The River City Homeless Encampment has again had to change hands due to the city code. The camp has moved from the First Presbyterian Church under Reverend Shofner's direction, over to the First Baptist Church under the direction of Pastor Adair. Shofner spoke of her experience harboring the camp. "Well first of all and overall it was a very good, positive experience. It wasn't without it's challenges both from getting acquainted and understanding how the campers deal with life, and deal with community. But also about how the surrounding neighboring community dealt with having the River City Camp on our property," explained Shofner.
She went on to talk about how it created challenges within, as well as outside the camp. "But as time went on things settled down both inside and outside the camp and I think it was a learning experience for those of us who have not faced the homeless issue up close and personal, and I think that some of the challenges for the neighborhood was the misplaced belief that there are no homeless in Hoquiam," Shofner pointed out.
The reverend went on to talk about how the situation and the concern of the surrounding neighbors has really served to raise awareness that there are homeless people in need in Hoquiam. Despite the fact that the camp was ill-received, it has provided a much safer place for the people to be rather then in the middle of the street.
Shofner mentioned some of the other problems encountered with individuals outside of the camp, "there were instances of the campers being harassed late at night. It's one thing to say something to someone's face and another thing to stand from the road and yell things at the camp late at night," said Shofner. Shofner went on to speak about the challenges that were at hand, "as the weather changed it became apparent how difficult it would be. I was down here on a stormy Saturday trying to help them maintain the tarps over the camp, because their tents barely protect from the rain," explained Shofner. The reverend spoke of how they had to sort of "scramble" to try to keep the tarps together and even then, everyone in the camp still got wet. After the stormy weather would break the camp's laundry would have to be done, and dry blankets were acquired to help the camp. Shofner also explained that the campers were very self sufficient, "they did not sit and wait for folks to deliver them from their circumstances and anybody that ever did anything for them, they were incredibly grateful for," said Shofner. Shofner also spoke on the new location that the River City Homeless Encampment has moved to, "it's a wonderful secure space next to their church that even has access through an alley and the street view is just a solid fence-face."
The River City Homeless Encampment moved to the First Baptist Church as of December 1. Pastor Adair spoke on the issue as well, telling about how the first day went, the day that the camp moved. "Moving day went well, we had a lot of volunteers from the previous churches that have hosted the camp," explained Adair. He went on to tell of a particular member of the camp that was drenched and shivering, and told of how he was able to give him an extra set of clothes he had on hand.
Adair spoke of how it came to be that his church volunteered. "What happened is that they contacted us last week and asked if we could help them out because they had no other churches step up to the plate. Once another church backed out, they were struggling with finding another place because they couldn't violate the code and the encampment had to be out by the first," Adair explained. He went on to explain that after a visit from Reverend Shofner on Sunday, November 29, the congregation at the First Baptist Church in Hoquiam was able to ask Shofner questions about the camp, and determined unanimously that they would take in the encampment. "There have not been any issues since they've moved in," said Adair. "What's interesting is that I've had numbers of people call and ask how they can help. Yesterday a lady brought up to thirty hamburgers for the camp."
Adair told a story of an experience he had with his grandson and the camp, how his grandson asked "if they look like the hobos in the cartoons," and after the boy had been through the camp to hand out food to the campers explained that they're actually really nice. "So here we have a thirteen year old boy who has this impression that homeless people are criminals because of cartoons," exclaimed Adair. "They're people with needs and some are even with special needs."