‘Not going to help’: Concerns grow from City Council, advocates about proposed ordinances to help homelessness

SPOKANE, Wash. — With multiple ordinances to consider about homeless camps on the table, some are concerned too many restrictions will do more harm than good.

Mayor Nadine Woodward wants to see more restrictions to sit, lie and camping ordinances than some other Council Members. Woodward is supporting an ordinance alongside CM Cathcart and Bingle while Council President Beggs and CM Kinnear have a different vision.

Here’s where everyone’s ordinance is the same:

They would ban camping at all times and regardless of shelter space:
1. By railroad viaducts
2. In city parks
3. Near the Spokane River and Latah Creek

The Mayor’s backed proposal takes things further. Camping would also be banned at all times and regardless of shelter space:
1. In the downtown police precinct district
2. The business improvement districts
3. Within a half mile of any shelter

Beggs is worried too many restrictions could make the issue worse. He says he’s asking people what they would prefer when it comes to where people can camp.

“If people have to camp because we’re not choosing the beds, would you rather have them camp in the downtown or a large area — or do you want them camping in the neighborhoods?”

He doesn’t want to see people camping downtown either but believes restricting camping space to something so small will put more pressure on local neighborhoods. He also believes getting the Trent Shelter up and running will help decrease the camps.

Woodward says her more restrictive proposal will help the whole community and is legal.

“These practical updates meet the expectations established by the courts and are consistent with the vision we have for our community,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Beggs isn’t convinced and worries pushing the ordinance too far could backfire.

“Now you look at the map, and there’s not a lot of places that you can camp, and suddenly the Court of Appeals in Boise is going to go — no that’s unconstitutional,” he said.

Homeless advocates don’t think either version of the ordinance will do any good to help people move off the streets.

“It seems to be a reaction to wanting to solve a problem versus providing resources that will actually make a difference,” Lerria Schuh, the Executive director of the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, said.

Schuh says criminalizing someone for sitting, lying or camping doesn’t get to the root of the issue.

“It’s not going to help. When you provide those restrictions, and you continue to push houseless people away from areas, it doesn’t give them the support that they need,” she said.

As the debate continues for how to find solutions to help people overcome homelessness, city leaders are encouraging people to reach out to their elected officials about what change they’d like to see to solve the growing issue.

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