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From Don Fornoff, the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness:

Your Taskforce correspondent spends a lot of time reading articles for up-to-date information on homelessness. Others I read to gain more and better understanding of the depth and breadth of homelessness. I write of these to help our parish supporters develop answers for problems that need to be solved.

One article said building more housing won’t make it more affordable. It made me annoyed that this thought was likely planted by someone with money in the game. Whether or not this is true, the cynicism that comes out of this attitude is not a situation supporters of the unhoused need to give in to. We should all understand our local situations and not take NO for an answer. Keep building as needed. There are different ways to build. Don’t give up!

Another piece came from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, spreading the word that there were successes during the last legislative session to help with housing builds and with services to the unhoused. WLIHA is preparing for 2025. Don’t give up!

A local news article touted the construction by a group called HASCO of 3 affordable housing builds in Edmonds. One is for senior and disabled housing. Total number of units is 120. Is this an opportunity to provide services by outreach? Things are getting done. More needs to be done. Don’t give up!

Lastly, a valued friend who was also a member of the Taskforce before she moved to Ashland, OR, sent me some Southern Oregon news articles about the Johnson V. Grant’s Pass Supreme Court case, which, of course, involves that city in their area. I welcomed the local and vocal commentary. Much of the discourse supported the city. Other thoughts cited the challenges of the unhoused in Grant’s Pass. Virtually all residents who have fallen on hard times seem to have escaped those who support criminal fines but have not escaped those who support the unhoused. A Rogue Valley Times editorial concluded its’ piece: “Cities pass ordinances and states, including Oregon, have passed laws regarding the conduct and status of the homeless. And yet, on Monday (April 22 hearing) in the nation’s capital, 32,000 plus words were shed seeking, in the words of Justice Barrett, “where to draw the line.” The editors further stated that the chief justice was right to ask whether the justices were the best people to make such policy judgments- because the search for clarity on moral and ethical dilemmas must begin within. Well said, editor! Don’t give up!

Regardless of the outcome of Johnson V. Grant’s Pass (we’ll know more in June when the decision is released), we who are supporters of the about-to-be and the unhoused must continue to look inside ourselves for solvable answers, not arrests and fines. As Episcopalians, our Baptismal Covenant reminds us with question and answer: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? I will, with God’s help. Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being? I will, with God’s help. Who can give up, with God’s help!

Lastly, a thought to guide your work and your actions. Housing instability and homelessness is a failure of policy. Should policy even be a part of the process? There are two parts to this, as I see it- relentless push back against forces which create poverty and homelessness, and relentless actions taken to bring people into stability. Don’t give up!

Tomorrow is another meeting of the Bishop’s Homelessness Taskforce, which is still active despite the challenges of COVID-19, disparate ideas and actions, up-and-down local politics, and slight people-power. Since November 2019, the task force has continued to push forward toward solvable solutions. Participants have moved in and out, giving of what expertise and experience they possess, until our numbers today are 32. We meet because we remain vigilant to the challenge. Don’t give up!

Updates from the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness

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