After months and millions in taxpayer funds, homeless encampment in Spokane is empty

In total, the various agencies have spent $125.5 million over the last two years.

Published: June 11, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

After years of debate and millions of dollars spent, Spokane's Camp Hope has reached the end of the road. This morning the last resident moved out of what was, just one year ago, the state's largest encampment home to some 600 individuals.

The closing comes after 18 months and millions of dollars spent across several state agencies and local authorities in Spokane.

"The situation at Camp Hope highlighted the scale and complexity of our housing and homelessness efforts in Spokane and across the state. This work requires collaboration with local governments and community partners," said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement before going on to highlight his administration's efforts to "connect more people to safe, stable housing."

The Washington State Department of Transportation issued its own statement.

"WSDOT is grateful to each and every service provider that worked hard to resolve Camp Hope in a safe, humane, respectful way while meeting the needs of those living unsheltered," said Roger Millar, Secretary of the WSDOT. "It is our hope that the housing and services provided by the state Right of Way Safety Initiative breaks their individual cycle of homelessness."

The Right of Way Safety Initiative mentioned provided $25 million for housing and services and an additional $15 million by way of the Catalyst Project run by Catholic Charities, all exclusively for assisting individuals at Camp Hope.

Another agency involved in the process, the Department of Commerce, added that over the last two years, they have invested "over $43 million in capital and $42.5 million in operating funds for emergency and permanent supportive housing, rent vouchers and other programs" in Spokane county alone.

In total, the various agencies have spent $125.5 million over the last two years.

Despite this, the most recent count shows 2,390 people from 2,136 households were counted as homeless this year. This is a significant increase compared to the 2022 numbers, as previously reported by The Center Square, rising 36% and 41%, respectively, for individuals and households when compared with 2023.

Asking about the future of the site and what the city can do to ensure things don't return to the state they were a year ago, City Communications Director Brian Coddington told The Center Square they're working on new solutions.

"There are still people on site working to break it down, and you'll probably see that work for the next week or so, including remediation, cleanup, etc. The state has also posted no trespassing signs," said Coddington via phone.

He added that the city now has a Memorandum of Understanding with the relevant state agencies allowing them to remove trespassing individuals from the property, which was not the case until recently.

Many of the relevant laws around camping on public property stem from the case of Martin vs. Boise, decided in the 9th District Court of Appeals. In that decision, it was ruled that municipalities cannot enforce 'no camping ordinances' if they do not have enough beds available in their homeless shelters.

A ruling that ultimately cost the City of Boise roughly $1.8 million.

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