SPOKANE, Wash. – The city reinforced its stance on tent cities Wednesday and announced a new, formalized plan to remove them, while also trying to help the homeless get off the streets.
"It doesn't matter how many sleeping bags or coats you have,” said Sherry Turner. “If you don't have a tent, which they told us no tents so I don't have one, you freeze."
Along North Division Street under I-90, there are more tents than in past weeks. People living under the freeway say staying warm over the last few days has been more of a challenge.
City leaders explained the new approach will first encourage housing programs and other services that help people transition away from being homeless. The policy then outlines a 24-hour notice before tents and other structures are removed.
"You're always going to have the needy,” said Montana Ricker. “You need to put us somewhere to put us safe and healthy."
This is an update to the existing City of Spokane policy on illegal camping. The homeless say they think the reputation of tent cities is what's bringing on this new effort.
"I think they wouldn't break it up if people just cleaned it up," Turner added.
Many of the people KREM 2 talked to on Wednesday evening didn't want to speak on camera but said they weren’t confident the City could help everyone on the streets.
Outreach programs encouraging housing and social services will take place before the city removes any remaining tents next week.
The homeless added if the tents go away, there won't be another place for them. Some predict new tents coming up after the area is cleared out or worse, people making unwise decisions that will get them in even more trouble.
"It's going to go criminal,” Ricker said. “It is straight going to go criminal."