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** I apologize to John Hoyte for the incorrect spelling of his name in the June 28 column, whose name appears here in its’ correct form.  Thankfully, John is still speaking to me.

The Taskforce has been keeping an eye on the Supreme Court relating to Johnson V. Grant’s Pass.  In this case, the city challenged the law which disallowed its’ ability to remove the unhoused from public places without providing shelter as well as being able to Impose a fine against the unhoused individuals.  The Court ruled the city was within its’ rights to act as it saw fit.  As you can imagine, advocates for the homeless severely disparaged the decision.  And all jurisdictions, without constraints, are rethinking their actions 

For the members of the Taskforce, the decision hits hard at our concerns for unhoused people who essentially are residents and neighbors.  John and I spoke a couple of days ago by phone about this very issue.  How can a community specifically target its’ citizens, not take care of their needs, and fine them in the process?  Elizabeth Maupin, through her work with Issaquah Sammamish Interfaith Coalition, raised many questions.  What can we do to protect those who can no longer afford local rents?  Can we create safe zones?  Is it time for restrictions on rent inflation?  Can we create more Cooperative communities?  Is it time for an effort to cool the housing market and to invest in creating housing options that are affordable to low-wage workers and people with disabilities?  Thank you, Elizabeth- the Taskforce will take up these and more ideas at our next meeting on July 20.

We must continue as faith communities to identify ways to care for our neighbors- there is always something to do, always something we can do.  Obviously, advocacy is needed in this time, because jurisdictions will make decisions based on the Court’s 6-3 decision.  Outcomes may well be disastrous, especially as regards a lack of concern to provide solutions and shelter, as well as the awful results of fines.  We need to continue to serve but also step up to speak for our unhoused neighbors.  They want to be participating as citizens- give them that ability.  Keep your eyes on your local jurisdiction.  Remember, open minds, open hearts, open doors.  Uplifting the body of Christ!

Leading into this column also are some recent readings about the strain on wages of the extreme rise of rental rates.  Concurrently, there is a 28% rise in complaints in Washington State about mobile home parks, most about landlords.  A new phrase has entered the fray, ‘economic evictions.’  That is, rapidly raising rates so that the mobile parks and rental units can be upscaled without regard for the current residents.

The sad part of writing about homelessness and the unhoused is there are multiple topics about which to write.  Most of the issues are negative, in the effects, the descriptions, the outcomes, etc.  Fortunately, actions taken by churches to alleviate the pain are mostly positive in nature; and this positivity forms the basis for this column.  Please be alert to the advocacy issues, as well.

Be well, do good works, love one another.

Don Fornoff, Member of the Bishop’s Taskforce on Homelessness

Updates from the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness

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