SPOKANE, Wash. Union Gospel Mission Executive Director Phil Altmeyer is frustrated about homelessness in Spokane.
KHQ's Peter Maxwell had the chance to sit down with him this week.
"You have the mentally ill which is maybe 3 out of 10 you have the addicted, and then you have the ones that have fallen on hard times those people are finding agencies like ours getting the help that they need," Altmeyer said. "But let's talk about a group that no one has identified, the activists. Those who have chosen to live on the streets. They continue to expect more and want more."
Altmeyer says the activists are outspoken; they influence city council members all across the country, not only in Spokane. Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke chained herself at Camp Hope in front of Spokane City Hall back in December.
"When that happens, the city begins to look a lot different. So we have city council members that think, 'You know what? We need to provide showers, we need to allow people who want to sleep on the streets to sleep on our streets.' And then your city totally changes," Altmeyer said.
Altmeyer continued "What do you think has happened to our downtown? And then you put a low barrier shelter where they can come and eat free and be high on drugs right next store to it? What have you just done? you've created a new skid row."
Altmeyer backed up his point with examples like the 7-11 at Division and 2nd Avenue that had to install alarms to make people stop loitering. Starbucks had to remove their outdoor seating because people were camping out there all day without purchasing any products from the business.
As for the recent city council vote for allowing the homeless to utilize government buildings during business hours, Altmeyer had this to say:
"It's one step toward where we're going as a city, and the activists want to take us. It's just not city hall that they'll want. It will be your streets; it will be your city parks all the things the taxpayers are paying for those things were never designed for homeless people to stay in, again I want to say the homeless people that want help the agencies are there for them."