The sheriff of Spokane, Washington, is calling for action from Democratic officials who have let the state’s second-largest homeless encampment “spiral out of control,” according to a Wednesday video posted on Twitter.
Homeless encampment “Camp Hope,” which houses at least 600 people, is on land owned by Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and has cost taxpayers at least $400,000 from mismanagement, according to KXYL News. Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich called out Washington State Department of Commerce Director Lisa Browne for the state of the homeless encampment, calling the people of Spokane “victims” because of the encampment, according to a video posted on Twitter.
“I heard about all the stories about what is going on in that camp, which I refuse to use the word ‘hope’ because it represents anything but hope, over the last several months, this has to end,” Knezovich said in the video. “That neighborhood is a marginalized neighborhood in Spokane. They are hard working, many of them work in poverty, and their lives are being destroyed. No one seems to want to talk for them. No one seems to care about them. No one cares about the damage done to their properties. No one cares about the theft. No one cares about the raw sewage. No one seems to want to talk about them. They have no voice.”
Knezovich sent a letter to the WSDOT demanding the encampment be removed within the next two weeks, according to KREM 2 News. The letter details plans for the homeless residents, including giving them each a bus ticket to a location of their choice so they may be reunited with family and enter recovery.
THEM FIGHTIN WORDS: @SheriffOzzie posted this Thursday evening on @SpokaneSheriff social media channels. He pretty much calls out @WSDOT_East and @WAStateCommerce Director Lisa Brown by name, blasting WA state officials for allowing “Camp Hope” to spiral out of control.#Spokanepic.twitter.com/RUNYInbtld
— Jonathan Choe Journalist (@choeshow) September 23, 2022
The city of Spokane issued a letter to the WSDOT and State Department of Commerce on Tuesday, demanding that “Camp Hope” be cleared out within the next month, KXYL reported. The letter states that the departments have “lost sight of the $24 million” the state gave Spokane to clear the encampment.
“Now if they want to play this out in the media, game on,” Knezovich said in the video. “You have limited time to get this resolved, or we will resolve it for you.”
Nearby, Seattle Chinatown residents are protesting the city’s plans to build a homeless megaplex valued at $66.5 million to house at least 500 people. The new shelter would replace an already existing shelter that currently houses about 300 residents.
In a joint statement, WSDOT and the State Department of Commerce said they are working with city officials and local authorities to resolve the issue.
“Spokane’s residents deserve thoughtful leadership on this issue, and the people living in Camp Hope need safe, supportive housing,” they said. “It is not realistic to move people from the camp until we have viable housing solutions for them.”
This story has been updated with comment from the Washington State Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce.
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