By Dan Simonson
Earlier this month, I visited Camp Hope to drop off some stuff for the residents. The cooling (and probably soon to be warming) tent was functioning well, an oasis of ordered cots next to the jumble of tents and tarps across the street.
I visited with Julie and Allie and Maurice, all working hard to help our neighbors. As I was done and wandering back to my car, a young woman (I’ll guess in her 30s) chatted me up and thanked me for bringing the stuff in.
She mentioned that she was headed to her job, at the Interstate Fair. She and her husband were Camp Hope residents. I noticed she was walking and asked if she would like a ride to the fairgrounds; she gladly accepted.
On our short ride over, she told me a lot. “My husband and I hate it here – the drugs, the fights, the crime – but we are determined to stay until we can save enough to move into an apartment. Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of good people here, but we really want to move out.”
She then explained that she was working two jobs to help them move to their goal – a more regular job taking shifts at a nearby fast food restaurant, and the temporary job at the fairgrounds.
I asked if the fast food place (a national chain) was helping her out, and she said they knew she was homeless and living in Camp Hope, yet were supportive. Her lifeline to both of these jobs was her phone, where they could reach her to tell her about shift changes, etc. I thought it interesting that we hear so much about the crime associated with Camp Hope – but little about this odd benefit: Local minimum-wage businesses within walking distance have a captive work force! This woman had no car, and as long as she could find work within walking distance, she wasn’t going to waste money on buses or cars – housing first for her. I bet she would love to get “connected with services.”
I dropped her off, and she joined the group of employees waiting to get into the fair – all smiles and waves. As I drove off, my heart swelled so much at how this little effort of mine – a mile car ride to this lovely lady – had helped her out a bit and absolutely made my day.
To all those who wish to vilify the Camp Hope residents: Please remember this dear person and her husband, using the “free” shelter offered at Camp Hope to try to get to a better life. Not an addict, not a criminal, not mentally ill, not laying on the street corner – just a couple down on their luck working to get out.
If there is only one person like this at Camp Hope – and with this lady and her husband and the couple highlighted in the new video from Housing and Help, we now know of at least four – then we cannot “clear” Camp Hope until we have found somewhere for them to go.
Mayor Woodward, please do not forget them. You are the mayor of my city. Please help.
Dan Simonson is a retired nurse anesthetist who has lived in Spokane for the past 38 years.