WSDOT will not remove cooling center from Camp Hope despite City’s demand

SPOKANE, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Transportation will not remove a cooling center at Camp Hope despite the City of Spokane’s demand it be taken down.

In a joint statement with the Washington Department of Commerce, WSDOT said:

“Ultimately, the safety and well being of people is our paramount concern. In response to the city administration’s notice of violation, the state will not take action during this extreme weather to remove the cooling center.

This encampment began as a protest to the city administration’s inaction to provide social and health services and their treatment of individuals experiencing homelessness. The state has repeatedly requested the city administration engage and find constructive solutions to ensure basic public safety and health standards are met and find safer shelter and long-term housing options.We are hopeful the city administration and city council will coalesce behind a plan. Until then, we will continue to review other local proposals submitted last week and allow non-profit organizations to continue helping individuals in need.”

Jewels Helping Hands set up the cooling tent earlier this week to help those living at Camp Hope find some relief from the heatwave.

As first reported by Range, Mayor Nadine Woodward’s administration announced their intentions to force Camp Hope to dismantle the cooling shelter. Range reports the email came from Interim City Attorney Lynden P. Smithson and details plans to tell WSDOT the temporary cooling shelter is an illegal building.

By law, any temporary structure must have an inspection by the Fire Marshal to ensure it meets health and safety code requirements before it can be occupied.

The City said the Fire Marshal went to the site to conduct an inspection of the cooling center and outline the items that need to be in place for a permit to be issued.

One of those items is property owner authorization. The City says WSDOT did not authorize the construction of the tent and is not taking to action to trespass any occupants.

“Without authorization of activities by a property owner, the City, by law, cannot issue a permit,” the City said in a statement.

4 News Now obtained an email sent by Fire Marshal Lance Dahl to WSDOT, requesting the “illegally constructed temporary structure be removed from [the] property by 0900 on August 1st, 2022.”

A statement from the City of Spokane said they were “very concerned that an occupant could be injured or there could be a serious fire event at the site causing mass casualties.”

The battle over the cooling center comes as Spokane deals with multiple days of triple-degree heat. At this time, the city of Spokane has offered local libraries as an option for those experiencing homelessness to get a break from the heat.