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Spokane Valley council passes camping ban, votes to shorten park hours

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - The Spokane Valley City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of a measure to ban the homeless from camping at area parks and public land in the city. 

Similar to several Washington cities, Spokane Valley officials said the city is seeing an increase in the number of homeless people living on the streets and in parks.  

 "They camp on the hills, they camp on the streets," said Barbara Howard, a Spokane Valley resident.

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She's only one person, but the city says other residents have expressed concerns about those experiencing homelessness in their parks.

On Tuesday, city council members talked about two measures, the first of which dealt with the potential camping ban. 

The new measure bans camping at area parks and restrict people from camping on any public land -- like roads and sidewalks -- in Spokane Valley. 

With the council's approval, those who experience homelessness will no longer be able to camp at City Hall, Mirabeau Meadows, Center Place Regional Center and Balfour Park. There could also potentially be stricter rules about living in cars. 

Tuesday night's meeting saw a large turnout, most of which expressed opposition to the ordinance. 

Howard says she understands the homeless, but she's a bit frustrated because residents have to pay for their own things, and pick up their own trash, but the homeless don't.

 "We go pick up after our doggies when they go potty in my yard, that's in my yard. These people don't pick up after themselves. They don't clean up after themselves." she said.

Violators could face a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. However, those rules would not be enforced in other places around the city until there are shelters or spaces for the homeless. Currently, Spokane Valley does not have any shelters to house those experiencing homelessness. 

Spokane Valley spends more than $1 million to the county in homelessness relief efforts. 

If a shelter were to come to the city, Howard is a little on the fence about it.

"I don't know if that's going to work. We're paying already, how much more do we pay? I'm on a fixed income. I can't for sure afford more and what's going to happen is we're going to get our taxes raised," Howard said.

City council members also approved a second measure to change park hours.

The parks and recreation director said, by closing parks at 9 p.m. in the summer and 7 p.m. in the winter, they hope to reduce the vandalism that's been taking place overnight. 

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