City Creates Pilot Program Improving Response to Illegal Camping

Approach speeds cleanup, connects people to resources

Marlene Feist, Communications, (509) 625-6505

Monday, June 3, 2019 at 2:48 p.m.

To improve response to reports of illegal camping, the City of Spokane has created a pilot program that uses a team approach that speeds cleanup of camps, refers people who are camping to available community resources, and maintains safety for City responders. City staff briefed the City Council on the initial results of the new approach at a committee meeting this afternoon.

The new team approach, which was launched May 1, partners Spokane Police Department Neighborhood Resource Officers and City Code Enforcement, which includes the City Litter Crew. All reports of illegal camps are routed through the City’s 3-1-1 customer service line for evaluation and outreach by the team.

“We want to make a positive difference for our community and for the individuals who are camping illegally,” says Mayor David Condon. “This approach helps us do both.”

The new team approach has reduced the number of days to resolve a camping complaint to four days from 13 previously. During the month of May, between seven and 10 camps were reported daily, and the team responded to 169 camps. Some 70 individuals were cited for illegal camping and referred to Community Court, where they are connected with services. Social service outreach teams also work with individuals who are camping.

Working as a unit, the team visits reported locations and determines the best course of action.

  • If shelter space is available and the camp’s occupants are present, cleanup begins immediately if the camp is on public property.
  • If the camp is vacant, the team posts a 48-hour notice of its intent to clean up the site, and then proceeds with a cleanup after the notice has expired.
  • If a camp is on private property, the team reaches out to the property owner to seek permission to trespass campers and approval to clean up the site. Property owners also can take on the cleanup responsibilities themselves.

More information is found in this video story produced by the City’s Jeff Humphrey and CityCable 5.