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A lawsuit has been filed in federal district court, by the Rev Sarah Monroe, April Obi Boling, and Tim Quigg against the City of Aberdeen, Mayor Erik Larson, and City Engineer Kris Koski.

People experiencing homelessness in Aberdeen have been camping out and living on the banks of the Chehalis River for decades, more and more people joining the encampment over recent years as they get squeezed out of a dwindling housing market. Most recently, the city purchased the land people have been camping on, in August of this year. The city says they intend to clear it, as it is not safe for human habitation, but also rolled out a transition plan. On September 25, police and city officials required anyone on the property or visiting the property to obtain permits, granting around 108 permits to people who wish to continue residing there, or who have nowhere else to go.

They gated the property and prohibited vehicle access and announced that all advocates and social service providers also needed to apply for a permit to access the property. When the Rev Sarah Monroe applied on Oct 4, citing her position as a pastor and the fact that she serves as pastor to most residents at the encampment, her application was denied. The city engineer, in charge of deciding what services would be allowed, told her that she “did not provide enough detail” or a schedule. Rev Monroe informed the city that pastoral care and visits could not be scheduled and she could not provide personal information of people she was visiting as a matter of confidentiality.

Tim Quigg, a local businessman and philanthropist, and April Obi Boling, a local woman who has multiple family members living in the camp and is an enrolled member of the Quileute Tribe, joined the suit. Neither of them applied for permits and all three of the plaintiffs believe that it is a violation of their first amendment rights to freely speak to their friends and loved ones and exercise freedom of religion.

The Rev Sarah Monroe is the priest in charge of Chaplains on the Harbor, a ministry that serves people experiencing poverty and homelessness in Grays Harbor County. Her statement follow:

We have not undertaken this lawsuit lightly. The recent actions of the City of Aberdeen regarding the encampment along the Chehalis River pose threat to our deepest moral and constitutional values. It seems unprecedented, in this country, for a local government to bar advocates, clergy, service providers, family members– basically anyone trying to assist vulnerable people in getting out of homelessness– from meeting them where they are staying. We do not believe that this is a good or safe place to live; we simply acknowledge that, for many people, there is little other choice and, while they are in those circumstances, they need pastoral care and support. It is troubling that the City Engineer has been tasked with leading this process, as opposed to someone whose expertise is in health and human services. This signals to us that the City of Aberdeen is not primarily concerned with the 100+ human beings living in crisis on this site, but rather concerned with aesthetic appearances and “cleaning up the town.”

Mayor Larson himself has agreed, on public record, that the process of registering encampment residents and requiring all third party visitors to be approved by the city is comparable to the process of visiting incarcerated people– and that the key difference is these encampment residents can come and go as they please. Combat veterans living with acute agoraphobia cannot easily come and go as they please. Disabled people living with severe chronic pain, amputations, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress cannot easily come and go as they please. People who look visibly poor, in this city, often cannot come and go as they please due to frequent incidents of harassment and vigilante violence on the basis of their housing status.

My permit to visit this encampment was denied by the city on the grounds that I did not provide enough detail, or a schedule, or a clear list of what I intend to do during my visits. I am a priest. I have been pastoring the people in this camp for five years. I do everything from drive people to the hospital, to prayer, to taking people to social service appointments, to performing last rites when people die here. These essential pastoral duties do not happen on a schedule, as any member of the clergy can attest. I have continued to visit people, even though I have been denied a permit, and am petitioning the court to prevent the city from arresting me.

Homeless people have a constitutionally protected right to freedom of religious expression. I have a constitutionally protected right to my freedom of religious expression, which includes serving the poor and the sick and the hungry. The city’s actions are a clear attempt to isolate, marginalize, and further criminalize people who have already been pushed to the edge of existence in this community. I consider it my duty as an American citizen and my vocation as a priest to stand against this.

The Rev. Sarah Monroe Files Lawsuit Against City of Aberdeen, WA

26 thoughts on “The Rev. Sarah Monroe Files Lawsuit Against City of Aberdeen, WA

  • November 19, 2018 at 5:32 pm
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    Sarah, you have my prayer support and will have my financial support, as well. Thank you for your continued witness for the Gospel.

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  • November 19, 2018 at 9:12 pm
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    Sarah, good for you! Those people are blessed to have people so committed to caring about them. You will prevail.

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  • November 19, 2018 at 10:15 pm
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    STANDING OVATION!!!!
    From me!

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  • November 19, 2018 at 10:17 pm
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    Please donate at least a tithe of what you are spending on Thanksgiving to Chaplains on the Harbor on ecww.org website.

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  • November 19, 2018 at 10:30 pm
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    I guess I’ll consider myself a pastor now: after all I can get a license over the internet for $29.95. That’s right only $29.95. For all my change I can get a Gideon bible, a 2 liter bottle of mountain dew and a pack of Paul mall cigarettes. Now if each of these folks would just pool their nickels, dimes and quarters they all could take part in this life saving mission. So rather than trading your food stamps or your children’s education on nickel and dime bags, but a bible and get to work.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 4:31 am
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    Bless you Rev. And best wishes in your lawsuit. Thank you for being kind and standing for what’s right.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 7:55 am
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    This needs to end.. these people are not just down on their luck, the are criminals, druggies and are living on a property and not paying anything!!! They don’t have rights to this land.. and never have!!! They throw third dirty needs where ever and poop where ever they see fit.. they r destroying the water and the land around it!! Aberdeen is not I repeat not a rich town.. and this law suit is utterly ridiculous. And needs to be stopped. If she’s so worried about these people. The church needs to take every single one of them in. Every single one. Instead of making taxpayers fit the bill for something she wants to do. Enough is enough of the enabling.

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    • November 20, 2018 at 10:09 pm
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      This is not how homelessness works, nor is the church taking them all in, going to solve the issue. Not all homeless people are criminals or have addictions, or mental illness. The only true statement is that they are without a home. Now what are you doing on a Christian website devoid of all compassion? That is not what Jesus would do.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 9:49 am
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    Is this the land of the free and the home of the brave? I don’t think so anymore!

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  • November 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm
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    I look around when I am at church on Sunday and wonder about who really believes. This story says we have many who believe they can get rid of those who are having a hard time by cutting off access to help. Those of us who have been fortunate in our lives whether by chance, hard work need to respect those who have been left out even if they seem to have made choices that hurt. Christ came to save those who needed saving and are humble enough to accept it. Pray that those in power are humbled by their position in life.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 1:31 pm
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    First off, I would like to know why those disabled people aren’t on social security disability ?????

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    • November 20, 2018 at 10:12 pm
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      It can take years to get social security. Proof of disability through multiple medical appointments. Someone who is homeless and carless can have a difficult time accessing medical care. They often go through multiple denials and appeals for SSI

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    • November 21, 2018 at 12:08 am
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      Many are on ss disability..yet they have spent on drugs for years. They have refused help that has been offered. This program set up was to help those willing to agree to do whatever it took to get them in housing.. each time anyone has tried to clear this land someone from outside comes in & legal things happen. The mayor set up services to help each one of them.. this group has never been willing to start with one thing..treatment. drugs has always been the real issue here.. without someone enabling this group again..maybe they would have made it.. no one gave them the chance..had to but in again..
      VA has housing for one man who passed he refused it..tribes are always willing to help members..Some of this half story told

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  • November 20, 2018 at 1:36 pm
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    This is completely asinine, the Washington state department of ecology and the EPA both need to be there correcting the ecological disaster down there. It’s nothing more than a junky village they’re desicrating the Chehalis River. Absolutely no mind at all about a sustainable habitat, the lawlessness and disgraceful way of life this horrific village is conducting is the entire bane of the entire human civilization. Shut it down! General Douglas MacArthur razed hooverville in 1932, at the height of the great depression at least back then poverty was real. These skanks stay obliterated on illegal narcotics and whisky, believe me that shit is never free.

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    • November 20, 2018 at 10:15 pm
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      Sir are you a member of the episcopal church? Where did you learn this utter lack of compassion, not to mention utter false assumptions?

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  • November 20, 2018 at 2:13 pm
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    Also why doesn’t the Indian Tribe the lady is an honorary member of help her with her family members in this camp?

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    • November 20, 2018 at 10:14 pm
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      I don’t believe she is an honorary member but a member. Also, why should a tribe be responsible for what indigenous people in the camp have endured through centuries of oppression?

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    • November 21, 2018 at 12:23 am
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      She refused to go! She could not get drugs there. This is not about homeless people..this is about those, some with incomes, nearly all with food stamps.(they sell those cards for money for drugs) they choose to live here to use drugs daily. Then they panhandle or claim their hungrey. We have 2 feeding programs here that serve3 meals a day. Now I hear one more..
      Loving them is teaching them until they are willing to get off drugs they will be miserable.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 3:34 pm
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    What kind of country are we living in these days? Have the God hating, communist loving, Democrats taken over in Aberdeen since I left for Tenn.?

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    • November 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm
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      No. The druggies have.

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  • November 20, 2018 at 5:52 pm
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    I cant even take my young children to the Aberdeen Public Library anymore without seeing a homeless person shooting up in the alley, defecating(woman and men, pants all the way down,) men wrestling ripping eachothers pants off, people who are bleeding on their face or body from God only knows what. Its not right that we pay such high taxes on all our utilities and when we try and go downtown with our families , it can loom like a lost apocalyptic war zone. If said people were really making an impact on the homeless people by the river , those folks would be showing signs of rehabilitating their lives. Not terrorizing the downtown area. If people want to change their lives they would take steps.Enabling them is not helping!
    Stop suing and start praying for these folks and setting good healthy bounderies!

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  • November 21, 2018 at 4:13 am
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    moorejulie1963@gmail.com All i know is becarefull of what you say because anything could happen,you your self could be homeless ,a blink of an eye. You a ain’t know better than anybody else,I don’t care who you are ….believe that… I don’t care if you make millions or you don’t. No one is better than anyone, every human on this planet earth
    . ..one day you will see. And who are you to judge anyone ,,are you god? AND I DON’T REMEMBER YOU BARROWING MY SHOE TO WEAR. ONE MORE THING IT’S NONE OF MY BUSINESS WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT ME…HAVE A GREAT DAY

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  • November 21, 2018 at 7:46 am
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    Sarah keep up the great work….Aberdeen doesn’t have anybody’s best interest…they are trying to drive out the helpless and the homeless…they are Heartless…

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  • November 22, 2018 at 3:14 am
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    She didn’t fill out her paperwork correctly. Just like this website requires me to fill out the data correctly

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  • November 24, 2018 at 3:40 pm
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    Wow, I feel sorry for this poor pastor. She’s working so hard for such a mean, petty, selfish congregation. I’m glad I read further than just the article so I know never to have anything to do with you people. From her example I would have expected better.

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  • November 26, 2018 at 12:24 am
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    I am speechless but here goes. Yes drugs and alcohol are part of homeless communities, and so is mental illness and systemic oppression.
    I pray as do many homeless people. We cannot draw assumptions that they all fit into a stero type being described in some of the posts here.
    My own guidance comes from the Baptismal Covenant “To respect the dignity of Every human being”.
    Very few people can connect with the beautiful inner persons living in this encampment and thank God Sarah and the other team members of Chaplains of the Harbor have been able to.
    I here the frustration of those who are working hard to beautify the community and in God’s time joining together in a spirit of compassion Perhaps Aberdeen can become a beautiful place for all. It will not be an easy path.
    I have known Sarah for me any years and as I am “aging out” of my own ministry Sarah gives me hope that the prophetic work of the churchcontinues. Bless you Sarah.

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