A night with the homeless in Spokane
Spokane's tent city may be gone, but the homeless are still out there sleeping on the streets.
"You never know if you are going to be robbed in your sleep or killed," Joaquin King said.
Joaquin, also known as Jo-Jo, came to Spokane for a fresh start but things didn't turn out as planned and for the last five months he's been living on the streets.
"It's pretty much become a way of life now. I just got accustomed to this now," he said.
Jo-Jo and his friends, 23-year-old Bonnie Dobson and 24-year-old Justin Wright, are like family. Bonnie's been homeless for six months while Justin has been homeless for a decade.
"It's boring but it's a lot of work at the same time," Bonnie said.
Their days are centered around food. Who's feeding? What time? What are they serving?
"Food helps you survive so if you don't have the food it's hard for you to survive," Jo-Jo said.
It's a lot of walking and waiting too. The three of them, along with their dog Princess, are constantly moving. Jo-Jo says on average he walks about 10-12 miles a day going from place to place.
"It's mundane, it's just the same routine over and over, it's a revolving door," Jo-Jo said.
When they need cash, they go up and ask people for money. They refer to it as "spanging."
"It takes a lot more work, a lot more courage, and a pretty good size backbone to be able to handle it," Bonni said.
For Spokane Police Officer Toby Bryer, interacting with the homeless is a daily part of his job.
"The chief says he wants to take back downtown, it's where the heart of the city is and that's what we are working on doing," Bryer said.
Over the last few months, the number of cops patrolling downtown has increased from two to seven. With more manpower, they have more time to dedicate to the homeless.
Bryer spends a good chuck of his night patrolling the Spokane streets and checking up on all the homeless hot spots in town.
"They are fine with us now that we have begun to interact with them more and more," Bryer said.
As for Jo-Jo, Bonnie and Justin, they don't stay at a local homeless shelter because they all can't stay together at night so they live together under the Maple Street Bridge.
"I've got about 35-40 blankets at camp right now," Bonnie said.
"You have to trust your belongings to help you survive," Jo-Jo added
They trust their belongings and each other but that's it. Just the other day Jo-Jo was attacked while he was sleeping at camp.
"Some strange guy came up and just hit me a couple of times in the back of the head and I rolled over and just started defending myself," Bonnie said.
From now on, they've made a rule that no one can be at camp alone. In no time, they'll move onto a different place in town. They don't ever stay at one camp for long but why don't they get out? What's holding them back?
"If I could get a job and I could hold a job, get the money and get my apartment... then yeah I'll be off the streets," Jo-Jo said.
Bonnie hopes to be off the streets by the end of March and back in Alaska with her family.
"If you can handle being out here for at least a year, you can get through just about anything," she said.
As for Jo-Jo, he is now officially off the streets. He just moved back to Nevada where he is living with family and looking for a job.
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