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I-90 squatters camp frustrating downtown businesses

By Colleen O'Brien, Reporter / Weekend Anchor, colleeno@kxly.com
Published On: Dec 10 2012 08:47:25 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 10 2012 09:26:21 PM CST
Homeless camp @ I-90
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The homeless hang-out spot under I-90 at the Division Street exit is growing and starting to look more like a tent city.

The problem is that camping there is prohibited under city code and, businesses are complaining of finding vandalism and human feces.

The city and the Spokane Police Department are visiting the site once a week to move the campers out of the area, but businesses near there say the camp is back within 20 minutes of being kicked out.

“There's a significant issue that we're seeing, there is the camping that's going on down there and that's against the law and it has been posted against the law, but we have to battle this enforcement issue as well as a lifestyle issue,” Spokane Police Officer Jennifer DeRuwe said.

John Armstrong Jr. has been homeless for seven years and said he's an alcoholic.

“Well where are we going to go?” Armstrong said when asked why he sleeps under I-90.

Armstrong said the shelters are full so I-90 has to be their shelter. The House of Charities downtown, who accepts homeless men no matter if they are drunk or using drugs, said they are filling up to capacity at night and turning away about 20 men a night.

“It's cover, you know, you gotta get out of the elements,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong said he's been kicked out of the I-90 and Division location about 50 times, but keeps coming back and ignoring the city's posted “No camping” notices.

“We can apply all the resources we need but ultimately it's about getting those people the resources they need,” DeRuwe said.

For Armstrong, his concern is finding a warm place to sleep and with shelters overrun, as he said, an unlawful tent under I-90 will have to do.

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