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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Camp Hope population declines to 443 from 623 peak in July, managers say

The Trent Shelter has opened on Tuesday to serve the homeless population. Many beds were available on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022 in Spokane.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

Management at the East Central Neighborhood homeless camp known as Camp Hope counted 443 residents living at the camp, according to a recent tally.

That number is down by 180 from a peak of 623 people in July, according to a statement from Maurice Smith, a spokesman for the camp who works with Jewels Helping Hands.

The latest figure comes after the camp began issuing photo ID badges for the existing camp residents over the weekend. The new ID badges are meant to increase security and help keep track of who is living at the camp, Smith said. Additionally, the Department of Transportation, which owns the land the camp is situated on, announced Security Services Northwest began providing 24/7 security as of Monday.

“We want to be able to identify every person we’ve got (at the camp),” Smith told The Spokesman-Review last week. “We can’t keep bringing new people in while were trying to assess old people. At some point, we have to say, ‘No more.’ ”

About 40 of the people who have left Camp Hope have gone to the nearby Trent Resource and Assistance Center, 4320 E. Trent Ave., which is operated by the Guardians Foundation. Guardians Foundation CEO Mike Shaw said that number is closer to 70 people. Other former residents of Camp Hope have moved on to family, transitional or stable housing, Smith said.

Any new arrivals attempting to enter Camp Hope will likely be diverted to the Trent shelter.

Although the shelter’s starting capacity is 150 bunks, it can flex to 250 bunks, according to the city. After that, the shelter could provide an additional 200-300 sleeping mats, Shaw said. The shelter reached just under 160 people as of Monday night, he said.

City administration is relying heavily on the Trent shelter to handle the brunt of the homeless population once Camp Hope is closed, until more permanent housing is available.

“In theory you could put everybody in there,” city spokesman Brian Coddington said on Sept. 27. “That’s not ideal; that’s not the city’s desire.”

“We can provide a lot more space at Trent, and we have other shelters within the regional shelter system that can expand as well,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said.

Shaw suspects the Trent shelter’s numbers will increase as the weather worsens. He estimates about one-third of Camp Hope’s population will leave the Spokane area when that happens. He is confident the Trent shelter can provide for the remainder.

“We won’t take them all,” he said.

Camp Hope has been under scrutiny for months after Jewels Helping Hands, the camp’s primary services provider, estimated more than 600 people were living there this summer, making it the largest homeless encampment in Washington. The number has been frequently cited by public officials.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich estimated the camp population to be as high as 400, but in one interview on Fox and Friends, said it could be as low as 150, citing numbers he said were provided by the Spokane Fire Department. The sheriff, who leaves office at the end of the year, has declared his intention to remove the camp by mid-November.

The Spokane Police Department estimates that the camp’s population has fluctuated between 250 and 600, depending on the time of day, according to department spokesman Cpl. Nick Briggs.

“It was 600 at one point and it’s 400 now. One way or another, this problem is still pretty acute,” said Zeke Smith, director of Empire Health Foundation, which has been tasked as a provider at the camp. “We’re going to have to address the fact that supply and demand in this community don’t meet the expectations.”

Camp Hope management also released a list of more than a dozen rules on Tuesday that camp residents are expected to read and sign, most of which put into writing existing site policies. For instance, the Camp Hope “Site Rules Agreement” prohibits weapons, drug use/sales and prostitution, and outlines rules for personal property and bathroom usage.

The agreement also includes a “good neighbor policy,” which asks residents to clean up after themselves, not vandalize property, or gossip about others at the camp, among other things.

The camp recently established an 8 p.m. – 8 a.m. curfew and erected a chain-link fence around the lot.

Reporter Colin Tiernan contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story inaccurately described Empire Health Foundation Director Zeke Smith’s expectation to meet the mid-November deadline.