- Written by Ren Autrey
St. Paul Lutheran Church holds annual service on first day of winter to honor dead
By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: December 21, 2016, 9:26 PM
When people gathered on the steps in front of St. Paul Lutheran Church on Wednesday night, it was foggy and 33 degrees. A few dozen people were there to honor those who have died while homeless.
Memorials are held in cities around the country on Dec. 21, the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It’s a chance to memorialize people who maybe haven’t been properly memorialized and give thanks for their time on earth, said Tom Iberle, who heads the Friends of the Carpenter.
It was fitting that the memorial happened at St. Paul in Vancouver, which provides overnight shelter for men during the winter months. Some clients joined in the memorial before going inside to stay the night.
Iberle read off a list of 10 people with local connections who died while homeless this year. The list included the newborn daughter of a homeless couple.
There wasn’t a lot of information about the deceased — one person’s name wasn’t available, and for others their date of death was hazy — but that speaks to what happens when a person dies while homeless. It can be difficult to track them, document their deaths properly and recognize them.
One of the deceased was a man who frequented the Friends of the Carpenter in west Vancouver. Donald Prickett Jr. died in October in Reedsport, Ore., but was homeless for a while in Vancouver. He had many health problems and eventually reconciled with family in Reedsport, Iberle said. While he was going to the Friends of the Carpenter and doing woodworking projects, Prickett mastered scroll-saw techniques.
“I got to know Donald very well when he lived here in Vancouver,” Iberle said. “He turned out amazing works of art while living out of the back of his truck.”
The list of those who have died is longer than Adam Kravitz can remember from past homeless memorials.
“That should scare us. That should really scare us,” he said.
At previous memorials, Kravitz said, he knew the deceased because he knew them from when he was homeless. At Wednesday’s memorial, he knew the deceased because he tried to work with them through his outreach organization Outsiders Inn.
“It utterly amazes me that we expect people to burrow out of homelessness. It is literally like climbing a mountain that keeps going and going,” Kravitz said.
Vancouver has come a long way in recognizing and addressing homelessness, he said, but it still has a lot to work on in the coming year. Thousands of people in the community help out, and he encouraged people to continue doing good work.
“I have seen love go to the streets more than ever in Vancouver,” he said. “I want to continue that. I want to pump that up. I want you guys to be angry. I want this to be the last memorial.”
- Written by Ren Autrey
Church received threat of lawsuit; backers vow to find new location
By Amy Fischer, Columbian City Government Reporter
Published: December 16, 2015, 7:21 PM
A Vancouver church that had agreed to host a village of 40 tiny houses for the homeless has pulled out of the project, leaving organizers searching for a new location.
Safe Harbor Church of the Nazarene received a threat of a lawsuit, the church said on its Facebook page, adding, “We do not wish to fight with our neighbors, so we made the painful decision to withdraw from the project.”
The church’s pastor, David Edwards, previously said the Council for the Homeless and its partners could build a temporary, emergency village for 50 homeless people this winter in an empty field behind the church at 8100 E. Mill Plain Blvd., which is next to the Garrison Square shopping center. Bordered by 82nd Avenue, which dead-ends at an apartment complex, the Safe Harbor church site was chosen because it’s close to a hospital, a bus line and shopping.
Andy Silver, executive director of the Council for the Homeless, said he received the news Wednesday morning.
All the partners involved are still “100 percent committed to making this happen,” Silver said.
- Written by Ren Autrey
CLARK COUNTY — Clark County leaders are expected to approve a $250,000 settlement agreement this week as restitution for violating homeless campers’ civil rights.
Earlier this month, a federal judge in Tacoma found Clark County liable for violating the constitutional rights of unhoused citizens when county work crews cleared homeless camps, seizing and disposing of the homeless campers’ personal property.
According to the suit, brought on behalf of eight different homeless plaintiffs, county work crews often seized personal belongings — including clothing, tents, sleeping bags, photographs, driver’s licenses, shoes, computers, food, medication, prescription glasses and toiletries — with little to no notice, and then disposed of the items immediately, giving homeless campers no chance to retrieve their belongings.
“It was a clear violation of the law,” says Vancouver attorney Peter Fels of the county’s seizure practices. Fels, along with his co-counsel, Moloy Good, a member of the Portland Human Rights Commission, represented the eight plaintiffs in their case against the county.
On Sept. 16, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Bryan agreed that the county had violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights, ruling that the county’s “immediate destruction of the property (rather than holding it for possible return) made the seizure unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment.” Bryan also dismissed the county’s assertion that the work crews were justified in removing and destroying the personal property because campers had violated the county’s illegal camping ordinances.
Quoting a similar case out of Los Angeles that went to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the highest court in the nation before the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Bryan ruled that that violation of an ordinance (in this case the illegal camping ordinance) does not nullify a person’s Fourth Amendment rights, which protect citizens from illegal search and seizures of private property.
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