Sheriff Knezovich says he will clear Camp Hope by mid-October

Camp Hope
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SPOKANE, Wash. — Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich says he will clear Camp Hope by mid-October.

Knezovich sent a letter to Washington State Transportation Secretary Roger Millar detailing his concerns about the homeless encampment.

Camp Hope sits on state-owned land within city limits.

Knezovich’s letter states his frustrations over the inaction of clearing the camp. Earlier this month, the City of Spokane sent WSDOT a letter demanding they start clearing the camp by September 22. WSDOT has indicated it will take some initial steps to start clearing the encampment, but will not do so fully until there is more safe and secure housing, beyond the Trent Shelter, for those living at the camp.

“You asked about my plans to ensure that ‘each’ resident of the camp has access to safe and secure housing options. My plan is to provide bus tickets to the location of each resident’s choice, allowing them to reunite with family and to assist them in recovery,” Knezovich said.

He suggested that it would also be safer for the Commerce Department to pay a year’s worth of rent for the more than 600 people living at the camp.

Knezovich also states he will seek an audit of WSDOT, the State of Washington and the City of Spokane in their “funding of Jewels Helping Hands and Ben Stuckart for the operations at this camp and other homeless camps within the greater Spokane County area.”

Ben Stuckart reached out to 4 News Now saying he doesn’t understand why he is mentioned in Knezovich’s letter. Stuckart said he has nothing to do with the operation or existence of Camp Hope, but is continuing to work on low-income housing availability, which is a solution for the encampment.

He added that he intends to conduct a full investigation into potential fraud related to the funding and will contact the FBI with respect to possible public corruption and misuse of public funds. Knezovich does not provide any details to support allegations of fraud or corruption in his letter.

WSDOT issued a statement Thursday morning regarding Knezovich’s plan.

“WSDOT, Commerce and WSP also relayed our concern [at Wednesday’s meeting with the City of Spokane] related to recent conversations about Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich planning to clear Camp Hope. Our agencies know all too well from past experience that clearing the encampment will simply make things worse for the entire city. Hundreds of people will spread across county, city, state and private property and the issues connected with unsanctioned encampments – from safety to litter – will be dispersed as well. This action will not make anyone’s life better or safer.

Read the full letter below.

Spokane Sheriff to WSDOT by Erin Robinson on Scribd

WSDOT responded to the Sheriff’s letter with the following statement:

Today, the Department of Transportation received a letter from Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich announcing his intentions to clear Camp Hope by mid-October.

Several state agencies have been working with local non-profit housing and homelessness providers to address this issue for months as we successfully have in other parts of the state. Yesterday’s meeting with city officials was a start to productive, much needed discussion to successfully resolve Camp Hope and work together to provide safe, secure housing and service solutions for those living homeless at the encampment.

The Sheriff’s proposal doesn’t capture the spirit of those conversations and we will continue to work in good faith with willing partners at all levels of government. Initial plans to secure the site with fencing are already underway, and while it will take time to fully resolve the encampment, the community will begin to see visible improvements in just the next couple months. State agencies know from experience that partnership is key to the successful resolution of large encampments.

As we shared earlier today, Spokane’s residents deserve thoughtful leadership on this issue, and the people living in Camp Hope need safe, supportive housing. It is not realistic to move people from the camp until we have viable housing solutions for them.

The Washington State Departments of Transportation, Commerce and Washington State Patrol look forward to continuing that work with the city of Spokane, nonprofits and other partners and jurisdictions within Spokane County.

READ: State agencies want more housing solutions before they clear Camp Hope

RELATED: Jewels Helping Hands to be fined unless they remove its ‘Camp Hope Access Tent’

READ: Amid Camp Hope crisis, Spokane’s head of Neighborhood, Housing and Human Services resigns