SPOKANE, Wash. - Just a week after the City of Spokane put down rocks to discourage people hanging out under the I-90 overpass, Spokane's City Council President Ben Stuckart says it was a mistake.
The City of Spokane spent $150,000 to drop basalt rocks underneath the I-90 overpasses.
This week City Council President Ben Stuckart posted an apology on Facebook saying in part, "I chose an expedient and strong-armed solution instead of the collaborative and holistic approach." It goes on to say, "the homeless citizens relocated from their community deserved an outstretched hand from their elected officials instead of a hammer and a bunch of rocks."
Because of this issue, Spokane City Council will now host a "Forum on Homelessness" that President Stuckart says will be a way for people to gain a better understand the issue of homelessness in our community.
The response from the community to these rocks has been controversial and mixed.
City Council President Ben Stuckart is now apologizing for the move, but City Councilman Breean Beggs says it was necessary.
"People were coming out of those bushes and trees [where the rocks are now] into the parking lot and threatening and assaulting students; several people overdosed," Beggs explained. "We don't know whether those people were homeless or not, but it was just a dangerous situation."
Beggs says the way the project was presented to the community was an issue.
"So the safety issues and the sanitary issues, that's why we changed the design there," Beggs explained. "But it was not a message to get rid of homeless people or make them unwelcome. Just the opposite in the City [government]."
Stuckart was not available to do an on-camera interview today, but he and Beggs both said a long term solution is more permanent housing.
"Really there's a lot of talk in the community and in media about it, we just want to use all that energy and direct it to some positive solutions," Beggs said of the upcoming forum.
Spokane Public Schools is one of the community partners that has been involved with the city, to try to make the area around Lewis and Clark high school safer for students and staff.
"It's a difficult situation obviously," Beggs said, "and it's a much larger issue. In the school district, our main concern is safety and security of our students and staff."
The district adds, it's committed to working with the city to end homelessness.
"I think that's what President Stuckart wants to do," Morrison explained. "He wants to bring everybody to the table again and say, 'let's come up with a better solution than putting rocks on the ground,' and whatever is safe and secure for our students were going to be in agreement as part of that solution."
The City of Spokane tells KXLY the installation of the rock is part of a broader effort to improve the gateways to the I-90 corridor, and would've happened anyway, but was moved up sooner because of the "escalating impacts of encampments" on LCHS and the neighborhood.
The City says it has invested $2 million in the last 18 months to temporary housing and resources for Spokane's homeless.
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