‘Makes no sense’: Future of cooling center at Camp Hope uncertain

SPOKANE, Wash. — Monday marks the final day, for now, in a long stretch of sweltering weather.

The community has banded together to help each other out, and many have shifted those efforts towards helping those at Camp Hope, by putting up and operating a cooling center.

It’s become a contested topic between the city (who says the cooling center wasn’t put up with correct authorizations) and the Washington State Department of Transportation (who says its paramount concern is the health and wellbeing of the people utilizing it).

Fire Marshal Lance Dahl sent a request to WSDOT last week, asking that the structure be taken down by Monday, August 1 at 9:00 a.m. WSDOT says they’re keeping it up through the excessive heat, with no specific date mentioned, and that there are discussions happening about what the next steps will be.

Maurice Smith, with the Spokane Homeless Coalition, is a Camp Hope Manager. He says the cooling tent is there for humane reasons. They’ve measured the heat in some of those tents mid-day and they can be up to 120 degrees. As a community, he says, they’re showing compassion and humanity.

In response to the excessive heat, the city has encouraged people to take advantage of the AC in public libraries around the area.

“It’s 98 degrees outside and you want them to walk a mile.. with all of their stuff… because they won’t leave their stuff…. for fear they’ll lose it. The city plan makes no sense for homeless people. It makes sense for middle-class folks who don’t have the issues that homeless folks have,” Smith explained.

He says decisions aren’t being made with these people in mind. Those who are without housing, and live in abject poverty.

“The news at times, especially from the city is oh, we’re going to shut this camp down and move everybody. That scares the bejeebers out of folks who are here for a very specific reason,” Smith added.

He explained that for those who live at Camp Hope, it’s stability. They don’t have to worry about where they’re going to sleep, eat, or use the bathroom.

However now, they are concerned about the heat too.

The cooling center has gotten them through over the past few days. The city says that given the continued heat, there will be no fines today, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future. They hoping to come to a resolution with WSDOT soon.

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