A sweeping proposal to protect Spokane's homeless is going nowhere

click to enlarge Councilwoman Kate Burke
Councilwoman Kate Burke

Spokane City Councilwoman Kate Burke was hoping to get input from police, firefighters and her colleagues on Monday when she brought forward a draft ordinance that would essentially override the city's "sit-lie" law that allows police to cite people who sleep or lie on downtown streets and sidewalks.

Called "Spokane's Promise of Basic Protection," the ordinance would prevent police from citing anyone occupying a public space in a "non-obstructive manner," and it would also protect their belongings from confiscation.

But rather than start a discussion during a meeting, Burke's proposed draft ordinance was met with silence.

"I got no input," Burke tells the Inlander.

Instead, the Spokane Police Guild chose to post the draft ordinance to social media and reference KOMO news station's controversial "Seattle is Dying" documentary, saying, "Looks like Spokane may be dying too ... There is going to be garbage (litter) everywhere." The post spread quickly and was met with anger by some advocates for homeless people.

While City Council President Ben Stuckart disagrees with the Police Guild's assertion that "Spokane is dying," he called Burke's ordinance "bad legislation."

"If you want to change sit-lie, change sit-lie. Don't come up with a whole laundry list of things you want to do," Stuckart tells the Inlander.

And right now, the council does not support Burke's ordinance or plan to amend the sit-lie law.

Burke says she has been working on the proposal since August as she's heard from people experiencing homelessness that they feel harassed by police and that their stuff is being stolen from them. Despite the lack of support from the rest of the council, Burke remains undeterred.

"You gotta keep throwing things out there, I mean I'm not just going to not do my job just because I don't have support," Burke says.

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About The Author

Wilson Criscione

Wilson Criscione, born and raised in Spokane, is an Inlander staff writer covering education and social services in the Inland Northwest.