‘Housing, not fences’: Protesters urge Spokane mayor to take down Browne St viaduct fences

SPOKANE, Wash. – Protesters gathered in downtown Spokane Saturday, urging Mayor Nadine Woodward to take down the fences the city put up under the Browne Street viaduct a few weeks ago.

Woodward previously said she put the fences up to help eliminate people from camping in the viaduct, which she said will also help clean up the trash and human waste.

The group also demanded the city implement an inclement weather plan when temperatures drop too low or get too hot.

“The fences need to come down. We need to build more sustainable housing. Housing, not fences,” said Raven Love, who participated in the protest.

She said this protest and the issue are important to her because it’s a class and race issue.

“It’s important to me because I know people who have been on the streets, and I’m so lucky they did not die,” she said.

Since 2020, more than 200 people living on the streets died, according to CHAS Health.

On Saturday, protesters zip-tied name tags of those who passed away onto the fence.

“No one should be dying on the streets. No one should be living on the streets,” Love said.

Mayor Nadine Woodward says she agrees with the protesters, saying that the fences are not a solution to homelessness.

“More shelters and more programs to help people address the issues that are keeping them from being housed,” she said. “That’s what we’re working on. That’s where the focus is.”

Woodward says it’s difficult to find a space for shelter, whether it’s for during emergency weather conditions or a long-term shelter.

She said the city is working to find both right now, but it’s hard when people don’t want it near them.

“We just saw that play out in northeast Spokane where we thought we could activate city-owned property for a temporary shelter as we’re working on something that’s more long-term,” she said. “That didn’t go well. So, we’re back to square one looking for a temporary shelter.”

RELATED: Community concerns stall plans for temporary homeless shelter in northeast Spokane

The Browne Street viaduct fencing is a pilot project to keep the area clean. Since the fences went up, Woodward says she’s heard from both sides about the good and the bad of the fences. Woodward says so far, for the most part, “it’s been a success.”

She said Spokane Police calls for service to the viaduct have decreased since the fence went up.

From January 28 to February 8, before the fence went up, Spokane Police had 24 calls for service to the viaduct. After the fence went up, from February 9 to February 28, there were nine calls.

“Nobody is living under there, which is not what we want in our community anyways, for people to be living under viaducts and living on the streets,” she said. “So far so good. We’ll re-evaluate in a few weeks.”

Woodward says she’ll have news on a shelter soon, but did not provide a date.

For the protesters on Saturday, it’s still not soon enough.

“I believe that life is a right. Homes are a right. Survival is a right,” Love said.

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