The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia has joined with the ACLU and Real Change to file a class action lawsuit against the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation for violating the constitutional rights of people living outside by seizing and often throwing away their property. These seizures occur without adequate notice or providing a meaningful way for individuals to reclaim any property that was not immediately destroyed.
Speaking from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Episcopal Bishop Greg Rickel said, “As I travel in the footsteps of Jesus, I am deeply appalled by the actions that my city is engaging in against the most vulnerable in our community. In a time of fear and division, it is most distressing that Seattle leadership is promulgating exactly the same. Attempting to make these, our fellow citizens, invisible is not a solution.”
In the past two years, there have been over 1,000 instances of these unlawful seizures. The suit seeks to prevent local government from subjecting this vulnerable population to the loss of belongings critical to their survival and well-being, including tents, sleeping bags, personal identification, and life-saving medications.
The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia is comprised of more than 100 worshiping communities across Western Washington. As a part of accomplishing its mission to “build strong communities of faith,” the diocese provides training, grants, and other resources to the churches within its diocese. Many of these churches provide services to the unhoused persons within their communities. The unlawful confiscation and destruction of property has placed an additional burden on churches within the diocese who minister to the homeless community, as supplies provided by the church are routinely seized and destroyed.
“Ministering to the most vulnerable among us is essential to the Church’s mission. People without homes are members of our community and must be treated with dignity. Our public officials must respect the rights of all people and not pursue policies which treat homeless people and their belongings as dispensable,” said Bishop Rickel.