Little done to check Tent City's growth

SPOKANE, Wash. - The City of Spokane prohibits camping in public areas, however the tent city underneath I-90 near the Division St. Exit continues to grow, and so far nothing has been done to check its growth.

About three weeks ago the tents started popping up. It started with a few tarps and sleeping bags gathered together, a place for the homeless to hang out and sleep. Since then it's grown, and so has the transient population.

Tent City

"Anywhere from 20 to 40 or more a day," Sherry Turner, who is homeless, said.

Turner said there's even more during the night.. Despite the police threatening to relocate them, Turner said that since the tent city took root police have stopped by maybe 10 times.

To help relieve some of the more basic problems -- like sanitation -- the city moved in a port-a-potty, which might have solved the hygiene issue but also drew more people to the site.

"They came to empty it the other day, but it was so full to the top you couldn't even sit on it," Turner said.

It's illegal to camp in the city so Spokane's first attempt at relocating the group is to send in community housing and services to help find programs to get the homeless off the cold concrete. The next step is police citations and warnings, though Turner called them ineffective.

"The police will show up and they'll say, 'OK, you guys all got to go. You got one hour.' Then they never come back," Turner said.

The city won't physically remove the tents; even if they did the homeless staying there said they don't have many places to go.

"Well if the city comes through here, I don't know, but if they say 'Go, go, go or go to jail' I'm out of here," Turner said.

The city has a 10-year plan to eliminate homelessness as required by the federal government. It is also seeking proposals from social services agencies for permanent housing solutions for the chronically homeless.      

One thing is for sure, just because you move a tent city like the one under the freeway doesn't mean it goes away.