Spokane puts boulders under I-90 to keep homeless from camping there

The city says it has plenty of shelters and services available so is adopting this design-based tactic to keep homeless people from being under the freeway, where their presence has raised concerns among nearby business owners.

Tons of basalt boulders are being dumped below I-90 in an effort to stop homeless people from camping in downtown Spokane.

The rocks were dropped for a cost of $150,000, and city leaders say it’s just one of many steps Spokane is taking to get people off the streets and into the shelter system.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said he supports the boulder placement as part of a larger project to get homeless people to take advantage of homeless services. He added that the presence of homeless people below I-90 has raised concerns among nearby business owners.

“I’ve been hearing from Divine, from the owner of the Taco Time property and the principal at LC,” Stuckart said, referring to Lewis and Clark High School. “But you can’t move people along. That’s anti-homeless. We’re purposely funding 24/7 shelters to give people a place. We want to point people to the resources, but at the same time we don’t want them disrupting private business.”

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In May, the City Council approved spending $510,000 to keep the House of Charity shelter open around the clock. The city has also committed to spending $1.1 million in 2018 to keep the entire shelter system, which includes day and night shelter for families with children, single women and teens, operating.

Beginning next week, the city will launch a multipronged strategy spreading the word to the homeless community about what services are available to them, including signs below the freeway informing people how to get food, shelter and health care.

Stuckart said he believes the number of homeless people has risen not only in Spokane, but also in other cities he has visited recently, including Seattle, Portland, Boise and Salt Lake City. He blamed income inequality.

“Things are continuing to get worse,” Stuckart said. “We’re trying to balance, make sure we’re providing and increasing the services while providing an environment that protects everybody.”

The idea to use boulders is a tactic of law enforcement and urban design that uses environmental design to deter criminal behavior. Better lighting and visibility, designing streets for more pedestrian and bicycle…

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