Spokane’s Camp Hope permanently closing as final individuals transition into new housing options
State’s largest homeless encampment now transitions to site restoration
SPOKANE – The state’s largest homeless encampment is closing today as state agencies and community partners have moved the last individual living at the encampment into housing. This is the culmination of 18 months of work by three state agencies – and several dedicated outreach group partners – under the state’s Right of Way Safety Initiative. An estimated 600 people were living at the site one year ago.
“The situation at Camp Hope highlighted the scale and complexity of our housing and homelessness efforts in Spokane and across the state,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “This work requires collaboration with local governments and community partners. Legislators this session approved new policies and historic funding to help communities build more affordable housing and expand access to substance use treatment, behavioral health and other services. We appreciate all those who assisted the hundreds of people living at this one site, and remain focused on the long-term, statewide effort to connect more people to safe, stable housing.”
The site has now transitioned to remediation and restoration. No new individuals are allowed to move to the location. Contractor crews working for the Washington State Department of Transportation and maintenance crews have begun removing the fencing that surrounds the perimeter, the onsite portable office space and other items that were left on site. Activity at the site is anticipated to continue over the next week.
“WSDOT is grateful to each and every service provider that worked hard to resolve Camp Hope in a safe, humane, respectful way while meeting the needs of those living unsheltered,” said Roger Millar, Secretary of the Washington State Department of Transportation. “It is our hope that the housing and services provided by the state Right of Way Safety Initiative breaks their individual cycle of homelessness.”
“Every person deserves the dignity of housing and having their basic needs met. I’m proud of the work this unprecedented state partnership has accomplished. We couldn’t have done it without the dedicated service providers Commerce contracted with for this massive initiative in Spokane. I want to thank Empire Health Foundation, Catholic Charities Eastern Washington, Spokane Low Income Housing Coalition, Jewels Helping Hands, Compassionate Addiction Treatment, Revive Counseling and Volunteers of America for stepping up to the challenge with us,” said Commerce Director Mike Fong.
Now that Camp Hope is resolved, state partners hope the city administration will re-focus their attention on creating a safe, stable, broad safety net for the thousands that continue to live unsheltered within city limits. The reality is that Camp Hope was a symbol of a much larger problem. The most recent point-in-time count done by the city of Spokane counted 2,390 people experiencing homelessness throughout Spokane County on a single night in February 2023, an increase of 36% compared to the point-in-time count conducted in 2022. Of the 2,390 people experiencing homelessness in the most recent count, 955 individuals were identified as living outside, a 16% increase from 2022.
On Dec. 16, 2021, nearly 60 individuals had been protesting at Spokane City Hall about the lack of available shelter bed space when they were threatened with a sweep by the city. The group then relocated onto WSDOT property near the Interstate 90 interchange with Freya and Thor streets without permission to use the land.
The shared goal of WSDOT, the Washington State Patrol and the Washington State Department of Commerce has been to permanently resolve Camp Hope in a safe, humane way. To remain accountable and transparent throughout the process, partners provided weekly updates on the WSDOT website to show progress being made at the site.
At one point during the summer of 2022, it was estimated that more than 600 people were living at the site. The first count with the Department of Commerce’s contracted service provider Empire Health Foundation, counted 467 individuals in October 2022. Since the first count was completed, a steady decline in the number of individuals has now led to the complete resolution of the site.
Role of the Right of Way Safety Initiative
In total, the state provided more than $25 million for housing and services to Spokane County and Camp Hope through the State’s Right of Way Safety Initiative, funded by the Legislature and Gov. Inslee, plus supplemental funds through the Department of Commerce. Of that, the state provided nearly $15 million for the Catalyst Project run by Catholic Charities that supplied housing for nearly 100 individuals from Camp Hope.
Additional funding through the Right of Way Safety Initiative was provided to the city of Spokane’s TRAC shelter, also called the Trent Resources and Assistance Center.
Over the last two years, the Department of Commerce has invested over $43 million in capital and $42.5 million in operating funds for emergency and permanent supportive housing, rent vouchers and other programs to serve people experiencing homelessness in Spokane County.
WSDOT, Commerce and WSP are thankful for the incredible work of the local service providers, peer navigators, contractors and subcontractors who were on site daily working with individuals to help find better housing options and services to end their individual battle with living unsheltered. Their dedication to those living unsheltered at Camp Hope never wavered and their hard work will continue.