Residents react to Spokane’s updated illegal camping ordinance


As the city cracks down on illegal camping in the downtown core, some people are worried that this will just shift campers to neighborhoods.

SPOKANE, Wash. — For the first time in four years, Spokane City Council members voted to update the city’s illegal camping ordinance.

It is now illegal for someone to camp on any public property under or within 50 feet of a railroad viaduct in downtown police boundaries and within three blocks of a congregate homeless shelter.

The ordinance also makes camping along the banks of the Spokane River and Latah Creek illegal only if there is enough open shelter space.

As the city cracks down on illegal camping in the downtown core, some people are worried that this will just shift campers to neighborhoods.

One resident in Browne’s Addition said he has already seen more campers moving into the area.

“I don’t want to see it get bad in any neighborhood, but these people have to find a place to go and they’re going to go as close as they can to where they can go right now. I think it does have to be enforced to a degree, it causes a lot of problems,” resident James Adolfson said.

Some neighbors and business owners in Browne’s Addition are worried that more homeless camps will show up in Coeur d’Alene Park and around the neighborhood.

“Since they’re coming in, the worry is the people that live around here and own businesses here, it will now disrupt what you can do here,” said Gil Gebert, a supervisor at Pacific Pizza. “If your family wants to sit here and have dinner or lunch, they have to deal with what is a societal problem.”

Rick Biggerstaff, the Browne’s Addition Neighborhood council chair, said they are aware of the homeless moving into their neighborhood. He added he wants to help people experiencing homelessness find shelters they can go to. However, many of them said shelters are full by the time they get there.

“It’s so hard to find a place that we can stay because when they’re full, there’s nowhere to go,” Ashley Clark said. “A lot of them like the tents but me personally, I just have a blanket so I don’t have to worry about packing up too much. A lot of the time I don’t know where to be or where not.”

Residents who live in Browne’s Addition are being told to report code violations. Biggerstaff said they are working with a neighborhood resource officer to keep anyone dangerous off the streets.

People cited for illegal camping will face a misdemeanor and be required to show up to community court. If they don’t, a warrant will be issued for their arrest.

This update is to bring the ordinance more in line to the “Martin v. Boise” ruling. In 2019, the court ruled that enforcement of anti-camping ordinances are unconstitutional when there is no shelter space.

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