I am saddened to once again realize that the caring community of Whidbey Island is in some ways a myth.
When I read in the newspaper that 325 people had signed a petition against a new home for the emergency homeless shelter, now somewhat ironically called “The Haven,” I was at first astonished then angry.
It is clear from the article that many of the signers do not know that The Haven is not new but was started in Oak Harbor almost four years ago. Those who think there should be no shelter on the island because of the “lack of services” also appear not to know that most of the people who use the emergency shelter are our homeless. Many have connections to family and friends on Whidbey, and I would wager have lived here longer than many of the signers.
A large group of people, from elected officials to mental health providers to members of the faith community, to businesses and service organizations, including Rotary and Lions clubs, have worked for years to help support The Haven in Oak Harbor. They provide drivers for the van, shelter space in the churches, take care of laundry, provide food and company.
Together they offer a loving, committed community.
I would like to invite the signers of the petition to reach out to The Haven and volunteer. Spend an evening with the guests playing cards, sharing stories and getting to know them. You’ll find them much less threatening to your way of life than you may believe.
Just try being part of a truly loving community, not one that says “we care, but not here.” That will do wonders for you and the homeless of Whidbey.
Maybe it will turn you into a supporter of The Haven?