‘It’s getting worse’: Spokane business owners demand action for the city’s homeless crisis

SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane businesses are calling on city leaders to take immediate action on the homeless crisis. They say too many families feel unsafe shopping downtown and the homeless population has put their businesses at risk.

A group of businesses and developers took out an ad in Sunday’s Spokesman Review, calling on city officials to “get off the sidelines and take action immediately.”

While businesses say they know there are no easy solutions to the solving the homeless problem, they still want to see city leaders step up.

Businesses say they want to see solutions that include new shelters and a camping ordinance that will clean up Spokane.

“It’s getting worse we’re at a precipice right now you know what do we want to be? What kind of town do we want to be? How do we want to deal with this?,” Spokane Boxing owner Rick Welliver said.

Welliver opened his downtown location six years ago.

“This building is 80 percent vacant but they’re still out there, and they shower here, and they come in here for water, and occasionally if they need some extra money for work–I let them work, but it’s more prevalent. I have customers that have to walk out underneath those railroad tracks, and they’re scared because people are living there,” Welliver said.

Businesses say there should be a collaborative approach that focuses on the root cause and addresses gaps in the system.

Welliver says he wants to see there be a Spokane-specific model created that will give results.

“We need to recreate the will our city politicians and need to quit looking at Seattle and Portland and saying this is the model. It’s not the model. We need to create a model and say this works,” Welliver said.

Camp Hope near I-90 is growing by the day. The Spokane Homeless Coalition says it’s currently the largest encampment in the state.

Advocates say they look forward to the potential business involvement.

“We’re not going to meaningfully address homelessness we’re not going to move the needle until we get our larger community involved,” The Spokane Homeless Coalition leader Maurice Smith said.

For Smith, solutions could be looking at alternatives from other cities such as those who have implemented homeless villages. pallet homes, and more.

“We need to look at some of those ideas that could be implemented here in Spokane. Something better than a homeless encampment on Department of Transportation property, a homeless village as one alternative to a homeless shelter,” Smith said.

Smith says a recent survey showed 823 people are unsheltered in Spokane. Smith says while the potential of the new shelter is part of the solution, it won’t be the entire solution.

He says it’s going to take the community’s involvement to help solve homelessness.

“I’m seeing more community discussion about homelessness and homeless solutions than I’ve ever heard or seen before and that’s encouraging. But at some point we need to stop talking and move into action,” Smith said.

READ: ‘Study a problem to death’: Local businesses bring in San Diego leaders to address homelessness