I am writing related to your latest editorial in The Olympian about faith community support of the Fourth Avenue Bridge encampment. First United Methodist Church Of Olympia Justice has been steadfast supporters of initiatives related to unsheltered citizens in Olympia and Thurston County since 2018.
We have offered food, clothing and supplies to the Fourth Avenue Bridge camp weekly on Monday nights since the close of the Smart Lot camp and will continue to do so. This has created the opportunity for forming ongoing relationships with the residents and we have witnessed first hand the self governance, care and community built there. It is an honor to know them and work with them in partnership.
At our next Justice and Advocacy meeting Sept. 16, we will be engaging in a process of discernment about expanding our role in supporting the Fourth Avenue Bridge encampment. Supports may include weekly support of the self governance of the camp, material support such as water, hygiene, heating and cooking options, and access to laundry.
At this time, we are asking for a stop of the sweep of the camp on Sept. 11. This sweep is ill timed, based on exaggerated or misleading public safety risks and it undermines the faith community and supportive citizens working to create humane and fair treatment for unsheltered citizens.
Please support the current community-based shelter-in-place process to go forward while all of us are working on safe, reasonable and appropriate housing alternatives to the site.
Sweeping the camps is a short-sighted approach and is a waste of public resources in order to deal with the visibility of poverty in our community. To put it simply, do no further harm.
Mark J. Johnson, Justice and Advocacy Chair, First United Methodist Church of Olympia