“I’d just like to see the neighborhood get back to where it was,” Camp Hope is shrinking, businesses still affected by nearby crime

SPOKANE, Wash. —If you’ve driven along I-90 or in the East Central Neighborhood, you’ve probably seen fencing and security at Camp Hope, as well as how much smaller the camp has become.

At its height, the encampment had over 600 people. Now, less than 200 people call the camp home, and that number continues to drop. 

In October, businesses in the East Central Neighborhood voiced their frustrations about the crime that they say is coming from the camp.

Although the camp is shrinking and people are moving on from the camp to find better housing, the neighborhood still deals with crime that they say is from the camp.

“I’m not exactly sure what happened, just started seeing more drug use, a lot of trespassing, panhandling, employees are getting threatened getting hurt, we don’t want that to happen any longer,” said Michael Bell. 

Bell is a manager at the Store on Thor, which is right by Camp Hope.

 “It is shrinking, people are getting [the] help they are getting the resources they need,” Bell said.

He says that while he’s noticed that more people have left the camp, he and other employees are still dealing with people stealing and even getting physical with them.

“It definitely can affect you emotionally [and] unfortunately physically at times,” Bell said. 

He added that the camp has changed the area. While he says he and his employees don’t judge their customer’s situations, they want the crime to stop. 

“I’d just like to see the neighborhood get back to where it was,” Bell said.

On Friday, Camp Hope managers brought in clean-up crews to get rid of trash left behind by former residents, as they prepare to start shrinking the physical size of the camp.

“We’re getting down to the most difficult population to place because they have mental health issues, they have substance abuse issues, and physical medical issues, we don’t have options for them yet,” said Maurice Smith, who helps manage Camp Hope. 

There’s still no set date to clear the camp. Starting Monday, the fence around the camp will move in as the things from people no longer living there are moved out.

RELATED: ‘They’ve moved on’: Camp Hope prepares to shrink as population reaches below 200

RELATED: East Central businesses frustrated with Camp Hope restraining order, hopeful for lawsuit

READ: East Central Neighborhood Council votes to clear Camp Hope by Thanksgiving