Mutual aid is all that remains as the county, the city, and the churches all refuse shelter
As I write this the rain is pouring down here in Aberdeen, after the first snowfall, the rain is somehow a welcome respite. The comfort of a home is, unfortunately, not afforded to everyone in this town. Many of my closest friends live in tents and pallet built homes down by the river. Normally there is a emergency cold weather shelter open by now. Shelter is hard to come by here, pretty much the only game in town is the Union Gospel Mission, open everyday, but closed to many who have received a lifetime ban by mission staff for frivolous “infractions” like sleeping outside of the shelter when its full, looking at staff wrong, or even just refusing to participate in their religious services. But at least when it gets cold and wet there is a county funded, privately ran low barrier cold weather shelter in town, easily accessed by the concentration of unhoused people in Aberdeen. That is not true this year.
The plan is still unclear, despite our repeated attempts to question officials on what the situation is there has been no update in at least two weeks. The last word the residents of Aberdeen got was that the city council had voted to reject the shelter within it’s city limits saying,
“[The City of Aberdeen] respectfully rejects all candidates for the cold weather shelter and asks that the applicant and the county work together to find other potential host locations outside of the Aberdeen city limits”
The Council voted on November 9th 8-3 in favor of requesting to the county that Aberdeen “be taken off the list for consideration of a cold weather shelter” for this winter, affirming earlier objections from Aberdeen Mayor Pete Schave to the shelter proposals. In an interview with The Daily World the County commissioners stated that they would not go against the wishes of the City. Commissioners Kevin Pine and Jill Warne are both a part of the local gang of far right politicians whose aim is to eradicate the homeless population of this town to make way for their millionaire friend Terry Emmert to buy and develop all of Aberdeen to fulfill their vision of a gentrified tourist trap here in Aberdeen. Pine said in a phone interview Wednesday that the county has asked the contractors who proposed cold weather shelters in Aberdeen to search for alternative locations, but that those entities hadn’t yet reported any new locations back to the county.
These entities were first The Moore Wright Group who were unsuccessful in opening their shelter last year and whose proposal was tabled, and remains so. Second was Chaplains on the Harbor, a very prominent homeless outreach provider over the last several years. Chaplains was previously involved in suing the City of Aberdeen over it’s treatment of the homeless encampment on the banks of the Chehalis River. They have been blacklisted by this group of far right fascists including the Mayor, two of three Commissioners, and most of the City Council, ever since. The behind the scenes coordination involved here can only be speculated to but based on the previous history it does appear that the City and County officials have conspired to block any attempt to have a cold weather shelter that serves the vast majority of the homeless in Grays Harbor County – located here in Aberdeen.
Even the churches seem to have closed their doors to the homeless. Despite have vast legal protection to open a shelter under RCW 36.01.290, which states, in part:
(1) A religious organization may host the homeless on property owned or controlled by the religious organization whether within buildings located on the property or elsewhere on the property outside of buildings.(2) Except as provided in subsection (7) of this section, a county may not enact an ordinance or regulation or take any other action that:(a) Imposes conditions other than those necessary to protect public health and safety and that do not substantially burden the decisions or actions of a religious organization regarding the location of housing or shelter, such as an outdoor encampment, indoor overnight shelter, temporary small house on-site, or vehicle resident safe parking, for homeless persons on property owned or controlled by the religious organization;(b) Requires a religious organization to obtain insurance pertaining to the liability of a municipality with respect to homeless persons housed on property owned by a religious organization or otherwise requires the religious organization to indemnify the municipality against such liability;(c) Imposes permit fees in excess of the actual costs associated with the review and approval of permit applications. A county has discretion to reduce or waive permit fees for a religious organization that is hosting the homeless;(d) Specifically limits a religious organization’s availability to host an outdoor encampment on its property or property controlled by the religious organization to fewer than six months during any calendar year. However, a county may enact an ordinance or regulation that requires a separation of time of no more than three months between subsequent or established outdoor encampments at a particular site;(e) Specifically limits a religious organization’s outdoor encampment hosting term to fewer than four consecutive months;(f) Limits the number of simultaneous religious organization outdoor encampment hostings within the same municipality during any given period of time. Simultaneous and adjacent hostings of outdoor encampments by religious organizations may be limited if located within one thousand feet of another outdoor encampment concurrently hosted by a religious organization;(g) Limits a religious organization’s availability to host safe parking efforts at its on-site parking lot, including limitations on any other congregationally sponsored uses and the parking available to support such uses during the hosting
That leaves the anarchists.
Grassroots mutual aid efforts seem to be the only game in town when it comes to helping our unhoused comrades stay warm and dry this year. Chehalis River Mutual Aid Network is running a all hands on deck emergency fundraiser to buy bulk winter gear and tarp material to distribute on the streets directly to those who need it. That’s what works best, direct aid. If you can give directly then you might as well give to an organization that does. This “season of giving” please consider them when making any donations, and find them on Open Collective to make that donation tax deductible. all of their links can be found at Linktr.ee/crmutualaidnet.
The urgent need right now is simple. Land & communication. A story in four parts.
By Fox and Annie, Published on: Oct 26, 2022 at 09:04 PM
The city of Aberdeen has renewed its harassment of the local homeless population by clearing out an area of the encampment that has taken root under the Chehalis River Bridge. They claimed that this was necessary in order to allow PUD to access an electrical box. They have yet to do so. The city also claimed that fully one half of the camp would need to move because they were on WADOT land. There are no alternative locations determined by the city for them to go. The map, made as a result of a court settlement over previous harassment, that the city has released recommends people sleeping on the sidewalks of downtown Aberdeen. This is a move calculated to upset the local business owners in order to legitimize the city’s harassment of the homeless.This is a continuance and an escalation of their tactics to clear encampments that have been established for such a long period of time. The city has refused to find a permanent spot for people to sleep, despite being order to do so by the courts. They have also refused to designate the current camp as an official site, even though the city does provide a single restroom (for about 60 people) and trash service. The city keeps letting the trash pile up, even though they are in charge of sanitation there.
One of our core organizers felt that this was unjust, seeing as thought these people were told to move to this exact location by the Mayor. Without an officially designated space for people to go the homeless will continued to be shuffled around and face constant lack of stability in their lives, making it harder to get off the streets. What is needed is land for people to be able to stay long term and set up a shelter that can be heated in winter. People need enough stability to know they wont be kicked out and shuffled to another spot of town at any moment. That way they can focus on other things to improve their conditions. But when Mayor Pete Schave was reached out to for comment he declined multiple emails. When the city will not even communicate their plans it makes people in town wonder what is going in terms of planning for a solution. The City’s ad hoc homeless committee has been stacked with local fascists and has no hope of reaching consensus even amongst them. Most of the city council is angry and disappointed with the Mayor currently, they feel he hasn’t gone far ENOUGH in eliminating the homeless from Aberdeen. That’s what their rhetoric resembles at it core, eliminationist talking points. With politicians like this its hardly surprising to hear that they are unresponsive, conceited, and out-of-touch with what the average citizen wants, a fair and humane solution to poor people having to sleep on the street. To some this means land and warmth, to others this means incarceration or expulsion.
Since Mayor Pete chose not to respond to the following emails we chose to publish them here. Our hope is that this can spark a larger discussion in our community about what needs to be done, what is being done, and the gap between those two. Below you find four emails starting more than two weels, written by someone who regularly drives around the streets passing out supplies, checking on wounds, and assisting people however she can. She has been instrumental in building a community capable of taking on our local political elites, yet she does it with uncompromising grace. We hope that you find something in these words that resonates with you. Then we hope you take action. See you in the streets.
Date: Wed, Sep 14, 2022, 11:45 AM
Hello, I hope all is well.
My name is [redacted], a resident here in Aberdeen. I lend support to our people struggling & low income families when I can. I wanted to reach out to you today after some internal struggle of how we can best stop patterns with camp & how hard it has been to place people. The constant conflict with campers & city workers, more so when a large group has to be moved. I’ve talked to workers, I get it. I talk to campers, I it. I am here because I think we can make things go easier for everyone. We just need to communicate. I am willing to help & there are people I believe you trust, who will vouche for the bridges I already mend in our community. I’m reaching out because I know we can work together.
I was down at camp & talked to Jay Staten, DOT & the PUD last week. Due to a number of variables campers on the nearest side are going to need to move their tents. 1, away from the PUD box, 2, out from under the curve of the bridge. After reviewing its almost that entire side.
In an effort to have campers relocate with ease & to give the PUD & DOT access towards the end of this month as they need, I wanted to see where the appropriate spot for those campers to go is? Camp is aware & I’ve asked they start going through their things in anticipation so was trying to piece together the rest before the end of the month.
You can reach me here. I am open & asking to coordinate something so the impact at camp, the interaction between the city workers when the move happens & the timeliness of it all goes smooth. We have a estimated date, where do I put everyone? My goal would be to have everyone moved so public works could come in on the agreed day & do their thing without issue. Also lessening the impact on campers that need to move again. All of us on the same page.
I appreciate your time.
Date: Fri, Sep 30, 2022, 10:52 AM
Pete, I hope the week has been good to you.
We all really just want to work together. I’m just asking for a location to relocate these people that have to move. They have to have a place to go.
I am available always. Here is my cell [redacted]. Please do not hesitate to reach out. We can work together too make all this stuff so much easier.
Date: Tue, Oct 4, 2022, 9:28 AM
Hi. Today is Tuesday October 4th and as you can imagine we have a number of displaced individuals with more to come this week. Our attempt to combat this before hand failed because I was unable to get a response from you. I understand that you do not want to say “yes this small area is okay” but Pete you already have and you really by law have too. I have a lot of concerns right not and I am trying my very best to reach a middle ground here for everyone. This whole side of camp is going to disperse to the streets. Business doorways, alleys, abandon houses etc. I promise you us being able to move them over to a area is not only less impactful on them but our community as a whole. This is temporary until the homeless committee and all others who are working towards solutions figures things out. But you have to know just evicting over 30 people here without a place to go is not a smart move.
It’s my assumption that you had CCAP come down yesterday as a solution. Which is great, however CCAP doesn’t offer services that this situation calls for unless they have an area that can house these people and/or they can get them all approved and into houses by Thursday (not reality). So, that does not solve anything for right now. CCAP coordinators call me for crisis response needs like this. Tents, tarps, people stuck in the woods etc. because although funding is there somehow resource and the correct programs are not so their hands are tied. This vulnerable group faces barriers that often do not get them the services they need.
Tomorrow, DOT will be down to place huge boulders around the bridge areas needed. In short, we need to move camp.
Where do they go?
It’s also important you understand these campers have resided here for 6+ months knowingly. The City has provided the bathroom and picked up garbage. In this, there has not been any notices served to any residence by your office. No evictions, no notices in writing, nothing. Yet, they are being forced to move without any space not to mention adequate.
In short, we just do not want all these people who have had this spot displaced. We don’t want 30+ added, having to sleep around town, when they have had their own shelters via tent or what not. I literally just need a strip of concrete, a grassy patch, a field, a parking lot….. I have lists too. List of county and city owner properties. If you want to sit down together and discuss what would work best let me know. If you want to pick a little nook or cranny you think would be the least frowned upon by your peers, that is fine too. I do not care. I just need a place to put our homeless citizens right now.
Cell available 24/7
Date: Mon, Oct 10, 2022, 3:07 PM
As there is an apparent lack of communication throughout the city, county and all persons whom have “control” over what happens to our homeless population and the population not knowing a single thing as well. I thought I would write, again. I write because we now have a camp full of scared people and a bunch of rumors being told to them by lord knows who. What is happening? They were told DOT was coming in and half of the front camp corner was moving and have all been on pins and needles waiting…. I do not get it. Now because of last weeks trauma all of camp (both sides) thinks the city is coming in to sweep it all. To you all this might not inflict feeling but I promise, it is massive to the people who have been residing at this site. These are literal people who’ve been living there and are afraid to wake up to COA every morning not knowing if all their things are going to be taken, and to the sidewalk they go. We also have some very sick, mentally ill, declining homeless people just roaming the streets or sitting on the sidewalk day in and out without anywhere to go. They are tired and can’t ever stabilize because of all of this manufactured instability being inflicted on them. The bottom line and what needs to happen now is our homeless need a designated safe area where they can reside. That is it. This is 100% insanity.