Drug treatment a possible solution for region’s homeless, says Rep. Jenny Graham

In an Airway Heights town hall on Wednesday, state Representative Jenny Graham looked for solutions to homelessness, drug use, and property crime throughout the region.

When it comes to homelessness, Graham says housing may not be the first step in getting people off the street but, rather, drug treatment.

Having grown up in Western Washington and raised a family around Spokane, Graham says she’s seen the homeless crisis on both sides get worse.

“We cannot keep going the way that we are going,” said Graham.

The town hall panel consisted of County Prosecutor Larry Haskell, along with police and fire chiefs from Airway Heights and Cheney, all of them concerned over the city’s growing issue of homelessness.

Though a regional issue, nearly all homeless services are in Spokane.

In the past, city councilwoman Lori Kinnear has said that other local governments should share some of the cost because their transients have nowhere else to go. Cheney Fire Chief Tom Jenkins agrees.

“We do let them know that we don’t have those resources available for them, we do offer to give them a ride or transportation back down to Spokane which- as you say that publicly- it feels horrible, but we don’t have those resources available for them,” said Jenkins.

Graham says the solution needs to involve some compassion- and some tough love.

“They need to be lovingly guided into a direction in which they can get the help that they need,” said Graham.

Graham endorsed Nadine Woodward, who floated the idea of drug treatment or jail. County Prosecutor Larry Haskell says it’s not that simple, considering most drug and property crimes are the least serious.

“There’s really not an effective deterrent in terms of look, you get treatment or you’re going to go to jail for a long time,” said Haskell. “They all know they’re not going to go to jail for a long time.”