Social service workers and pastors in Aberdeen have asked the city for more time to address a large encampment of people who have taken up residence near the Chehalis River, just east of where it opens into the Grays Harbor.
An estimated 25 to 30 people are living on two pieces of private land just west of Highway 101. They’ve been there for months, a symptom of the high poverty in the area and the need for more social services, said Rev. Sarah Monroe, an Episcopal pastor who has been working with the people who live there.
Bill Sidor, code enforcement officer for the city of Aberdeen, posted notices to vacate the property in March because several large piles of garbage violated city codes. Sidor contacted the property owners — Early Whiting and Michael Lang — who agreed to have the city post the notices.
According to Sidor, the city gave the campers until the end of March to leave and was unable to provide outreach to the campers.
“We don’t have those kinds of resources,” he said.
Monroe and other social service providers and pastors have been out to the campsite and are looking for another place for them to stay. They asked the Aberdeen City Council for more time to find a place at a March 25 meeting.
Some of the agencies agreed to support the campers. Catholic Community Services sent a letter to the city of Aberdeen saying that the agency could provide a dumpster and portable toilets near the current encampment or at an alternative site once the people move.
In the letter, the agency said that Aberdeen’s network of social services is not big or diverse enough to meet the need.
“No single approach can address the varying needs of populations experiencing homelessness,” the letter read.
Mayor Bill Simpson agreed to provide more time but said he would have to get approval from the property owners. Simpson said in an interview with Real Change that he had no problem with people staying there, as long as they had approval from the property owners and were able to maintain the site.
“I would be willing to put a dumpster down there, if they would be willing to clean up their own messes,” Simpson said.