From Aaron Scott, Diocesan Missioner for Anti-Poverty Organizing:
Yesterday the City of Aberdeen voted to shut down Grays Harbor County’s only sanctioned homeless encampment. This is the camp the city set up in response to two federal lawsuits last year, wherein Rev. Sarah Monroe stood as co-plaintiff with homeless residents of Aberdeen. Below is Chaplains on the Harbor’s public comment on the closure:
“With regard to the Council’s proposed closure of the TASL (Temporary Alternative Shelter Location) by May 15th, 2020:
“We are living in a global pandemic. When one group of people is made more vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19 exposure through the deprivation of shelter, warmth, food, water, or adequate hygiene facilities our entire community is made more vulnerable. There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’ in a pandemic – our biological and epidemiological fate is shared.
“As more residents of the TASL have been evicted over the past several weeks, more unsanctioned camps have sprung up across Aberdeen. APD has continued to conduct sweeps and order residents of these camps to ‘move along.’ This is in direct opposition to the health and safety guidelines established by the CDC and WHO, as well as a total counter to the intended impact of Washington State’s shelter-in-place order. The more people are forced to move from place to place, the more they risk being exposed and exposing other people, places and spaces to COVID-19. There could not be a time more critical for the City of Aberdeen–as well as the County, the state, and the federal government–to make it possible for homeless people to truly ‘shelter in place.’
“All faith, civic and community groups have an obligation to meet critical needs during this time. The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, through Chaplains on the Harbor, continues to serve hundreds of meals per week to low-income, no-income, and homeless residents of Grays Harbor County. What we are seeing on the ground in our programs are rapidly increasing needs. More people are becoming unemployed. More people are becoming homeless. More people are coming to our programs because they cannot afford food for themselves and their families. Our staff, while taking all possible precautions, are continuing to put themselves on the front lines to provide food, water, basic hygiene supplies and pastoral support to those most vulnerable in this pandemic. We are expanding our farming operations in anticipation of swelling numbers of food-insecure families in our region. In short: while it is straining us immensely, we are still leveraging all our resources to support people through this multi-layered crisis of growing sickness and growing poverty. We call on the City of Aberdeen and Grays Harbor County to do the same.”
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