No homeless allowed? Library employees surprised by mayoral candidate’s comments

No homeless allowed? Library employees surprised by mayoral candidate’s comments
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The quiet of the downtown library is once again being drowned out by the noise on the mayoral campaign trail. This time, as candidate Nadine Woodward has been quoted in The Inlander, saying quote “maybe the homeless shouldn’t be allowed in the library.”

Woodward’s comments have drawn criticism from fellow candidates and library employees and now, she’s walking back the comments, telling KXLY her comments were taken out of context. Woodward says she’s not proposing a “blanket ban” on the homeless at the library — but Daniel Walters, the reporter who interviewed her two weeks ago for The Inlander, provided KXLY with an audio recording of that conversation, which paints a much different picture.

The two spoke about Woodward’s concerns about safety at the downtown library. In the recording, Woodward asks Walters “how do you separate the people there who are homeless and aren’t shooting up drugs and the homeless who are shooting up drugs?”

Shortly after, the two have this exchange:

Walters: “If we don’t think that the people who are shooting up drugs should be in the library, and we can’t separate them out from other homeless people, should we remove all the homeless people from the library?”

Woodward: “I mean, that’s something we, that’s something that’s a possibility. That’s not necessarily something that I’m advocating.”

About thirty seconds later, Woodward tells Walters “you know what, quite frankly, I think the library is struggling to get a handle on this — and until they get a handle on this, maybe the homeless shouldn’t be allowed in the library.”

In a phone interview with KXLY after the story was published, Woodward said only homeless people who use drugs should not be allowed in the library, then suggested changes should be made to library security.

“We need to get drug addicts to stop injecting in our libraries. Hands down. And how do we get there? I suggested maybe there should be a police officer, I think we need a higher level of security there,” Woodward said. “We have to help these people. Not give them a place where they can continue to inject. So that would be my solution, is just get the addicts out of the library.”

Library employees were surprised by the comments.

“It’s unfortunate that the library’s become a political touch point or flashpoint in this issue,” Amanda Donovan, a spokesperson for the Spokane Public Library. “The library is a peaceful and calm place the majority of the time. Thousands of people come to the downtown library and all our branches and I mean, if you ask any of our staff members, myself included, I work here, it’s a peaceful place.”

Woodward’s stance is being challenged by those running against her.

“I think the key word there is it’s a public library and just because you don’t have a house doesn’t mean you’re not a member of the community of Spokane,” Ben Stuckart said. “Knowledge and information and computers are how people get off the streets and get jobs and so, you know, the library is a resource for our homeless people to get off the streets.”

Kelly Cruz criticized Woodward’s suggestion of stationing a police officer at the library.

“The only difference between the two, is the security guard has the ability to detain somebody. The officer would have the ability to arrest. Other than that, they would be doing the same duties,” said Cruz. “Do you feel it’s more important for the officer to be out on the street, trying to get to your problem, or downtown, babysitting the homeless and guarding the library books?”

Shawn Poole’s campaign provided KXLY with a statement, which reads in part “whether the library is dangerous or not is irrelevant. If taxpayers perceive it to be unsafe then we owe it to them to change that mentality,” while J​onathan Bingle tells KXLY he doesn’t support drug use at the library, but doesn’t believe in banning a group of people.

“The library is open to everyone,” Donovan said. “It would be unprecedented for any library to be more restrictive in access. Access for libraries, you know, are based on access for all.”

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