On September 13th, the Tacoma City Council will be hosting a Study Session to discuss a proposed ordinance that would affect all sanctioned shelter sites, including the Tiny House Village on 6th and Orchard. This proposal came to my attention earlier this week in a meeting I attended to discuss the progress of our partnership with the Low Income Housing Institute in expanding the use of our property for rentable low-income housing.
The proposal, which is being put forth by our council representative, John Hines, is to ban unauthorized encampments and storage of possessions from unhoused individuals on public property within 10 blocks of any sanctioned shelter site. This effectively creates a one square mile no camping zone around 9-10 Tacoma shelter sites, including ours. Read the proposal explanation here.
In the article, Council Member Hines states, "I think we can all agree that everyone in our community deserves a healthy and safe place to live - including those currently in encamping, in temporary shelters, and in the neighborhoods that surround them." What this proposal does not account for is the people we collectively continue to fail - the very people who might find themselves on the street because of lack of access to a sanctioned shelter, but at the end of the day will still need to find a place to lay their head.
This proposal does not address any of the root causes of homelessness as it continues to plague many of the most vulnerable in our community. Instead of finding community solutions to address the wide swath of barriers that keep individuals from securing permanent housing like mental and physical healthcare, job training, childcare, or simply providing the necessary shelter needed itself, this ordinance would effectively criminalize the predicament of not having a place to sleep, putting the onus of its enforcement on the police force.
Did you know that the Tacoma Housing and Urban Development Authority has closed their waitlist for new applicants seeking affordable housing? This is because the waitlist is currently backed up for three years.
Did you know that since the village opened on 6th and Orchard, neighbors have reported less suspicious activity on and around the church campus?
Did you know that the staff who run our tiny house village also perform routine safety checks of our property 24/7 to help insure that anyone who might need help receives that help?
As a community of faith, I'm reminded of the numerous examples in the holy scriptures in which ignoring the cries of the poor is clearly defined as antithetical to a life of faith in God; to ignore the cries of the poor is to ignore the presence of God (see Proverbs 21:13).
Our congregation is not in the business of taking political stances, but when the issues of local governance affect the treatment of God's children with which we are called to be in community and mutual support, I believe it is vital that we engage the process by which these big decisions with life and death implications are made.
This is why I will be attending our next City Council meeting on Tuesday at 5pm. The long-term effects of this proposal could be detrimental to the very mission of which we understand our own participation in God's realm on earth to be: to be builders of community, to be advocates for justice, to be companions with all of God's people on this journey of life, including the ones who are most vulnerable.
If you'd like to join the session, you can attend in-person at the Tacoma Municipal Building Council Chambers (747 Market St., 1st Floor) or virtually on TV Tacoma, Facebook LIVE or ZOOM. Access details are available at cityoftacoma.org/councilmeetings.
I look forward to engaging in this critical conversation and to the future educational opportunities our Mission Possible committee will be co-organizing with the Low Income Housing Institute for our congregation and the wider community of Tacoma. In the meantime, please keep those who are most vulnerable on the streets and in other vulnerable places in your prayers, especially in the midst of poor air quality due to the uptick of wildfires during this season.
Among our Joys
We lift up in celebration village residents, Tisha and Thomas Carter, whose marriage Pastor Doug officiated on Wednesday. Please keep in your prayers Tisha, Thomas and their children as they begin this new chapter of life together. Cards of congratulations can be addressed to the church which will then be forwarded to the village.
Among our Concerns
Steven Lynd, a new(er) friend of our community whose open heart surgery last Tuesday was a success. We pray for him as he begins his road of recovery.
Mark Housman, who will continue his recovery after returning home today (Saturday, Sept. 10th) after a stint in physical rehab.
Larry Mosher and his spouse, Susie Mosher.
Bear, Melanie Peabody's partner
Daniel Davis, friend of Susan Pearson
Rachel Morford, daughter of Mary Morford
We pray for our homebound friends, Helen Bosley, Elaine Jonson, Harry and Margaret Lobberegt, Jane Nelson, Marylu and Joseph Mills and Jim and Kay Thompson.
Among our local and global community concerns:
We pray for those in harm's way in Washington and the surrounding region due to wildfires. Please pray for all of life as we grapple with the challenges set before because of human-caused climate change.
We pray for all who are living currently at the village on 6th and Orchard; pray for peace in the midst of the many circumstances in which those experiencing houselessness endure. We also pray for a renewed sense of urgency in our city, neighborhood, and congregation in our work to secure housing as a right for all human beings.
This week, we lift up our Global Ministries partners in Colombia.
If you'd like to share a prayer joy or concern, please contact Pastor Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the church office. Please indicate whether your prayer is to be shared publicly, or if you'd like it to be kept private.