Local leaders point fingers over who is responsible for Camp Hope

SPOKANE, Wash. — The City of Spokane’s demand to clear Camp Hope by next month might not go as planned.

Camp Hope sits on land owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

Earlier this month, the City issued a demand to WSDOT, State Department of Commerce and State Patrol saying they must begin clearing the property this week. If they don’t, it will be deemed a “nuisance property.

But a response from those state agencies shifts much of the blame back on the City of Spokane.

“Sadly, to date, the City seems more preoccupied with blaming the state for the problem it ultimately played a hand in creating and not acknowledging its own roles and responsibilities regarding residents of its own city,” WSDOT said in a letter.

WSDOT claims the City is failing to acknowledge its responsibility in the situation and now, the agency is responding with what it calls an outlined plan of action. WSDOT says its plan is focused on long-term solutions for people living and working near Camp Hope, first responders and those living at the encampment.

WSDOT’s response identifies four actions, as well as the responsible jurisdictions, that can allow homeless encampments to be removed from the state right of way:

1. The offering of shelter and services to people living there (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers; funding offered by Commerce)
2. Secure storage of their belongings (local jurisdiction & service/outreach providers)
3. Safety and security for people on site and work crews (local law enforcement & WSP)
4. Restoration and cleanup of the property (WSDOT)

WSDOT says this is not the first time these courses of action have been explained to the City, saying “the city remains resolute that homelessness and those experiencing it is a state problem and not a local one. It is both.”

WSDOT-WSP-Commerce Jt Response City Spokane ROW 9 20 2022 (002) by Vincent Saglimbeni on Scribd

But Mayor Nadine Woodward said this is the first time she is hearing about WSDOT’s plans.

“One of the concerns that I know we do have at the city, as well as the neighborhood, is as people are moving out of that encampment, how are we going to make sure that more people aren’t moving in, and we have the same issue months later,” Woodward said.

The City gave WSDOT a deadline of September 23 to start removing people living in Camp Hope with a completion date of October 14. WSDOT says the deadlines are “arbitrary and misleading.”

“Not only are these deadlines completely unrealistic given the scope of this issue and current lack of housing capacity, but without time to provide adequate outreach, it sets up those living within the camp for failure,” the letter reads.

WSDOT says they are focused on positive solutions for Camp Hope, including Catholic Charities’ Catalyst Project and others to provide shelter to those living in the encampment.

They say initial tasks include fencing, the removal of RVs, badging and a curfew for safety concerns in and out of the camps.

“It is important to set expectations up front that further work to resolve the encampment in its entirety after these initial actions will take time and it will not happen over a matter of days, but rather weeks and months,” the letter reads.

In the letter, they say they want to work with the city to help fight problems in Camp Hope, but say the city “seems more preoccupied with blaming the state for the problem it ultimately played a hand in creating and not acknowledging its own roles and responsibilities regarding residents of its own city.”

WSDOT will be meeting with the City later this week. Woodward said she is looking forward to that meeting.

Woodward says she’s also looking forward to having a discussion about the state’s $24 million dollars in funding to address homelessness in Spokane. She says the first half, which has yet to be allocated, is supposed to go to Empire Health to conduct assessments for people living at the encampment.

“That’s what gets the ball rolling to find out what the individual needs are for those who are there to move them from that encampment and into housing,” Woodward said.

READ: Camp Hope costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands, city files nuisance order

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