By Noah Wittman
Spokane is a good city with great parks and a good community, but like many cities, homelessness is an issue. According to KREM 2 News, “Spokane has the fifth-highest homeless population among urban cities that are not the nation’s 50 largest cities.”
Spokane is listed with a total of 1,245 people living in the city without permanent homes.
Homelessness in Spokane negatively affects business and its consumers. This is because of the bad atmosphere it generates and the crime that comes along with it. Not only is this a problem for business and its consumers, but this is also a problem for the homeless themselves. Not having a place to stay is a tough way to live.
As a 17-year-old working part time in downtown Spokane, I am always seeing homeless people on the sidewalk yelling obscenities and littering. There is a part of me that feels bad for them, but when I hear them yelling and cussing at me as I take out the trash it does not seem like the people I encounter on a regular basis are trying to better themselves.
I had the privilege of speaking to City Councilman Jonathan Bingle regarding the homeless in Spokane. Bingle explained that “the homeless cannot be removed from the sidewalks if they have no place or shelter to go to.” This is a complicated topic. If Spokane creates more shelters, it will bring more homeless people to Spokane because the homeless know they will be taken care of in the compassionate city of Spokane.
You cannot solve homelessness, but you can manage it. Spokane spends a lot of money on improving downtown. Spokane should stop and take a break to focus on managing the homeless situation. What is the point of making downtown great if no one wants to go down there?
Taking loitering laws more seriously and adding more to the loitering laws in Spokane would be a good start. Some would argue that there are not enough police officers to help with every single report of loitering, and this is true. It is quite common that police would ignore a loitering complaint because it is not high on their list of priorities. That is why loitering should be taken more seriously and new laws should be made and current laws expanded – such as Sit-Lie – to help our police keep our beautiful city safe.
The mayor of Spokane, Nadine Woodward, when interviewed by KREM 2 News, explained, “Addressing homelessness in Spokane is a work in progress, but it has seen significant gains in the last year.” Spokane has begun securing year-round contracts with multiple organizations for warming and cooling centers for the homeless.
Maj. Ken Perin, Salvation Army Corps officer, reported, “This program is designed to help folks exit homelessness permanently” all Spokane can do with this subject is, keep working on it, and improving it. If there are more shelters for the homeless, it will make it a lot easier to remove the homeless from downtown because people will know that the homeless have a place to go that is better than sleeping on a sidewalk and even helping them exit homelessness permanently.
Spokane is working on addressing the homelessness issue in Spokane, but, unfortunately, the speed needs to be viewed as an emergency for all parties. Because of this, downtown has become crowded with homeless people, which leads to crime and an unpleasant experience for business and its consumers.
The homeless themselves are also affected, having to live a harsh life with no place to stay at night, hungry, scared, uncomfortable, and seasonally freezing. For now, Spokane should consider being intentional with loitering laws and adding on to them so it is easier for police officers to enforce them. After all, a teenager trying to get ahead with a job should not feel unsafe or threatened when completing a simple task of taking out the trash.