From Aaron Scott, Diocesan Missioner for Anti-Poverty Organizing and
Chaplain and Organizer with Chaplains on the Harbor:
Grace and peace to y’all from Grays Harbor County! Chaplains on the Harbor is poised to wrap another powerful year of transformation and growth. Here are our 2019 highlights:
At the end of 2018 Rev. Sarah Monroe and two co-plaintiffs (April Obi Boling and Tim Quigg) filed the first of two federal lawsuits against the City of Aberdeen– for attempting to restrict their visitations, ministry, and survival support at the largest homeless encampment in Grays Harbor County. Then in February of 2019 the plaintiffs won a settlement, setting a critical legal precedent with this victory.
In March, we held our first ever fundraising gala at The Rainier Club (hosted by Bishop Rickel) – an awesome night that brought us our very own tractor and farm van (special shout out to St. Barnabas, Bainbridge Island!). That same month we were also invited to Indianapolis to present at the Episcopal Urban Caucus. We shared from our work and experience on the common struggles of unemployment, incarceration, police brutality, and addiction facing both rural and urban poor communities across racial lines – and made loving, powerful connections with clergy and lay leaders church-wide.
In April we broke ground at a new site for Harbor Roots Farm, designed and built our own greenhouse from scratch, and hosted our inaugural Stations of the Cross Reality Tour on the streets of Aberdeen – accompanied by Bishop Rickel and members of the Poor People’s Campaign’s national organizing team.
May delivered another legal breakthrough in a second lawsuit. The federal court ordered a 30-day stay on the City of Aberdeen’s eviction of the Chehalis River encampment, stipulating that a new, sanctioned site must be secured before the sweep could begin. This was a holy event, further sanctified by dozens of clergy from across the diocese who showed up to pray and witness with the suit’s ten homeless plaintiffs, family member and co-plaintiff April Obi Boling (Quileute Nation), and Rev. Sarah.
In June, we sent a delegation to Washington DC for the Poor People’s Moral Action Congress. Our own formerly homeless leaders directly questioned presidential candidates, attended a US Congressional Budget Hearing with the Rev. Dr. William Barber and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. Our team also led workshops with poor folks, organizers, and faith leaders from across the country.
July was hard: once the judge’s temporary stay expired, the City of Aberdeen moved ahead with sweeping the Chehalis River encampment. While this displacement was extremely hard on camp residents, thanks to legal pressure from the second suit, the City finally set up an approved temporary camping site to which many folks relocated – and approved funding for a long-term shelter as well. To support our homeless congregation during the demolition of the old camp, diocesan clergy once again turned out – serving food, pastoring people, and helping to bless and transport street memorials so they would not be bulldozed in the sweep.
August was hot, humid, full-bore farm season. At Harbor Roots Farm, our supportive employment project, our farmers grow, harvest, and deliver weekly shares of produce to twenty customers (including St. Benedict’s Episcopal Church in Lacey, for their monthly meal program). We’re in our second season of farming and super proud to say that none of these farmers are “apprentices” any longer – all are now regular staff members at Chaplains on the Harbor, fully responsible for running the farm on their own. Leadership!
In September, all 11 of our staff turned out for our annual staff retreat. We spent three days hammering out budgets and long-term strategic plans, and fine tuning our mission, vision, and goals (big thanks to Scott and Lynne, our consultants!). We are powerfully blessed to have built up this team of visionaries, thinkers, and fighters – from the streets, from the jails, from a hard-hit community – who are now stepping into major responsibilities in our organization.
Our dreams stay big because the struggles we face are big. These dreams include launching a Recovery Cafe, pushing for more accessible and humane drug treatment programs, deepening our work with the Poor People’s Campaign, and raising up more leaders – and we are in the midst of a strategic planning process to help us take stock and stabilize before plunging into new projects. All of this while still running six feeding programs each week, distributing Narcan, operating a cold weather shelter and community center, doing regular jail visits and a monthly jail newsletter, running the farm, and maintaining a pastoral presence on the streets. We couldn’t do any of this without you all – the generosity of individuals and parishes across our diocese is what keeps our lights on, and we can’t thank you all enough! To make a donation to Chaplains on the Harbor, follow the link below.
The Chaplains on the Harbor Team