(The Center Square) – As Spokane decommissions its largest homeless shelter amid a state of emergency, a clarification to the city’s camping ban is slowly making its way to the city council.

Proposition 1 is Spokane’s voter-approved ordinance that prohibits camping within 1,000-feet of a park, daycare or school. However, the Spokane Police Department never fully enforced the ban due to concerns over the fallout from the federal ruling in Martin v. Boise that held cities can't enforce anti-camping ordinances if they do not have enough shelter beds available for their homeless population.

However, in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, a pending U.S. Supreme Court case, the nation's highest court will look at whether local government ordinances with civil and criminal penalties for camping on public land constitute cruel and unusual punishment of homeless people.

Meanwhile, a draft amending Prop 1 is slowly gaining traction but could run into issues due to a lack of consensus among the City Council. If passed, it would shift the ordinance’s language, potentially prohibiting camping near Spokane’s comprehensive support services.

Currently, Prop 1 prohibits camping within 1000-feet of a park, daycare or school, as well as within 50-feet of a viaduct and three blocks of any congregate shelter.

The proposed changes would shift the congregate shelter portion to within 1,000 feet of “any facility providing comprehensive support services.” According to the draft ordinance, those include, but are not limited to, addiction recovery services, resource distribution centers, congregate shelters and transitional or non-permanent housing.

Spokane’s Finance and Administration Committee was scheduled to review the proposed changes during its meeting on Monday. However, Shae Blackwell, the legislative assistant to Councilmember Michael Cathcart, told The Center Square that the discussion was tabled indefinitely due to a lack of support from the majority of the council.

Blackwell said that Cathcart woke up to a message that morning, noting that the council and the city’s legal teams conducted an analysis into Prop 1, ultimately leading to the draft’s deferral.

While she expressed Cathcart’s disappointment, the changes still have a chance of passing, especially if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the precedent set by Martin v. Boise.

For the time being, Spokane is decommissioning its largest congregate shelter on Trent Avenue and is in the process of propping up a scattered-site shelter model. Spokane has spent roughly $10 million on keeping the Trent Shelter open. Still, estimates note it could take another $8 million to close its doors altogether.

Earlier this month, Mayor Lisa Brown, who took office this year, declared a state of emergency over Spokane’s opioid crisis. The move allowed her to streamline funding toward the initiative and her scattered-site proposal despite the city’s approximately $50 million structural deficit.

If the proposed changes to Prop 1 were to pass, it could impact those with no other option than to sleep near the support services, effectively limiting Brown’s state of emergency.

At the same time, the Washington State Supreme Court is reviewing Prop 1 and a group of Spokane businesses are considering a petition to oust Brown if she fails to enforce it.

Rod Bacon, president of Pass Word Inc., floated the idea of a recall petition in an email thread of around 200 people, including members of the city council and Brown. He wrote that if Brown fails to address public safety concerns, including the enforcement of Prop 1, that’s what it may come to.

In a phone call with The Center Square, Bacon confirmed that the email was from him but noted that he supports having a community-led discussion with Brown before raising the petition.

“If a recall petition can be started for the mayor of Oakland, CA, for failure to provide adequate public safety,” Bacon wrote in the thread this morning, “there certainly can be a recall petition in Spokane for Lisa Brown if she willfully refuses to enforce Prop 1 and the prohibition against public drug use.”

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