This last winter, activist Alfredo LLamedo began a one-man hunger strike in front of City Hall in protest of a city ordinance banning people from sitting or lying on downtown sidewalks. Within weeks, it evolved into what became known as Camp Hope — a group of people camping outside speaking against criminalizing homelessness and calling for more shelter space.
Yesterday, however, LLamedo faced a group of friends and media members in front of City Hall for a different reason. He lifted his camouflage Superman hat, wiped his forehead, and took a deep breath before announcing his "days are numbered." LLamedo, who's been homeless off and on throughout his life, has been battling liver cirrhosis since the fall, among other illnesses and is currently in hospice care. He urged the community to carry on his message when he's gone.
"I'm almost out of here," LLamedo said. "I'm asking you, as a community: Deliver the message. Get it out there for me."
LLamedo's message hit the same notes as any other time the activist has lambasted City Council or the mayor during public meetings in recent years. Only this time his speech contained a little less cursing. He spoke against laws and policies that criminalize homelessness, and he encouraged love and compassion for those experiencing homelessness.
"There's nothing that makes you a criminal just because you're homeless," LLamedo said.
He admits he's been a guy who's screamed expletives and that people came to know him as the "M—-F—- guy." But he says he's also the guy who loves and cares about the community.
The City Council agreed to temporarily suspend its sit-lie law this winter shortly after LLamedo's protest of it. But by that time, homeless campers had joined LLamedo to stay outside City Hall, living in donated blue tents. They demanded the city provide shelter space in the cold winter months. When the city opened up warming centers, Spokane Police evicted the Camp Hope campers in mid-December.
The protest sparked a community discussion regarding homelessness. But as the city was being criticized for its delay in adding shelter space, one former city official — Dawn Kinder, then the city's Neighborhood and Business Services director — suggested the activism impeded efforts by city officials to find shelter space.
On Monday, LLamedo held back his criticism of the city and focused on a positive message.
"If I leave you with one thing today, it's that: Be loving. Be caring. Be compassionate. Don't turn your backs on those who need it the most. Because they really do," he said. "It's getting worse and worse and worse. It's not getting better."
He says he loves the city and the compassion that's been shown to him. The community should stand for people, and he's concerned about those — even kids — still living on the streets
"That's not who Spokane is. I know that's not who Spokane is. And I am asking you to deliver that message," LLamedo said. "Because I'm done."