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Jeff Humphrey

Housekeeping for the Homeless?

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Manager, 509.625.6308

Wednesday, August 16, 2017 at 10:56 a.m.

Cleaning up after the people who are experiencing homelessness is costing taxpayers a lot more money than you might think.

This year the City of Spokane will spend $120,000 on removing litter from underneath Interstate 90 and the railroad viaducts in the downtown area.

The City has a contract with Spokane County Detention Services that uses Geiger corrections center inmates to pick up garbage six days a week.

The clean-up crews are all volunteers. Inmate Joseph Heister says he likes getting outside the razor wire for a good cause.  “We’re not sitting idle in the cell. The other thing is we get a little extra food and well, we get a little bit of praise,” says Heister.

Clean-up crews are collecting an average 800 pounds of trash every day. “We find mattresses, pads, clothes, food, especially a lot of feces, urine and a lot of syringes,” Heister says.

Some guys on the clean-up crew have been homeless in the past, so they are very careful to not haul away anything that appears to be someone’s personal belongings.

The clean-up crews are a welcome sight for people camping under the interstate.

Some of them even bag up their garbage when they see the Geiger truck and trailer making the rounds.

But City officials say the growing amounts of garbage around town, including fast food wrappers and beer cans, is exactly why they would like motorists to stop handing over their spare change to panhandlers.

“I do think when you hand out money to a panhandler you’re just promoting some of the negative aspects of the homeless. There’s got to be another answer.  I don’t know what that would be though,” Heister said.

Officials from the Downtown Spokane Partnership and the City hope you’ll consider giving to the organizations that provide shelter and other services to assist those who are homeless, rather than directly to those asking for money.

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