March 15, 2021 Press Release, Serenity Outreach Services
Serenity Outreach Services strongly condemns the city’s decision to sweep the Geri field homeless encampment. We feel the homeless encampment sweeps must be addressed as it relates to us as a nonprofit, as community members, and as tax-paying individuals. The sweep goes against recent CDC guidelines, Whatcom County Health Department guidance, and the recent 9th Circuit Superior Court Ruling.
Continuing to sweep campers during the pandemic, and also in winter weather without providing adequate shelter is dangerous, traumatizing, and technically illegal.
We cannot convey to you how hard it is to render aid and provide services while having to keep track of our homeless population. Many of them require medical care, mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, stability, and proper covid safety screenings.
SOS Bellingham and many other community advocates are working toward providing stability, rendering proper services, and getting more people into long term housing solutions.
Sweeps are costly, traumatic, and counter productive to our work, only extending and delaying the problem.
On top of that, conducting sweeps is also dangerous to the public, forcing people into various new locations, exposing others to COVID 19 and other potential health concerns.
We understand most are tired of hearing about the pandemic, however it must be said that our homeless clients will likely be the last population to receive the vaccine. The risk associated with continuing sweeps is only further alienating our most vulnerable population from centralized services and proper follow up care.
We’re pleading with the city to suspend its ruthless sweeps and to work more efficiently on identifying appropriate, compassionate, and evidenced-based solutions. The city needs to lead by example of mercy in these unprecedented times.
The housing crisis has only just begun. Should Whatcom county and city of Bellingham fail to remedy the housing crisis RIGHT NOW, many reading this very article may end up homeless themselves.
Please stand with us to show the community and our elected officials that compassion and services are what is needed; not sweeps that continue to force the homeless away from that.
Board of Directors
Melissa Gragg (Wisener)
Serenity Outreach Services