City of Spokane ramping up cleaning downtown as full reopening date nears

SPOKANE, Wash. — Downtown Spokane will soon be cleaner. The city announced new plans to ramp up cleaning as the city gets closer to fully reopening.

One hundred percent capacity is on the horizon, but businesses in downtown are still concerned about the homeless problem.

“We do have situations where we get complaints from the community, businesses, people going through areas where they do feel unsafe that we try to respond to with targeted enforcement and dealing with folks,” said Sgt. Jason Hartman, with Spokane Police.

This is why the city is increasing cleaning at the Browne Street viaduct and other hot spots in downtown Spokane.

The city says it will put 12 more trash cans around downtown Spokane to help mitigate litter, which the city picks up an estimated 1,000 lbs weekly.

“We’re going to be opening up our economy very soon, businesses will be back to 100 percent, people will be returning back to their jobs downtown. We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable,” said Mayor Nadine Woodward.

Cleaning downtown went on the back-burner during COVID. The company the city contracts with had to slow down cleaning because of the pandemic.

Soon, though, Woodward says they plan to hire 10 people to help clean on the weekends and for longer hours on the weekdays. The city currently cleans up places three days a week.

The city will also start a pilot program in July, where it will clean and sanitize some places up to twice a day.

“A lot of these things we’re doing are just trying to clean up downtown and make it safer,” Woodward said. “The Browne Street viaduct, which we’re at right now, it tends to be a real challenge for the city to keep clean.”

Keeping viaducts clean is done with the help of Spokane Police Department. There are officers out doing enforcement and getting people out of places that need to be worked on.

Though signs are up saying people who camp in certain areas could be arrested, the city says that hasn’t happened during the pandemic. Woodward and Hartman say no tickets have been given for sit lie violations in the last year, partly because there is no dedicated day shelters.

There have been tickets given to people blocking or slowing down traffic and pedestrians, but the city says those people aren’t going to jail. They’re getting a ticket to go to community court to access services.

When officers ask people to remove themselves from the viaducts for cleaning, the city says they do tell people experiencing homelessness where shelter beds are available. The city says it’s had, on average, about 100 beds open per night at shelters across Spokane.

READ: City of Spokane announces new ways to help people experiencing homelessness