First United closes Revival shelter

The cold-weather homeless shelter for Revival of Grays Harbor has closed indefinitely, as the First United Methodist Church in Aberdeen decided it would no longer host it.

Revival is a homeless assistance group that has grown steadily over the past two years. Most notably, it had been using the basement of First United to house and feed dozens of homeless people whenever the temperature drops below 35 degrees. It had a contract with the church that outlined policies to prevent damage and general upset.

First United pastor Karen Davison said church trustees made the decision, but she declined to discuss it. “I’m not prepared to say anything about it right now.”

Revival program founder Emily Reed released this statement: “Amid growing complaints from neighbors, neighboring businesses and agencies, and other groups, the Church’s Board of Trustees voted to discontinue hosting the low barrier shelter at this time.”

Reed said Davison told her a Boy Scout troop is one of the organizations that complained about Revival’s activity in the church. The troop meets in the basement of First United once a week at 7 p.m. When Revival would open its shelter the same night as the scouts’ meeting, the scouts would go upstairs.

“They told us that the Boy Scouts came to them and told them they would be looking for another building to use for their meetings,” said Reed. “The church didn’t want to lose the Boy Scouts.”

Former scoutmaster Scott McNeal said there were a couple complaints several months ago after scouts’ parents said they found empty syringes in a pile next to the basement’s entrance, but he says they never wanted the shelter to be moved out.

“There were concerns from a few of the parents, after finding syringes lying on the ground outside,” said McNeal, who had been the scoutmaster up until a week ago. “But the troop has never pushed to get rid of the homeless people, and a lot of them donate to the cause because they think it’s a worthwhile endeavor.”

According to McNeal, these complaints were relayed to the church by a liaison who would work with the scouts.

Even though they will no longer be hosting the center Davison said she still supports their efforts. “First United Methodist Church still very much agrees with the mission and vision of Revival of Grays Harbor and regrets its inability to continue serving on this way at this time.”

Davison said she wished Reed hadn’t named the Boy Scouts as the ones who complained about Revival, and said “it’s not really about the Boy Scouts versus Revival.”

McNeal said he had heard about there being complaints of homeless people sleeping under the outside overhangs of the church’s porch, suggesting that might have been involved in the decision to close the shelter.

“I heard that the church had been getting into trouble because of the derelicts deciding to sleep under the overhang, then they’re fined or something,” said McNeal. “I don’t know what exactly, but they’d been getting flack from the city in regards to things like that.”

Staff for Revival will be spending Saturday removing the cots, stored food and clothes from the basement and moving it to their downtown offices. Executive Director Phil Calloway said the news came as a shock to him, and he thought the shelter had been operating fairly cleanly and orderly.

“It came as a surprise, we haven’t been in there all that long and I’d thought we did a fairly good job of maintaining the space and what we were doing there,” said Calloway. “I even went out of my way to walk the block after it closes to make sure there wasn’t anything drastically dirty or any kind of harassment.”

He and Reed are now looking to find temporary housing for Revival’s regular guests, and potentially future permanent housing, but Calloway is concerned that some of the homeless have no other options.

“A lot of them don’t have any other options, most have already been kicked out of the mission or don’t meet the qualifications to go there, so they’re pretty much SOL unless we can find a temporary solution,” said Calloway. “We’ll be working our butts off to find something temporary.”

Coincidentally, Revival is hosting a fundraiser drag show Saturday night at the Aberdeen Eagles hall on Market Street in Aberdeen. The show starts at 7 p.m.