court allows the hard work by WSDOT and our partners at the state Department of Commerce, Washington State Patrol and local service providers to continue to reduce and ultimately close Camp Hope,” state leaders said in a statement. “Our approach to get those living unsheltered at Camp Hope the services they need and appropriate housing placement to end the cycle of homelessness ultimately helps those not only living unsheltered, but the many residents living and working in proximity to Camp Hope.”

Both parties said they would work to come up with a plan. They will again go before a judge April 19.

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.