For the record...When I was in Port Angeles, I tried on numerous occasions to get the City to respond or do something about people in my neighborhood who were clearly living on the streets, in RVs, in violation of the City's own rules.
Nothing ever came of my complaints. But I find it interesting that the issue has festered and grown into something that attracts nearly 100 people to a public meeting. Obviously there are undeniable problems (RV residents on the streets), as well as other, murkier problems (drug dealing? vigilante assholes?) waiting for more light to be shined on them.
The following is a new piece from the Port O Call that delves into some of the issues and people at play. It sounds like a real mess, people, like a truly horrible situation that is just the opening act for something even more horrible yet to come...
Homeless residents harassed by former addicts.
There is a theory in the recovery community which suggests when a person begins to use drugs his or her emotional maturity stops. They remain at that same emotional age until they stop using. What this means is if a teenager begins to abuse drugs at the age of 17 and quits ten years later the therapist who works with him/her will be dealing with someone with the emotional maturity of a 17 year old even though the chronological age is 27.
Unless and until a chronic user gets into and does the internal work required in recovery, such as the famous 12 step program, they will ever remain the same emotional age.
This may explain why some of the members of a nascent group calling themselves “Our Town” repeatedly harass homeless residents whom they perceive are using drugs.
Some of the “leaders” of Our Town are themselves former addicts who presumably are now clean and want to vilify others who still use drugs. According to statements made by some of the homeless residents Our Town leader, Adam Chamberlain has a habit of harassing homeless people even up to the point of accelerating toward them in his truck and spraying pepper spray on a woman and her six year old daughter.
According to reports Chamberlain has a rap-sheet in at least two states including Idaho and Washington. The story is Chamberlain had some tools stolen from his truck and presumes a homeless person took them. Now he is on a revenge rampage to “pay-back” everyone who is homeless.
Our Town has a facebook page where they post photographs of homeless people and call the police whenever they photograph someone whom they think may have warrants out. Recently Our Town posted a message to one particular woman saying, “I am going to ruin you.”
Another ploy employed by Our Town is to provide blankets to homeless individuals and then photograph them when they come to get clean blankets. They then post these photographs onto their facebook page.
Our Town operatives took photos of Port O Call interviewing homeless individuals and posted them on their facebook page.
When Port O Call interviewed Chamberlain outside the recent meeting at the Vern Burton Center Port O Call asked Chamberlain if he had indeed pepper-sprayed the woman and her child. Before he could answer, the founder of Our Town, Chelsea Ward stepped up and stated 3 times, “there’s no record of it, there’s no record of it, there’s no record of it.”
After interviewing a half dozen homeless residents with eerily similar stories about Chamberlain and a few other vigilantes harassing them, the stories add up including brandishing a pistol at a makeshift campsite inside city limits.
This is one of the few complaints made by the homeless that is actually getting investigated. Chelsea seemed pretty sure of herself when she said “there’s no record” because there are very few investigations being conducted to see if these vigilantes are harassing homeless when they come into town for a meal at the Salvation Army or to fly a sign in town seeking donations.
According to one young women who was the victim of the alleged pepper-spray attack by Chamberlain she stated the law enforcement officer refused to take her complaint because she had no telephone by which he could call her if he needed more information.
Jesse is another who lives outdoors. He too claims to have had a gun pointed at him and was ordered to “get out of town.” One of the stories that kept popping up within the stories of the interviewees was that of being threatened with vehicles attempting to run them over on the street.
Port O Call has in its possession a video showing a white, late-model SUV actually speeding toward the video maker and swerving only at the last second. There are stories of vehicles running up on the sidewalk to scare homeless people walking on the sidewalk.
All these stories could be taken with a grain of doubt except there is currently an unsolved death where a homeless man was victim of a hit and run. Port Angeles police discovered the car and the driver but no charges have been leveled and no information has been released on the particulars of this case.
Viet Nam Veteran, Bill Hosel showed stitches in his hand where he had to ward off a knife attack by vigilantes. Hosel and his wife are living in an RV in town and say their vehicle is constantly vandalized whenever they leave it unattended. Windows have been broken out of it and their personal possessions strewn about the street.
Teri has lived in Port Angeles all her adult life and has been employed or run her own business up until two years ago when she says she was robbed and carjacked in Port Angeles. She lost everything she had including money, identification and all her personal effects. When the police found her stolen car they had it towed to an impound lot where the costs ballooned to a point where she could not afford to retrieve it. Since then it has been a struggle to get back on her feet, replace all the identification papers stolen and getting back into an apartment. She says she is, “constantly in crisis mode.”
One young man, a Port Angeles native who did not want his name used said he worked 5 years at Platypus Marine until he got into a fight with a fellow who had worked there longer than he. Because he was the least senior employee he was asked to leave. Since then he has been on the street and unable to find another job. He too has been victimized by vigilantes from Our Town.
Of the half-dozen interviewed so far by Port O Call all of them are Port Angeles natives having lived here for most of their adult lives. Most have had jobs that went away for one reason or another.
The county’s go-to agency to fight homelessness, Serenity House has amassed over $7,000,000 in real estate holdings--all from taxpayer dollars, none of which contain even one bed for homeless to sleep.
Port O Call suggests there is a powder keg about to explode if the homeless are not protected and the vigilantes are not brought to heel.
Port O Call does not suggest all the members of Our Town are into this vigilante mode. Some came to the organization because they thought Our Town was all about helping the homeless instead of harassing them.