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Jeff Humphrey

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 10:51 a.m.

The tons of fractured basalt started hitting the ground after the Spokane City Council decided it was time to dislodge homeless people camping underneath Interstate 90, much to the relief of Jim Redmon. “The back of our property has been used for people going to the bathroom,” Redmon said.

Redmon owns Devine’s Auto Repair Shop and his business has a back-door view of what has become the default hangout for dozens of people experiencing homelessness. “Our cars out in our lot have been broken into. We’ve had widows broke. We’ve had customers harassed. Garbage every morning, is everywhere” Redmond complained.

In fact, this year the City will spend $120,000 paying Geiger inmates to clean up after campers who are shedding an average 800 pounds of garbage every day. “It builds up really fast. We’ve cleaned it up and seen it completely trashed in 24 hours,” said Geiger inmate Joseph Heister.

And that’s one of the reasons the city is carpeting the camps with cobble. A hard core attempt to make the ground so uncomfortable that no one wants to sit or sleep underneath the interstate.

According to Redmon, “The police just can’t keep up. I met with the Chief just last Friday and he said ‘Jim we can keep chasing them out but they are just going to keep coming back.’ “Ultimately, I’m hoping this is something that is going to limit what’s going on behind us,” Redmon said.

But people who live on the street say that $150,000 in rock and landscaping could have been better spent on ending their cycle of homelessness. Thomas, who camps under the interstate says, that money could have helped homeless people afford an apartment by covering the cost of their first and last month’s rent.  “Give us more resources because if someone has been homeless for years and you give them an apartment that’s not going to end right there,” Thomas said.

But city officials say since they’re now paying the house of charity to keep its doors open 24/7, these campers have a place to get out of the weather and shouldn’t be parked under the interstate.

Before the rock project got underway, outreach workers offered campers other options. “People need to feel comfortable to fail, to try new things and to be open to the services when they are available to them. Sometimes that’s the first try, sometimes that’s the hundredth try, but we always want to be there to help people in need,” said Tija Danzig of the City’s Community Housing and Human Services.     

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