Downtown businesses welcome the city’s increased cleaning efforts

SPOKANE, Wash. — Trash, grime and litter line the streets in some areas downtown. It’s a serious concern for business owners who make their livelihoods there.

“It’s not a pretty sight,” said Mimi Ewers who owns the Ballet Arts Academy. Her business is located right by the Catholic Charities where a lot of homeless people set up camps and sleep nearby. Ewers says she’s had to adopt safety protocols for her students and parents. No dancer is allowed to leave unless accompanied by a parent. In addition, her door is always locked with a coded gate to get inside.

“As sad as that [the homeless population] is, they leave old trash,” Ewers said. “That is a terrible thing for a business to have to go through.”

She’s not alone. Just down the street, Shasta Hankins owns her own makeup studio. She’s not a storefront business, so she says she feels safer being on the third floor but still has concerns about her businesses’ location.

“A lot of my customers are female based. I want them to feel comfortable being able to come into the building and not be harassed or have any issue of fear leaving their car and entering the space,” Hankins said.

She’s owned a business downtown for nine years now and has seen many issues occur over the years.

“I do have some business owner friends that have had issues with people using the restroom in their area or sleeping outside, and it is hard having to move those people out of the way or having to ask them to move just to get inside your own business,” Hankins said. “Anything can be better than what we’ve experienced in the past and how bad it was becoming.”

Now, the city is increasing its cleaning efforts to help these businesses. Since 2019, the city’s been sanitizing the 14 viaducts. Now, they’ll be cleaning the sidewalks under the railroad tracks daily to keep downtown Spokane cleaner.

“It definitely makes me feel more positive about coming down, the parking, getting out of my car, not having to step in garbage or maybe deal with someone sleeping outside,” Hankins said. “I just want my customers to feel safe when they come downtown.”

“That’s a humungous relief; that’s hope,” Ewers said. “That’s alleluia. That is an alleluia moment.”

Many downtown businesses have to lock their doors at all times and have had to install their own security measures just to keep staff and customers safe. Businesses say they’ve also had to clean up the area on their own over the years.