City crews rappel steep hillside to remove homeless camp

Spokane city crews remove homeless...

SPOKANE, Wash. - City crews had to navigate a dangerous hillside to cleanup a homeless camp along the Spokane River Wednesday.

It was no easy task dismantling that transient camp down a steep embankment in Kendall Yards. Crews rappeled down the hill using a sled attacked to a crane.

"From what I saw, it was a pretty elaborate camp - a number of tarps and quite a bit of trash," said Jule Schultz with the Spokane River Keeper.

The River Keeper volunteered to help remove garbage from the site because the camp was affecting the health of the river. The group used a raft to take garbage down river and load it into a truck to be taken to the dump.

"These homeless camps, although sometimes are hidden, they do represent somewhat of a danger to river users. We sometimes find needles in them and human waste," Shultz said.

When the city arrived Wednesday morning, the people living at the camp were gone. The police department gives transients 48 hours to find help or vacate before the city comes in to remove everything left at the site.

"There is a group that goes in and offers services and where they can find shelter and food and lodging and that before we come in and clean up that area," said Spokane City Spokeswoman Julie Happy.

While the people living at the camp were not there, their estimated 2,000 pounds of garbage was. And the city says that accumulated in just three weeks.

"That pollutes the river, harms the fish and Spokane River Keeper's goal is to keep the river fishable and swimable, so we don't want you guys going out there and getting hurt," said Schultz.

Spokane is planning to crack down on more homeless camps like this as needed.

"If people notice encampments anywhere, they can always call 311 and we'll go and investigate and, as we're doing here, post the proper notice that the cleanup will occur," Happy said.