Jeff Humphrey

New Program Targets Illegal Camping

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Monday, June 3, 2019 at 3:28 p.m.

It’s a new, faster way of trying to resolve an old problem.

Beginning May 1, the City of Spokane started using a more coordinated approach for locating and abating illegal camping on private and public land.

“We have to abate camps quicker because we’ve learned that they grow over time. They can grow very quickly. They can double in size in a day or two,” explained City Councilmember Lori Kinnear.

Two neighborhood resource officers from the Spokane Police Department are assigned to locating and then abating illegal encampments.

“Here’s the deal man. This is private property and the owners don’t want you here camping,” Officer Jake Willard told a group of people in a large camp just above the Liberty Park Pool.

Willard reminds the individuals a City ordinance prohibits camping and that private property owners can trespass unwanted campers.

“So if you have shelter space available and if you have resources available to you, we are going to enforce that. So we are going to have you guys get your stuff, whatever you need immediately, and move on,” Willard advises the group.

People found camping on public property, for any reason, are still given 48 hours’ notice to collect their valuables. But now, the City isn’t waiting to haul away their trash.

“When we go out with the cleanup crews, if it’s something we can clean right then and there, if it’s garbage trash and obvious waste, we’re removing that,” Willard emphasized.

Clean up crews are collecting up to a thousand pounds per day.

Social workers are also part of the illegal encampment abatement team.

“What can we do to help you? You remember we talked to you about housing and stuff,” Bob Peeler from SNAP asked of couple camped along the Spokane River.

Peeler tries to help campers get back on their feet and find safer places to live.

“You know, people are coming around, hitting these camps, beating up people and taking their stuff,” Peeler warns a woman who has her clothes drying on a rope suspended between two trees.

Illegal camping is also taking its toll on the environment.

Every spring, runoff floods camps along the shoreline and unfortunately, when the water recedes, it drags all that litter and debris back into the Spokane River.

Illegal camping also starts a lot of our brush fires.

All reasons why the city of Spokane has revamped its enforcement program.

“We’ve heard from citizens that the presence of illegal camping makes them feel unsafe along our urban trails and parks. As part of our One Spokane strategic plan, we are investing in the strategic goal of creating safer, healthier, and more supportive environments for all residents and visitors,” said Mayor David Condon.

“It’s a full-time gig. We’re trying to make sure everybody gets connected to where they need to be connected and we make some positive changes for people and the environment. It’s not trying to push the homeless people away, it’s to get them an opportunity to do better for themselves and get them connected to the services that the City puts a lot of time and money into,” added Willard.

If you spot illegal camping inside the Spokane city limits, you can report the location and start the abatement process by calling 311.

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