Homelessness crisis in Spokane ought to be a priority for city leaders | opinion

With the cost of rent and housing in general increasing to record numbers, the ability to have a roof over one’s head is becoming more of a luxury that less and less people can obtain. People across the country are finding themselves at higher risks of being pushed into the unhoused population, and Spokane is no exception.

The City of Spokane is currently working on a proposal to use state funding to house approximately 100 people in a Quality Inn in collaboration with Catholic Charities. While this homeless shelter would have limited space and high barriers of entry to give services out, it is a small step in the right direction.

However, this proposal has come about with a slew of hostile and violent actions from the city government, especially from Mayor Nadine Woodward.

Throughout the summer, the mayor and her administration have worked tirelessly to criminalize homelessness and place further harm on those who are unhoused. Mayor Woodward’s first proposal in recent months is aimed at making it illegal to sit, lie or camp in major portions of the downtown area.

The plan would actively push people away from vital services and is simply a terrible attempt to hide the problem rather than being a part of the solution.

Along with this proposal, the mayor stated in a speech that “we make it easy to be homeless”.

Describing the current conditions and political climate for those affected by homelessness as “easy” is a blatant and dangerous subversion of reality.

A more recent issue many within these vulnerable populations have had to endure is the numerous heat waves Spokane has been experiencing. In the City of Spokane’s Municipal Code, Section 18.05.020 requires that the city opens cooling centers that sufficiently meets the needs of unsheltered individuals when “the temperature is predicted by the National Weather Service to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for two consecutive days or more”. With several days meeting these criteria, the City of Spokane has failed to uphold even its own codes.

City officials have not sufficiently protected the citizens of Spokane from this heat wave by not opening even a single cooling center, and instead opted to just tell people to try to seek refuge from the heat in some of the public libraries scattered around the city.

Mayor Nadine Woodward and her administration have also contacted state agencies in a failed attempt to dismantle a volunteer-ran cooling center they deemed an illegal building near Camp Hope, the biggest homelessness camp on state land in all of Washington.

Furthermore, the city has placed fencing around areas in downtown Spokane to prevent unhoused people from seeking shade and shelter underneath bridges. To make matters even worse, Spokane police continue to use the tactics of “sweeping” areas to break apart unhoused groups while sometimes confiscating and even destroying their only possessions they have to survive, including their tents.

The City of Spokane is not only refusing to assist its own citizens during dire conditions but is also actively endangering and harming those without shelter through violent and suppressive methods. This hostility cannot be accepted as the norm, and any government officials supporting such measures must be met with constant criticism and resistance.

The people of Spokane need to work together to protect one another from deadly weather conditions and hostile police actions. Housing for all should not be seen as the end goal, but rather considered as the bare minimum for everyone to have a safer and more dignified life.

Anthony Maucione is a staff writer.