Mayor Woodward in the Christmas Spirit
Sweep the problem out of sight!
As the streets fill with snow, Christmas shoppers scurry to acquire the latest thing to put under the tree, and the cars snake through Manito Park to enjoy the Christmas lights, the executive branch of City of Spokane government under Mayor Nadine Woodward is getting into the spirit of Christmas, too. Eight days before the celebration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Mayor Woodward threatened confiscation of the tent dwellings and belongings of the homeless camped out on the public sidewalk around City Hall. After all, it wouldn’t be right for the City to allow a distraction from the season of giving, would it?
Never mind that Mayor Woodward’s Republican allies on the current three member Spokane Board of County Commissioners are working hard to decide how to spend a federal windfall of 101 million dollars of our income tax dollars from the American Rescue Plan. Never mind that Mayor Woodward and her administration neglected to apply for money appropriated by the State of Washington for efforts to house the homeless. Never mind that home prices and rents in the region are skyrocketing as people move here flush with money from the sale of homes in even more inflated markets. Never mind that bags of PAC money from developers and realtors helped put Ms. Woodward in office—and never mind that these same people are concentrating on refilling those money bags by building and selling homes in the medium and high end market.
Never mind all that. These folks camped out at City Hall must have, in Republican parlance, made “bad choices” that rendered them homeless. Isn’t it just “tough love” at Christmas time to threaten the homeless with confiscation of their belongings and scatter them to live in their tents in the dark and cold and snow in less noteworthy locations like the vacant land near Freya and the freeway?
Mayor Woodward and her executive branch’s threat against the homeless encamped at City Hall was carefully couched in legalistic wording [the bold is mine]:
The city claims the demonstration poses a health and safety risk, and has impacted access to nearby businesses and City Hall.
“The people are able to come back and spend time and protest and have their voices be known. We’re moving property, not people,” city spokesman Brian Coddington said.
Mayor Woodward and the City’s lawyers are tiptoeing around the legal requirement that available shelter space exist before such clearance (See Section 10.10.026, B., 9, of the Spokane Municipal Code). From the Spokesman article that details the controversy surrounding the Mayor’s order:
City officials acknowledge that there is inadequate shelter space during the day to enforce the city’s laws against camping on public property, which require shelter space to be available as a condition of enforcement.
It goes on:
Coddington said the city issued the notices to ensure people have time to make arrangements to store belongings and find shelter. While acknowledging that the city camping law can’t be enforced because there is not adequate shelter space available during the day time, he said there is available shelter space at night.
“The bottom line is there’s places available to sleep inside,” Coddington said.
To which the people who actually run homeless shelters respond:
“It’s illegal. We don’t have enough shelter beds,” Garcia [of Jewels Helping Hands] said.
Whether there are or are not shelter beds to sleep gets lost in weeds over what constitutes a “low barrier” shelter. Moreover, for convenience the City overlooks the practical matter of actually obtaining a bed in a warm place to sleep. Imagine yourself navigating this territory:
HOC [House of Charity] only has check in between 7 and 8pm. It does not matter how many beds they have available at 8:01pm because they are closed to check in. Guests not checked in are not allowed to access day services. Truth [Truth Ministries] only has check in between 6-7pm and all guests must leave at 6am. So, until 6pm there is not a single facility a man can access in our city. Then they must decide which facility to try. If they walk to Truth (2 miles from downtown) and don’t get in, they very well won’t make the check in at HOC. If they wait for HOC, they passed the check in at Truth. Are you starting to see the barriers created?
And this is just finding shelter for one night. Imagine how you would approach seeking employment from the position of having no certain shelter. From the Spokesman article:
It’s hard to go out and get a job when you don’t have a shower every day, if you don’t have clean clothes,” Roofener said. “You tell someone you’re living on the street, they don’t really want to hire you.”
Mayor Woodward was elected in 2019 with a 1.24% vote margin. She was elected with the aid of a record nearly a half million dollars in “independent expenditures” from realtor and developer Political Action Committees. She posted a slanted, politicized video, “Seattle is Dying” to dramatize and frighten over the issue of homelessness and to suggest she held the key to resolving the issue. Since then she has made good on one related (and totally inconsequential) campaign promise: she moved the location of the downtown police precinct. Now, the administration under her leadership having failed to apply for state funds available to address the issue, she orders the homeless outside City Hall swept off to camp in less visible locations. Out of sight, out of mind—and so much for Christian charity in the time of Christmas.
Keep to the high ground,