Aberdeen shutting down homeless camp on Chehalis River
by Keith Eldridge
Aberdeen is forcing homeless people out of a huge camp along the Chehalis River. A gate was just permanently locked and ‘no trespassing’ signs just went up.
The question is: What do you do with the 100 homeless people camped here? All the mayor knows is they can’t stay. “It’s just not a good place for people to be,” said Mayor Erik Larson.
He said through the years, this “Rivercamp’ become too dangerous with crime, drugs, unsanitary conditions and a rail yard right next to it. A woman recently lost both legs when she was run over by a train.
The city recently bought the property with the intent on moving the people out. Wednesday, a newly installed gate was permanently locked keeping out cars, but not people.
The city brought in dumpsters and portable toilets to help clean up the place, but cleaning out the people is a different challenge. “There is no housing available anywhere,” said Cortney Hurley. She says she has been living there for three years and hasn’t been able to find affordable housing.
Mayor Larson said, “We understand the issues that they have nowhere else to go and so that’s something where we’re trying to create a dialog and work on.”
But part of that dialog is a trespassing ticket if they don’t soon leave. “Probably going to go to jail, because I’m not going to leave,” said Hurley. “What for?”
But the mayor said those actively working with social service agencies can stay until they can get on their feet.
“As long as you’re doing some kind of services to show you’re bettering your situation,” said Christina Gilcrist. She has lived there off and on for a decade, but she and fiancée Johnny Gullotto say the mayor’s new push out is actually pushing them to do better.
“Is there a time when you’re going to be able to move out?” Gullotto was asked. He said, “Oh, yes, I’m sure it’ll come real soon, hopefully.”
“I think it’s finally come to reality that this is going to be permanent,” said homeless advocate Janae Chhith a liaison of Revival of Grays Harbor.
She said her group is looking to buy land and set up a safe homeless camp somewhere nearby. They want to model it on Walla Walla’s use of Conestoga huts.
There’s still no guarantee that the people forced out won’t just end up on the city’s streets somewhere else.
“Flight Over Homeless Camp Aberdeen” on YouTube