Spokane is working to clean out the largest homeless camp in Washington with an estimated 600-1,000 people living there. They are trying to provide shelter and homes for them, but can only provide a fraction of what is needed. When they tear down the “tent city” where will all the homeless go? Will some of them move to the Tri-Cities or spread out over the rest of Washington?
HOW BIG IS THE PROBLEM? The Spokane homeless camp is larger then any in Washington state with an estimated 600-1000 people living there. Spokane is estimated to have as many as 1,800 homeless total living in the city limits according to a Point-In-Time survey in 2022. To help battle the problem, Spokane just opened a new shelter on September 6th and is funded through December of 2023 according to news reports. The problem is that it only hold 150 beds right now with more space for beds in the future if needed. That only holds a small fraction of the shelter needed for the homeless camp, so what do the rest do?
HALF DO NOT WANT THE SHELTER The other problem is that most people living in the camp do not want to move. Mike Shaw, CEO and founder of the Guardians Foundation which is the facility’s operator thinks “I truly believe that most of the people at Camp Hope, 45 to 50% of them, are in that outdoor transient lifestyle.” In another interview, a resident of the camp said “”We planned on traveling. Just living out, seeing things and moving around.” He went on to say “I don’t want to be locked into one location.”
SO NOW WHERE DO THEY GO? That is the question that everyone has been asking, and there still are no real solutions. The plans they are working on only cover a small percentage of the need. There are literally hundreds, if not 1000 people, that will need to go somewhere when the camp is taken down, which is the end game. Local Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier raised this question back in February of this year. He claimed to be told by a State Patrolman that the homeless people were gathered and someone was “busing them in from Seattle” according to a report by Northwest Public Broadcasting. Human Services Manager for Benton and Franklin County Kyle Sullivan says exactly the opposite. He deals with the homeless in the Tri-Cities area and says that so far “the people we have encountered that are experiencing homelessness lived here.”
Didier’s claims seem to be completely false, but his concern is understood by the community. If the homeless camp in Spokane is taken down, those people will have to have someplace to go. Tri-Cities weather is much milder then Spokane in the winter and there are a lot of hidden secluded places they could set up without being noticed for a while. Tri-Cities already had to deal with one homeless camp when the area caught fire in May of 2021. There is also an increasing amount of homeless and panhandlers being seen on almost every busy street corner for the last couple years.
Right now nobody seems to have the answer to solving this problem, probably because the answer is multifaceted and definitely not simple. I am not saying when they tear down the city all the homeless will move here, but we should be prepared and have a plan in case some of them do. They have to go somewhere.