The Spokane Valley City Council is poised to pass an anti-camping law – specifically in three areas -- as the best way to handle a complicated homeless situation.
Over the past several months, the city has received numerous complaints of camping in public spaces and occupied recreational vehicles parked indefinitely on streets in front of homes.
Potential shelter sites are being explored, as per a recent court ruling, city staffers told the council Tuesday night. However, the city is specifically looking at City Hall, CenterPlace and Balfour Park as sites that the homeless cannot put up stakes for extended periods.
Council members have indicated at a meeting earlier this year they wish to make it clear that any future shelters -- one of which has been discussed as a possibility at Havana and Sprague, just outside the city limits -- provides a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.”
A recent Ninth Circuit Court ruling has determined that adequate shelters for the homeless must be provided, otherwise municipalities cannot enforce no-public camping laws in places like public parks or right-of-ways because it’s basically cruel. However, the ruling does allow for cities to identify certain areas could be excluded, said Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney.
“There’s a myriad of issues that the homeless deal with,” he said. “But we ultimately have to deal with this piece…these locations are critical. Balfour Park has one of the highest call loads (of complaints).”
Lamb added that the idea has always been to get homeless persons the resources they need to not live on the street or other public spaces.
“Our goal is not to adopt this and immediately cite them,” he added.
In the meantime, the city will work with the city of Spokane and Spokane County to find additional shelter beds to comply with the court ruling.
A first reading of the ordinance will come at a future council meeting.