The Spokane Valley City Council unanimously passed an anti-camping ordinance – specifically targeting three areas – on Tuesday night.
However, a recent Ninth Circuit court ruling dictates that the city must provide adequate shelters if it ever decides to broaden that scope.
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 the recent court ruling, However, the city specifically looked 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 had been discussed as a possibility at Havana and Sprague, just outside the city limits -- provides a “hand up” rather than a “hand out.”
Several came to Tuesday’s meeting to say the city needs to do more to deal with the homeless problem. But city staffers said there are public safety concerns that must be dealt with immediately, specific in the three areas identified.
“Balfour Park, in particular, we’ve seen a high number of calls,” said Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney. “Also, in the areas around the park.”
Before taking the vote, Council Member Arne Woodard said he isn’t sure there is any right answer to the issue.
“We have protect the homeless but also the public,” he said. “We continue to hope to get people off the street.”