SPOKANE, Wash. - After more than a year of debate and hard work, community leaders behind the fence of Camp Hope are inching closer to closing the encampment off I-90, announcing a tentative closing date on Tuesday.
“We're getting very close to being able to close this camp as compassionately as we intended it to be. I think that a reasonable timeline and expectation is June 30,” Jewels Helping Hands Founder Julie Garcia said.
It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Garcia, her team, the city, the state, and importantly, those living inside Camp Hope.
The news of a possible closing date is huge for community partners across Spokane – one by one, the homeless population is finding housing, and Camp Hope is closer to being empty.
“We're officially in the teens,” Garcia said.
Last week, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) announced an estimated 21 people were currently living inside the encampment. On Tuesday, a man named Earl moved out of Camp Hope, taking the population from 20, down to 19.
Tuesday night, rather than sleeping inside a tent on the ground of this infamous encampment – Earl slept inside his new apartment, two walls on either side of him, his cat sleeping peacefully next to him.
“Being able to have a place to lay down and call home, it’s been a lot of hard work for me,” Earl said.
After he had to sell his grandpa’s pig farm in 2019, Earl jumped around for a bit. He spent some time in Portland before finding his way back to Spokane – eventually he landed inside Camp Hope, where he’s been for the last eight months.
He works for Jewels Helping Hands and plans to continue to do so in his next chapter.
“I’m working to be maybe peer support or maybe some sort of counselor for the homeless because I know exactly what they’re going through,” Earl said.
As she stood in a nearly empty camp, just a few tents surrounding her, Garcia thought back to the day Camp Hope began.
“I would never want to create another Camp Hope,” Garcia said. “I hope that if we as a community can work together and collaboratively to provide space for folks to exist, we will never have to have another camp hope.”
On Thursday at nine a.m. the City of Spokane and WSDOT will attend a status hearing on the nuisance lawsuit the city filed against WSDOT in March.
For the boots on the ground, they say the goal will always be to help the homeless population in Spokane. As for an end goal of Camp Hope, Garcia said her team has been moving five to six people a week – with that momentum, she is confident the camp could be empty by the end of June.