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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fence goes up at Camp Hope, with better safety and security expected

“I hope this keeps the bad people out,” Camp Hope resident Scott Hahn says Friday about the fencing around the homeless encampment in Spokane.  (KATHY PLONKA/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIE)

The Washington state Department of Transportation installed a 6-foot-tall chain link fence Friday around the perimeter of Camp Hope to promote safety and security of camp residents and neighbors.

“We love the fence,” said Julie Garcia, founder of the nonprofit homeless service provider Jewels Helping Hands. “The fence makes me feel more comfortable and it makes some of the folks (in the camp) more comfortable.”

The Department of Transportation said in a statement the fence will provide better management of those who enter and exit the homeless encampment, prevent the camp from expanding its footprint, make the site better managed overall and act as a deterrent to “bad actors” wanting to enter the camp. The camp is on state property off Interstate 90 in East Central Spokane.

“It’s important to highlight this shared cooperation between those living homeless within Camp Hope, one of our service providers and WSDOT as it represents mutual collaboration to improve conditions for those within and outside of Camp Hope,” the state said in its statement. “While this work begins the process of strategically decreasing the size and footprint of Camp Hope, there is more to do including RV removal, encampment identification/badging, a curfew and other associated rules and an increased security presence within the neighborhood. We continue to work with the city and local partners to identify viable housing solutions for all of those living homeless within Camp Hope.”

While WSDOT hired a contractor to install the fence, Joe McHale, department spokesman, said Jewels Helping Hands and Empire Health Foundation are deciding camp rules.

“They’re the ones managing the camp, so it’s best that they’re the ones that are enforcing the rules instead of us,” McHale said.

McHale said ID badges will be issued to camp residents in the coming days. He said the state is working on obtaining security personnel to monitor the perimeter of the camp. Garcia said Jewels Helping Hands will provide security inside the camp.

Garcia said an 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew will be implemented once outside security is established, which McHale said is expected soon.

Garcia said the curfew means people at the camp will not be allowed to have visitors during those hours, calling the 12-hour period “quiet time.” Exceptions to the curfew include allowing residents to go to the store, work, take their dog out and emergencies.

She said the fence will never be locked and there are three entry points.

“We’re not trying to lock people in and just hold them prisoner,” Garcia said. “We’re just trying to mitigate what’s going on in the neighborhood.”

Some, like Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, have claimed increases in crime at Camp Hope and the surrounding area. Garcia said she doesn’t know if Camp Hope residents are causing the majority of the crimes, but the fencing, badging and other rules will help determine that.

McHale said discussions about installing a fence have been in the works for some time and were not in response to Knezovich’s stated intent to clear the camp by mid-October, which he recently shifted to mid-November at the request of Mayor Nadine Woodward.

Garcia said she estimated about 10% of camp residents will leave the camp because they do not like the fence and new rules. She said some older residents of the camp and single women told her the fence makes them feel better.

One resident, James Pope, said he hoped the fence would help reduce thefts at the camp and keep people out of the camp who are not supposed to be there.

Another resident, Lewis Harrington, said he does not particularly like the new fence.

“People will just have to accept it and go by the new rules, I guess,” Harrington said. “That’s all you can do.”

Garcia said Jewels Helping Hands helped move 100 campers into better living situations in the last two weeks.

“We’re just hoping this is the first step to finding them and getting them into better situations,” Garcia said.

Some of those better situations could be the new Trent Resource and Assistance Center, a homeless shelter at 4320 E. Trent Ave. in Spokane.

City spokesman Brian Coddington said four COVID-19 positive people at the shelter were placed Thursday night into the shelter’s quarantine room.

Coddington also said the city gave notice to a downtown Spokane private shelter, doing business as God’s Love International, to cease operations by 5 p.m. Friday because of numerous code and safety violations. He said the city told the shelter operator the alleged violations needed to be corrected, but the operator did not comply, which spurred the notice to shut down.

A fire safety violation was among them. Coddington said the shelter at 930 W. Second Ave. needs to meet city codes to reopen.

He estimated a few dozen people were living at the private shelter. Some were taken to the Trent shelter, which is operated by the Guardians Foundation.

He said he expected more people from the shuttered shelter to be referred to the Trent facility.