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Spokane reaches out to homeless before clearing tent city

By Ian Cull, KXLY4 Multimedia Journalist, ianc@kxly.com
Published On: Jan 09 2013 07:58:31 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 09 2013 08:25:21 PM CST
Spokane reaches out to homeless before clearing tent city
SPOKANE, Wash. -

The crackdown on a homeless camp under Interstate 90 is on hold - for now.

Spokane city officials said last week, they would clear people out from under the freeway this week. But, they're waiting for more homeless outreach before moving forward.

The homeless camp is the first thing some visitors and tourists see as they enter the Lilac City onto North Division. Tents, trash and even a port-a-potty now sit in the gateway to the city.

We met up with Ian Knight as he set up his tent for the night. He's trying to find an apartment, but can't afford it and has other problems finding permanent housing.

"There are things out there to go to, but I can't," Knight explains. "Because I've got issues talking to people and big crowds and stuff. So, I like to keep to myself."

The city says each of the homeless people under the freeway have now been interviewed by members of the Spokane Homeless Coalition. Instead of just kicking people out, the city wants to know the how and why of how they ended up there.

"What's stopping you from getting into housing, what can we do to help," Bob Peeler from SNAP's housing program asked.

Peeler spent the last week collecting those answers. He says there are about 45 homeless people camping out under the bridge. Most are either in their early 20's or middle-aged. 80% have disabilities - mental or physical - and chemical dependencies.

"Folks have got to be ready to make the move into permanent housing," Peeler said. "They've got to be ready to make the move into treatment."

Police and social services plan to move into the area Thursday. Officers will give people 24 hours notice to leave, hoping more of the homeless will take services they've previously refused.

Peeler says it's important to remember these are people, who must be dealt with as individuals.

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