Homelessness is not a crime. Not only does the criminalization and sweeps of unhoused individuals NOT solve the condition of homelessness, those who are consistently forced to relocate, with or without a citation, are repeatedly traumatized by this experience. These individuals who are already suffering from extreme poverty are told to move along but there is no legal place outdoors where they can shelter or rest, and often their life-saving gear is seized. Written notice and due process is rarely provided. All of this makes it more difficult to survive, connect with services, and exit homelessness.
There are not enough shelter beds or day center space to accommodate all who are unsheltered. And many individuals are not able to use the congregate spaces available due to many factors, including trauma, sobriety, religious, accessibility issues, health and safety concerns, separation from loved ones, etc.
We urge the City and County of Spokane to recognize our shared humanity with people experiencing homelessness and immediately STOP THE SWEEPS. Identify public spaces for sheltering outdoors, and provide day centers and storage for people to rest and go about daily activities without fear of having their personal belongings confiscated or stolen. Further, the city should provide trash receptacles and services, public toilets and hand washing stations to promote public health and safety. These goals are urgently needed and can be achieved immediately, within a few weeks. We call for swift action by our officials to stop the inhumane treatment of people experiencing homelessness and improve our community for all.