"The city cannot authorize substandard living conditions by allowing people to live in tents throughout the year," says Councilman Bob Apple. "I don't believe any council member is going to change that for the sake of those who want a tent city," he says, adding that the city will move toward passing an ordinance prohibiting camping on private property as of the beginning of the year. Apple says he expects such an ordinance to pass "probably unanimously."
Bilsland argues that a more-or-less permanent tent city is necessary to accommodate overflow from established shelters in the wake of the Otis Hotel's closing. Proposed locations include High Bridge Park, Playfair, tennis courts under the freeway, People's Park, Glover Park and the Department of Transportation's gravel pit. Citing incidents of homeless persons being killed while sleeping on the street, he says they are safer in numbers.
Reports of the availability of beds for the homeless are conflicting. Bilsland insists that some residents of the tent city have been turned away from shelters. Bill Stoefen said last week that the Union Gospel Mission had 40 to 45 beds available, and that he only turns people away who are intoxicated or who have caused trouble in the past.
On Oct. 16, Bilsland organized a protest encampment on the median of West Riverside Avenue, directly outside the Spokane Club. According to Apple, the camp was disbanded with a verbal agreement that the fire department would review the occupancy permit of Catholic Charities' House of Charity to see if it could be safely increased. "As far as we can tell, he (Bilsland) reneged on his intent," Apple says regarding the new tent city on Napa Street. "That's as far as it's going to go."