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Spokane Uses Rocks to Keep Homeless Off Streets

As Seattle and Portland struggle with how to accommodate homeless residents, Spokane is catching flack for it’s “tough-love” approach to homeless camping.




Under an overpass for Interstate 90 in Spokane, four lanes of traffic pass by as a giant piece of machinery moves truckloads of basalt rock. The boulders are meant to deter camping by Spokane’s homeless population.

The city is hoping that instead of camping under the overpass, they will instead take advantage of city resources, like homeless shelters. 



But not everyone agrees that’s likely.

“No they’re not,” said Jesse Westby, who works for the landscaping company. “They’re going to continue doing what they are doing.”



Westby used to live under the very same overpass. 



“Our opinion is it's inhumane,” he said. “But it’s our job. It’s what we do.” 



The crew has moved at least 35 truckloads of football-sized boulders in the last week. The city says it has spent $120,000 this summer to clean up after its transient population.

The boulder project has a $150,000 price tag. 

The city of Spokane is spending $150,000 to place boulders under an overpass in hopes of detering the homeless population from camping there.
Emily Schwing / Northwest News Network
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Northwest News Network
The city of Spokane is spending $150,000 to place boulders under an overpass in hopes of detering the homeless population from camping there.

Copyright 2017 Northwest News Network

Emily Schwing
Emily Schwing comes to the Inland Northwest by way of Alaska, where she covered social and environmental issues with an Arctic spin as well as natural resource development, wildlife management and Alaska Native issues for nearly a decade. Her work has been heard on National Public Radio’s programs like “Morning Edition” and “All things Considered.” She has also filed for Public Radio International’s “The World,” American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” and various programs produced by the BBC and the CBC. She has also filed stories for Scientific American, Al Jazeera America and Arctic Deeply.