SPOKANE, Wash. – A homeless camp in the Mideast is growing in more ways than one: people and crime.
Camp Hope is located off I-90 near the Fred Meyer on Thor Street. It has grown and police say there has also been a spike in crime.
The Spokane Police Department said crime was up 58% from the same time last year within a quarter mile of the camp. In just four months, there have been 854 incidents in this area, according to police.
Local business owners cannot escape nearby problems.
“Right now we’re taking it day by day,” Liberty said. He owns Liberty Tire and Auto Services which is right across from the camp. He has lived in the same place for 30 years and is taking extra steps to protect his property.
He installed a new fence, changed the gates and locks, and spent another 45 minutes closing. It’s his new normal.
“I think my biggest frustration is that they don’t give you any direction to fix the problem or even control the problem,” he said.
The police are trying to control the problem by patrolling the area more. The SPD increased its resources in mid-December, but Lori Ferguson, longtime manager of a nearby Chevron store, doesn’t see much change.
“People aren’t going to come in here and get gas if they know there’s someone sleeping there. Do they feel safe? I don’t think so,” she added.
Mayor Nadine Woodward insists safety is a high priority.
“It’s not a safe place for the community. It is not safe for the companies operating there, so we are offering a solution that we have been working on for a long time,” the mayor said.
Woodward says a new shelter provider will be announced soon. The mayor hopes adding more bed space will be a possible solution to this problem, but Liberty says it looks more like a move.
“I hate to say it, but we have a problem here. Moving it somewhere else doesn’t really solve the problem,” Liberty said.
Business owners are doing what they can to keep their livelihoods afloat.
“Now I have a guy who comes in and cleans up all the trash that’s in the lot,” Liberty said. There is more trash and human waste than he can handle on his own.
They have to deal with a lot of problems that they just want to see go away.
“There has to be change, and it has to start somewhere,” Ferguson said.
The City received proposals from vendors earlier this month and is finalizing exact details for the location of a new low-barrier shelter. Woodward also says that while it’s a low-barrier space, she wants to hold people accountable to connect with resources that can help them break out of chronic homelessness.
4 News Now will update this story as further details are released.
READ: ‘It’s not getting better’: Spokane businesses near homeless shelters want change
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