‘Contemplating moving out’: Downtown Spokane businesses tired of crime, vandalism as mayor asks for more cleanup money

SPOKANE, Wash.– Downtown Spokane business owners say cleaning up the area and making it safer can’t come soon enough.

Doing so is part of Mayor Nadine Woodward’s proposed budget. She wants more cleanup efforts downtown. That includes hiring another crew to pick up litter, clean up graffiti and unlawful encampments. She also wants more people to handle 311 calls.

Some businesses have already been through more than enough.

Owner of Paradigm Skate Kip Harrison took over the shop in May. He’s already contemplating moving out of downtown because of the condition it’s in. His business has been broken into twice in three weeks.

“I didn’t buy a business thinking that was I was just going to have to fight every day just to keep the doors open, just because of burglaries, people stealing stuff,” Harrison said.

Harrison and other businesses owners in the area connect the crimes to homeless encampments and other issues.

John Allen, who owns the wine shop Vino next to Paradigm Skate, said he’s been dealing with these problems for the past 20 years. Allen said there is no one person to blame.

“I wish we could say it’s just a Spokane problem but clearly, it’s a societal problem. There’s not a city in the United States that doesn’t have this going on,” Allen said.

It’s an issue the City of Spokane is trying to put more effort into next year.

City spokesperson Brian Coddington said to help take care of the trash and vandalism, it also starts with the homelessness issue.

Coddington said the city has strengthened homeless services in the last few months. For its city-run shelter on Cannon Street, there is now more stability in terms of organizations operating it.

A bridge housing program also just opened up to help people continue to transition out of homelessness.

Going back to Mayor Woodward’s draft budget, she’s asking for $1 million to hire more people to clean up downtown.

She’s looking for two positions for graffiti abatement, a program supervisor, two positions for cleanup of unlawful encampments and equipment to go with it, a position for litter pickup and more equipment, and four additional positions to help support the cleanup crew.

The city had temporary crews over the summer and now she’s looking to make 10 of those spots permanent.

Next year the streets of Spokane could look a little cleaner and hopefully give business owners a little relief.

Washington Trust Bank is leading a coalition with other businesses to address homelessness issues including mental health and addiction in downtown. The city said it welcomes the idea and that it takes a partnership with other cities and businesses to build a better downtown.

“Spokane and more importantly downtown Spokane is the front door for the region. That’s what makes it a regional challenge and that requires a regional solution,” Coddington said.

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