Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308
Friday, September 16, 2022 at 3:36 p.m.
The city has brought back another tool to help connect people, living in the downtown area, with the services they need.
The Spokane Police Department has resumed enforcing the city’s sit and lie ordinance.
However, no one has received a citation without first getting the benefit of a warning.
“So, since the opening of the new shelter, our officers, particularly downtown, have made an effort to go out and inform people about the availability of the shelter and the resources that are there. So, upon first contact, everyone is getting a warning. Letting them know there’s a shelter there, resources are there. There’s an opportunity there for you not to be in violation of the law,” explained Major Eric Olsen, Spokane Police Department.
Officers are referring people to the newly opened Trent Resource and Assistance Center. Even offering to arrange transportation to the facility.
But, if someone receives a citation, recipients are required to appear before a judge in Spokane Community Court.
Instead of doing time in the over-crowded county jail, defendants have to come to court once a week, stay out of trouble and accept help for the problems that are keeping them in unsafe and unhealthy environments.
“We cite these people in the Community Court which is a court where we try to link people with services, again, to get them out of this lifestyle and out of the lifestyle choices that are not healthy for them,” said Olsen.
And, in the course of enforcing the sit and lie ordinance, police are contacting some people who have failed to appear in court for serious criminal charges like theft and assault. Those people are getting arrested.
“I’m hoping that people will seek the resources and change their life. I’m hoping that it will make our downtown safer for the individuals who are living in an unhealthy lifestyle and safer for those who want to do business and visit our downtown areas,” predicted Olsen.
Sit and lie citations don’t involve monetary fines but do require new accountability for people to actively participate in finding their path out of homelessness.
“We as a community have already decided that it is not humane to see people, in our city, living under viaducts, and on the street, and in fields,” Spokane mayor Nadine Woodward told a crowd of business owners during a July 6th news conference.