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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Camp Hope’s population drops to double-digits – where have its residents gone?

March 3, 2023 Updated Sat., March 4, 2023 at 11:04 p.m.

Kristen Gerloff and her boyfriend, Steven, stand by their tent in October in Camp Hope.  (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review)
Kristen Gerloff and her boyfriend, Steven, stand by their tent in October in Camp Hope. (Jesse Tinsley/The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

For the first time since the Camp Hope homeless encampment formed in late 2021, the population has dropped into the double digits, with around 80 people still living in the fenced-in field near Interstate 90, according to new state figures.

This summer, the population swelled to more than 600. By early November, when residents of the camp were formally tallied and ID badges were required to get in and out, officials reported that 467 people remained.

Where have they all gone?

The continued decline of Camp Hope’s population this winter has been lauded as progress in the effort to close the camp for good. But of the 383 who have left since November, it’s unclear where most of them have gone, according to data from the Spokane Low Income Housing Consortium.

Of those whose destination is known, only 17 are now living in their own, permanent homes. Far more, around 130, are in some kind of supportive housing, shelter, or have otherwise moved in with friends and family. One person is known to have returned to living on the street.

But nearly 220 people are simply unaccounted for, said Ben Stuckart, executive director of the consortium and former Spokane City Council president.

“I know the uncertainty, when the sheriff was threatening to raid the camp, caused a lot of fear and made a lot of people leave and go to other camps around the community,” Stuckart said.

Stuckart emphasized that every person moved into a shelter or housing is a success story, praising the quick work to open the Catalyst Project, a hotel-turned-shelter that can house at least 100 former residents of Camp Hope. State funding to support the closure of the camp will also continue to be available for the nearly 220 people who are unaccounted for, he added.

Though progress closing Camp Hope has continued, the approximately 78 people still living at the encampment are likely to be the hardest to place, according to state officials.

Some of those remaining may have multiple challenges or barriers to permanent housing, such as a disability, according to a news release issued last week by the state Department of Transportation, which owns the land where Camp Hope is sited.

During a February press conference, members of the Spokane City Council met outside of Camp Hope to propose next steps, including creating a pallet shelter village, opening a shelter specifically for those with severe medical needs, and an area to relocate RVs.

There are still 10 RVs at the encampment, down from 27 in December, according to the transportation department.

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