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

As I write this piece on Tuesday, I am scanning the Washington State House and Senate for updates on the calendar. This is the most up-to-date information for the current session, 37 days into a 60-day session. There were a couple of wins for issues the Task Force on Homelessness was tracking. HB 2114, for rent stabilization, was most notable. It passed the house 54-43-1 despite strong rental and real estate push-back.  For those who wrote your representatives, thank you.  It makes a difference.  HB 2160, for housing development, passed 56-40-2. HB 1998, co-living housing, passed 96-0. All of the other bills the Task Force has highlighted over the past month did not pass. We need to stay the course of advocacy and direct support, as the unhoused situation is not getting any better.

I would like to point out that the interfaith group IFAD induced over 200 activists to attend its meeting in Olympia. Likewise, WLIHA, Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, produced over 200 activists to show up in force, testifying and meeting with representatives. One of the memorable comments by a housing-challenged person said a great deal about the rental situation: “I am a human being, not a dollar sign.”

Pay attention to when representatives will hold town hall meetings, access to which can be found on your reps’ websites. Often, your district will have both House members and a Senator. Check it out. 

Other news can be gleaned from news reporting. The King County Regional Homeless Authority has been unsuccessful in managing the crisis – a new director is being hired. Also, a private effort to address homelessness failed. What does that mean for our parishes? We need to keep our eyes on opportunities that can make a difference. Interject yourselves into the problem-solving.

On a national level, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Grants Pass, OR v. Gloria Johnson, to determine whether, under our Constitution, a local government can make it a crime to involuntarily live outside without shelter when adequate shelter is not available. The hearing is scheduled for late April, with a decision expected in late June or early July. Written briefs are currently being filed. This is a very important case because if the unhoused are ignored, it will allow local jurisdictions to avoid the hard work of providing adequate shelter and services to those in need.

Hang in there, Dear Ones, whether or not the powers that be make our Jesus work of tending to the poor easier or harder. 

Blessings to you all,
Don Fornoff

Updates from the Bishop’s Task Force on Homelessness

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