Photo by Patrick L. Myers - Pastor Val Metropoulos of Amazing Grace Lutheran talks with another volunteer during a previous homeless encampment move that took place in 2015.
The Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Aberdeen has recently set up space for the floating homeless encampment for the second time. The camp was moved to the church's property on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Pastor Val Metropoulos explained that the congregation had voted on the matter and that a meeting was also held with neighbourhood residents and a system worked out to facilitate communication between the homeless encampment and neighbours.
"It's hard in a neighbourhood and people within the neighbourhood often fear change, but the neighbourhood has formed a neighbourhood watch and they have invited a member of the camp to be a part of the watch ... They have also invited a representative from the camp to attend their meetings once a month. So the camp feels a responsibility to do their part to make sure that there isn't crime from within," said Metropoulos.
The Amazing Grace Lutheran Church was the first in the area to accept a homeless encampment after the Chehalis River property was cleared of it's encampment at the behest of property owners. Metropoulos described a network of churches that have signed on to arrangements in which each church will only host the homeless encampment once a year.
"This is not the solution. We know that. Permanent housing is the ultimate goal," stated Metropoulos.
Currently the churches hold the encampments for ninety days at a time. This is to ensure that too much wear and tear isn't forced on the churches and broader neighborhoods that host the camps.
"State law allows churches to host these camps and many churches throughout the United States have found that keeping a camp for 90 days is about what works best. Anymore than that [and] it becomes a burden on the church and the area that the camp is in. It's hard on campers to have to move that often, but to be able to sustain it for the long run, we need to limit the times at each church," Metropoulos explained.
As far as order in the camp goes, Metropoulos stated that it is a huge misconception that homeless people bring crime and drug use.
"The majority of criminals live within homes and houses. They need a home in order to be enabled to do these types of things," said Metropolous.
Metropoulos further stated that people are often critical of what the camp looks like as it's moving or after it's been moved, but people also forget that these homeless people are living outside. They're cold and are expected to set up their own new camp and clean the last camp -- difficult work on top of trying to survive.
"It's a tough job, and they do it. It just may not be perfect," concluded Metropoulos.