On Wednesday, March 24, an article was published that concerned the Whidbey Homeless Coalition and the new site they are in the process of getting ready to open as the permanent location for The Haven, the overnight shelter currently operating in Oak Harbor.
I was shocked to hear that Whidbey community members would sign a petition, essentially with a “not in my backyard” feel to it.
Not only that, the opponents came across as stating it would be much better if the individuals who so greatly need this shelter, as well as the services they can’t possibly get access to where the shelter is proposed to be, would kindly go be homeless somewhere else.
I was shocked and ashamed at the response of people and towards people, who are my neighbors.
We have people on this island who wander the streets by day and are desperate for a warm, dry, safe place to be able to retreat to.
Pretending you can’t see these people, sometimes right on that popular street corner sitting under a garbage bag tossed over a bush with a pile of their belongings next to them, or, pushing a rolling basket full of blankets and children’s clothes with a six year old trailing behind, won’t make them go away.
There are families, mothers or fathers with their children who, through various scenarios, have become homeless.
There are individuals with mental or physical disabilities, and/or drug addiction, which often goes hand in hand with homelessness.
I think that the ugly truth driving this petition to shut this project down, is that these individuals don’t want this homelessness problem to become “their”problem in “their”neighborhood.
Homelessness should be all of our problem. It’s definitely a problem for those who are in said situation.
And, it should absolutely be a community problem, to be discussed, not in order for it to be swept under the rug, but so hopefully, solutions can be found that go above and beyond the immediate, fundamental, basic need for overnight shelter.
These people are our neighbors, maybe one of our friends’ son or daughter or grandchildren.
I hope the next article to be published is from the other side of this equation.
I hope that some of the individuals who rely and depend upon The Haven, are asked their stories, how this place impacts them, and how necessary they feel it is to have a permanent location.
I hope that would make these “petition signers” understand that a place like The Haven literally saves lives on a daily basis.
I would also hope that seeing from a different perspective would help them learn some compassion and feel empathy for those who need help, even if it’s only one night at a time and even if they have to pass the shelter on the way to the grocery store.