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Washington city places rocks under freeway to deter homeless

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A city in Washington state is hoping that basalt boulders placed under a highway overpass will deter homeless people from camping downtown.

The $150,000 effort to cobble a downtown section underneath Interstate 90 is part of a larger city effort to get people off the streets and into shelters in the eastern Washington city of Spokane, The Spokesman-Review reported Friday (https://goo.gl/h9vfXm ).

A story posted on the city’s website described it as “a hard core attempt to make the ground so uncomfortable that no one wants to sit or sleep underneath the interstate.”

The city council earlier this year approved $510,000 to keep one shelter open around the clock. It also committed $1.1 million in 2018 to keep the entire shelter system, which include day and night shelters for families with children, single women and teens, operating.

City Council President Ben Stuckart said the problem of homelessness is growing in Spokane, as it has in other West Coast cities, including Seattle and Portland.

“We’re trying to balance, make sure we’re providing and increasing the services while providing an environment that protects everybody,” he told the newspaper.

City officials have said a pilot program at the House of Charity and The Salvation Army that provides around-the-clock shelter is helping to keep down the number of people living on the streets.

“If this forces families and homeless people into what the city’s invested in, the shelters, then those are vehicles to help them get off the streets and into homes,” said Steve Allen, executive director of Family Promise of Spokane, a group that provides shelter for homeless families. “The services are there. There’s no need to sleep under the bridge anymore.”

Jeremy Hinricks watched with others Thursday as workers moved rocks into place underneath I-90 between Bernard and McClellan streets.

“It looks nicer than a bunch of dirt and scraggily trees,” the 46-year-old who has been homeless for a year said. “But it won’t stop us. We’ll just find somewhere else to camp.”

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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