We have good news and disappointing news. Let’s enjoy the good news first. A committed team of volunteers with funding and support from the Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking Network (now a part of Safe Sites for All) donated time, energy, and materials to create a very functional parking area for our temporary guests living in their vehicles. They hand delivered a letter about the program to neighbors and invited them to a zoom meeting and to contact the church or the committee with any questions; they talked to nearby businesses about the program. There is a porta-potty and handwashing station on site. David Pettit serves as our very committed, creative and skilled Site Host and Breck Lebegue serves as Volunteer Coordinator, seeking subject-specific training for 12+ volunteers and scheduling site visits by those volunteers. We met all the criteria, did our due diligence and were ready to welcome guests which we did at the end of April.
And now for the disappointing news. During a site-orientation a neighbor cursed the volunteers, said negative things about people who are homeless, and attempted to rally other neighbors to his point of view. He was not interested in conversation. Concerned, one of our volunteers called the police. The officers spoke with those on site and the neighbor and completed an incident report. The TUUC Safe Parking team has also documented the event. Unfortunately, our guests have not returned to the site following a subsequent event that our security cameras recorded but not in enough clarity to identify the person creating the disturbance.
So where are we? In consultation with Colin DeForrest, Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking Network coordinator, we decided to pause having guests on site until we can develop a plan to move forward, agreeing that the safety of our guests is paramount. Subsequently a meeting was held with Mr. DeForrest, an officer who is a member of the Tacoma Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), and a few members of our TUUC group. We are now arranging an upcoming meeting in our parking lot with neighbors so we have a venue for more discussion and to answer any questions about the program; that meeting will include Mr. DeForrest and the officer who is a member of the Tacoma Homeless Outreach Team.
Meanwhile, Site Host David Pettit and a rotating corps of volunteers continue to visit the site, keeping it tidy and making sure the porta-potty and the handwashing station are in good order. Even though we are not currently hosting overnight guests, the porta-potty and the handwashing station are helping those who need access to sanitation while keeping the church grounds free of human waste. We are still deeply committed to supporting those who are impacted by housing insecurity and we will keep you, the congregation who so overwhelmingly supported this initiative, informed.