Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Partly Cloudy Night 13° Partly Cloudy

This column reflects the opinion of the writer. Learn about the differences between a news story and an opinion column.

Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Breean Beggs, Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear: Sheriff Knezovich’s divisive letters fails to acknowledge progress made at Camp Hope

Sept. 25, 2022 Updated Tue., Sept. 27, 2022 at 10:15 a.m.

By Breean Beggs,Karen Stratton and Lori Kinnear Stratton and Lori Kinnear

On Thursday, Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich sent an inflammatory letter to the Washington state Department of Transportation notifying the agency of his intent to enter state-owned land within the city of Spokane to clear Camp Hope by mid-October .

In addition to spreading inaccurate information regarding the immediate public health and safety risks, the outgoing sheriff’s letter neglects to recognize the immense amount of work providers are performing daily at Camp Hope and the progress that has been made to move residents to safer housing options.

Empire Health Foundation is currently working to mobilize Camp Hope residents into better, more appropriate social services and housing options. At this point, Empire Heath has assessed over 550 residents of Camp Hope. At least 60 residents are currently working with housing navigation specialists, and many are working with substance-use disorder specialists. Some residents have already left the camp into new safer housing options or substance abuse treatment centers offered by the city and providers. The rest will follow as newly committed funding is deployed.

This work is one of the first actions resulting from the $24 million package provided by the state to our community. The state’s funding for this work is contingent on providing housing solutions that the residents of Camp Hope will actually use. This takes time and coordination. Local providers including Empire Health Foundation and Jewels Helping Hands are already doing the work necessary to set up the residents of Camp Hope for success. Local providers have offered to provide hundreds of safe housing units and beds that can be funded from the $24 million and Empire Health is in the process of moving people towards those units as they come online.

The state has stepped up to provide this unprecedented amount of funding and WSDOT has been an exceptional partner with both the city and local providers in the effort to assist the residents of Camp Hope in attaining better housing options and relieving the neighborhoods of their fear and anxiety around the current situation.

The city administration has met with state agencies to collaborate on a plan moving forward and has future meetings scheduled so that we can continue to make progress together. As council members, we have each worked within our jurisdiction to be part of the solution for residents of Camp Hope and all the neighborhoods impacted by houseless people camping outside until they can find better shelter.

The sheriff’s letter was meant to be inflammatory and divisive. Meaningful, visible progress will take time. Threats to forcibly clear Camp Hope and lose the opportunity for providers to work with its residents to find each person the next step that will work best for them, are counterproductive and would only serve to scatter Camp Hope residents throughout the City and away from the resources they need.

We must stop politicizing an issue that will only be solved through collaboration, compassion and common sense. Join us in seizing this remarkable moment of collaboration between the state of Washington, the city of Spokane and their many regional partners to move those currently forced to camp outside into safe and supportive housing.

Breean Beggs is Spokane City Council president. Karen Stratton is a City Council member representing District 3. Lori Kinnear is a City Council member representing District 2.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.