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I was alerted to an article in The Chronicle/Greater Lewis County, Washington regarding the homeless. In brief, the article focused on the story of Open Arms volunteers who had stapled bags with scarves, hats and gloves for the homeless to trees in George Washington Park, Centralia. The city removed the items as they violated the city’s vandalism ordinance, putting staples into the park’s trees could potentially damage or destroy the trees. In the city’s favor, they didn’t trash the items, instead they returned them to the volunteer organizers.
Open Arms founders, husband and wife team Chris and Chandra Shilley, were doing what good people do, they were trying to provide at least bare necessities for the homeless. Their organization also provides food and sleeping bags for the homeless.
I imagine it gets quite cold in winter in Washington state, according to the Chronicle’s article, a man had died of hypothermia in mid- December in Centralia’s Riverside Park.
Was it wrong for the city to do what they did, to remove the much needed items? As much as I want to say it was, I don’t think so. The city wasn’t telling the Shilley’s that helping those in need was wrong or that it couldn’t be done, they were saying it just needed to be done in a different manner. Another organization had worked with the city to find ways to distribute much needed items to those in need, without violating the city’s vandalism ordinance, without potential damage to trees.
The article reminded me that just weeks ago, Derek Logue of OnceFallen.com received assistance from the Florida/WAR community in bringing donated personal hygiene items, underwear, socks, laundry detergent and clothing to residents of a homeless camp for registrants in Miami,Florida. The weather may be warmer in Florida than in Washington, but homeless is homeless and I have no doubt that there are deaths in Florida camps, parks and parking lots due to the heat just like deaths due to hypothermia in other parts of the country.
For me, the irony of the article is that some of the very people who need those basic necessity items, homeless registrants, are probably prohibited from being in George Washington Park. With registrant restrictions being what they are, parks are usually off-limits.