Jeff Humphrey

Locking Trash Cans Can Limit Litter

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Thursday, June 11, 2020 at 5:03 p.m.

Updated: 06/17/2020

Almost every morning, Ambassadors from the Downtown Spokane Partnership start their day with waking up people who spent the night sleeping in storefronts along Riverside Avenue.

“I don’t think people really realize it’s an expensive problem and it’s a daily problem. It’s reoccurring,” stressed Mark Richard, President of the Downtown Spokane Partnership.

Expensive because campers move on, they often leave behind human waste and a lot of trash. All of which has to be picked up or washed away.

“And the folks who are opening up businesses right now, they certainly see it as a disruption of business and an inconvenience, and sometimes, a safety issue,” Richard said during an early morning interview about the issue.

In an effort to discourage sleeping on downtown sidewalks, the City is trying to limit access to the materials that make illegal camping a little more comfortable, including scavenged food and bedding materials.

“Well, you can walk downtown any day or evening and you’re going to find piles of cardboard and other garbage and that came from one of these containers,” explained Bob Kaatz of the City’s Solid Waste Department.

Now, the City is asking downtown businesses to use locking containers, provided by the Solid Waste Department, for both trash and recyclables.

“It was a huge problem, just in this whole area, of garbage and recycling being removed from the cans and just strewn about,” recalled Kaatz.

That’s why the owner of Wild Dawgs was one of the first merchants to sign up for the locking trashcan pilot program.

“You can see, there’s no garbage, no cardboard,” Kaatz said during a recent tour of the courtyard outside the restaurant.

“We’re also installing chains or locks on these commercial dumpsters as well,” Kaatz added.

Rummaging through dumpsters leads to more trash on city streets and so can handouts from diners leaving downtown restaurants.

“As far as leftovers go, I didn’t ever have to worry about eating when I was on the streets because of people’s generosity,” said Tyson West, who used be homeless.

West is now helping other people overcome the addictions that led to his homelessness nine years ago.

“I asked people as they were coming out of Red Robin for leftovers,” recalled West.

West says our generous handouts are allowing people to eke out an existence on our streets, delaying their desire to seek treatment.

“Although well-intended, they were helping to enable me to stay in that kind of lifestyle,” West says in retrospect.

There are no easy answers when it comes to helping people who are chronically homeless. However, City officials feel locking trashcans and fewer handouts could be steps in the right direction.

For more information about securing your sold waste, call My Spokane 3-1-1.

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