To date, there have been no real solutions on how to manage the sheltering of the homeless members of our community offered by the city of Port Townsend or Jefferson County.
A church-sponsored and community-supported tent village at a local county campground is a step up from an illegal “encampment” in the woods near the mill or living on the streets.
In our rural area, it makes sense for self-governing groups of 10 to 15 people supported by nonprofit agencies and churches to be located at our public campgrounds, where there are health and safety supports already in place, as opposed to relying on costly and highly restricted “encampments” at church properties, which are not designed for camping.
The local county fair campground, with its amenities, is open year-round and has very few campers during the spring. This use of the local facility provided additional income to the campground ($6,200 for three months in 2016) as well as a safe and appropriate location for those being sheltered and sponsored by a church as an interim measure.
However, our efforts to truly address and reduce homelessness, not just manage it, need to focus on creating supported housing, including a year-round 24/7 shelter with social service day-support programs for employment, accessing permanent housing and working on issues that contribute to chronic homelessness, such as chemical dependency, mental illness and criminal records.
The alternative is “encampments”— supported or not — in the campgrounds or on the streets.
Barbara E. Morey,
Morey is a member of the Affordable Housing Action Group of Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.