Beggs, Kinnear put forward new proposal to update city’s camping code

SPOKANE, Wash. – Two members of the Spokane City Council have put forward a new proposal to update the city’s camping code. 

Council President Breean Beggs and Councilwoman Lori Kinnear say the city’s existing camping code needs to be brought into better alignment with the Martin v. City of Boise ruling. 

Martin v. City of Boise was a 9th circuit ruling in 2019. It maintains that cities cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances if they do not have shelter beds for their homeless population. 

“The City of Spokane has not updated its illegal camping code since Martin was decided and has been unable to enforce illegal camping in public rights-of-way because the City has not provided an adequate number of shelter beds,” a release from the Council said. 

Beggs and Kinnear’s proposal includes the following: 

  1. Prohibits camping at all times, regardless of the availability of shelter space, underneath or within 50 feet of any railroad viaduct located within the Spokane Police Department’s Downtown Precinct boundary and within three blocks of any congregate shelter;
  2. Prohibits camping at all times, regardless of the availability of shelter space, anywhere in the City where an officer can document that the activity poses a substantial danger to any person, an immediate threat, and/or an unreasonable risk of harm to public health or safety, or a disruption to vital government services; and
  3. Prohibits camping along the banks of the Spokane River and Latah Creek unless there is no available shelter space.

Councilmen Jonathan Bingle and Michael Cathcart, with the support of Mayor Nadine Woodward, put forward a proposal earlier that had some similarities but was a bit stricter on where camping would be banned. 

In their proposal, they suggested camping be banned anywhere in the downtown police precinct district, within a half mile of any shelter or in the business improvement districts. The council voted to defer a vote on this suggested ordinance indefinitely. 

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“This ordinance gives our police officers the authority to enforce illegal camping downtown and throughout our neighborhoods, especially in situations where it poses a threat to public health and safety,” said Kinnear. “This proposal is the result of months of collaboration and compromise between Council Members, City Administration, and community stakeholders. I’m confident these updates put our community in a better position to enforce illegal camping.”

“The easiest path forward is to provide adequate shelter beds in Spokane,” said Beggs “But until the City accomplishes that, this allows Code Enforcement and Police to promptly address demonstrated safety and public health concerns in a manner that is sufficiently tailored to comply with the Ninth Circuit’s standard of when it allows criminal prosecution for illegal camping.”

The announcement of the latest proposal comes on the heels of the City Council finalizing a deal with The Guardians Foundation to operate a new homeless shelter on E. Trent Ave. That shelter is set to open within a few days.

READ: Spokane City Council names The Guardians as operator of Trent shelter

RELATED: New Trent Ave shelter set to open next week