A Plea For Cooperation
Open letter to Spokane city/county and state officials
Below is the text of a letter to our city, county, and state leadership. If you agree and support, go to this link and sign on! If you sign on you won’t be alone. I understand the letter already has signatures of 200 individuals and 28 organizations.
We understand that the city and state will meet again soon in court to determine a plan to clear Camp Hope. Having this discussion in court is an unnecessarily expensive and time-consuming route. Closing camp has always been the plan, as evidenced by current camp residential count being under 60 persons, down from over 600 last summer. We write to you today to ask you to let the process in place continue, allowing for the most robust method of ensuring Camp Hope residents move into housing and not temporary shelters or onto the streets once again.
We are individuals and organizations who know this camp firsthand from our on-site work and experiences. We have met campers and know everything that happens in and around Camp Hope. We are also individuals, organizations and service providers who support the efforts at Camp Hope, have visited regularly and trust the process that is happening on-site. Some of us have volunteered, donated much needed items and believe that the best way to get campers into housing and help them stay housed is to provide the services they need and get them into housing.
Most importantly, we listen to the campers about what they need. Given the opportunity to participate in the process of their own next steps in life, ensure outcomes that lead to stable housing. They haven’t be willing to go into the shelters before now for a variety of reasons, despite your efforts and ours, and they certainly aren’t going to go now. Sadly, we know too well that if camp is forced into a pre-mature closure, they won’t go to shelters and the chances of getting these campers into housing is highly unlikely. They will be back on the streets, neighborhoods and sleeping in parks.
All of us, including campers, agree that the camp will close, but ask that it not be done pre-maturely. We request the continued time to get everyone into appropriate housing with the resources each individual needs. Campers are 100% participating in the process. To that end, the following opportunities have been created to support the ongoing efforts and serve as potential placement and resources for housing readiness:
The Catalyst Project – more bed space is available for Camp Hope residents with on-site wrap around services, and campers continue to be placed here when they are housing ready. What a game changer for homeless services! A shining example of what we should do more of.
A detox facility will be opening this month to serve the camp. Drug treatment is typically a resource that most, even those who disagree with our methods of resources and housing first, will agree is needed. The folks remaining at camp will have access, without barriers, to drug detox, drug treatment and behavioral health services. These resources will make maintaining housing possible and not result with folks back on the streets in the same situation again next year.
All campers have been assessed with behavioral health workers, substance abuse workers, and people they have built relationships with and trust. Two agencies on site have clinical staff and are behavioral health licensed with the State of Washington.
Unlike the shelter system, campers have peer support daily and access for resources to meet their basic needs. Every single camper has access to mental health care and medical health care regularly (unlike the limitations at TRAC due to insufficient staffing contract levels for mental health: contract allows for 175 persons to receive services, and yet the daily resident count is typically over 300).
Over the last year 100 members of camp have been hired to work on-site or with service providers assisting the houseless community. Some have made enough funds to exit homelessness with little assistance. They simply needed an opportunity, and when it was given, they made the most of it. Employment options continue to be when possible.
Some campers have court related legal issues and the on-site teams are working with them to become compliant through the help of an amazing legal assistance providing community partner. As the individuals get their legal issues in order, their housing ready status improves and will lead to housing opportunities.
Peer navigators, in addition to helping with housing readiness, provide transportation to ensure campers make it to their appointments. Transportation and daily guidance is not currently a resource available within the shelter system.
Safety and crime have been an ongoing topic of conversation regarding Camp Hope. WSDOT security provides on-site provider’s a report daily. For weeks it’s been the same: no disturbances, no holes cut in the fence, and not very loud. Everyone has made curfew and followed the rules. It’s a very structured environment.
This is the calmest encampment we have ever been to. Police are relied on only in the case of crimes, which are always reported when there is evidence of occurrence. Staff are trained in de-escalation techniques, and we are able to handle most challenging situations with limited required interaction with emergency workers (except in the cases of emergencies requiring additional care).
All of this, and the most important statement that hasn’t been said: this entire topic is about people’s lives. The lives of those living at Camp. The decisions made regarding a pre-mature closing can mean the difference between dying next winter downtown or housing them appropriately. That decision will mean less people added to our growing homeless population, or adding to it.
Campers are caught in the middle of the political and legal chaos created by the unnecessary dueling between elected officials, who are all housed, privileged and talking about them, instead of with them. All they want, and all they need, is for us to finish what we started. We are so close to the finish line of closing this camp appropriately. No one is asking you to keep the camp forever. We are asking for more time until the needed housing options are available. The City of Spokane’s own ROW funded providers do not have their housing options up and running (the contracts were just signed this week!)
Please put aside your political agendas and work in collaboration, instead of forcing closure, to figure out a plan that allows the work at Camp Hope to be completed. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for you to move the needle down in Spokane’s homeless population. But you can’t do it alone. You need to listen to the campers and the service providers on-site to understand how you will be the most effective. We assure you that a pre-mature closing is not part of an equation of success.
The lives of sixty people depend on your next steps. They aren’t “just Camp Hope”, they have names and their own stories. They also have a wide range of challenges and traumas they are working to overcome. Each of them are doing all they can to break down barriers to their own housing. Are you going to send them back on the streets and into neighborhoods, or are you going to give them the time they need to get into housing and on track to a more healthy and sustainable life?
Remember – you have tried to push them into shelters before and it didn’t work. The work of the past five months, on-site at Camp Hope, have resulted in getting campers into housing. What will you choose?
Keep to the high ground,