Commissioner Raines fights for a low-barrier homeless shelter

A plea for a low-barrier homeless shelter fell by the wayside at a recent Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners workshop despite the need and money to make it happen.

The appeal came from Commissioner Vickie Raines, who was hoping her colleagues would support a low-barrier shelter in Aberdeen. Low-barrier shelters essentially let people come as they are without certain requirements, such as participating in mental health or addiction programs.

However, there can be rules. Guidelines for behavior are typically associated with such environments in order to keep the peace and everybody safe and sound.

So it was disappointing to see Raines’ fellow commissioners, Kevin Pine and Jill Warne, punt on the issue considering there is an Emergency Solutions Grant of $1.1 million to fund such a shelter. The deadline for using the money is June 2022.

“To do nothing is unacceptable, it really is unacceptable to me,” said Raines at the Oct. 26 workshop. “If we can do a shelter where we set the rules and the guidelines that are acceptable, why can’t we do that?”

Well, the short answer is that Pine and Warne are of a different train of thought on the issue.

“There are plenty of other cities that are perfect examples of how the low-barrier shelter is not working,” said Warne at the workshop that was reported on by The Daily World. “So I’m still not in favor of that. We need to have a better model that’s actually going to help with the problem, not continue the problem.”

It wasn’t entirely clear what cities Warne was referencing, but we’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. As for a better model, Raines is all-in on the low-barrier shelter.

“But I really think when you say you have to be able to do this, you have to be willing to accept treatment, that we’re actually cutting our nose off to spite our face, because there are people out there who can’t do that,” said Raines at the workshop.

“There is a most definite, vulnerable population in our community that cannot hold a job, that cannot care for themselves, that wander the streets and sleep in doorways.”

And those are the people who would most likely benefit from a low-barrier shelter in the area even if it isn’t the most popular idea, politically or otherwise.

Homelessness is not going away in Grays Harbor County, the state of Washington or anyplace else for that matter. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a problem that affects countless people.

But it’s good to know that there are people and organizations out there addressing the problem. It’s an issue worth fighting for, and it is our sincere hope that Commissioner Raines continues her quest to gain support for a low-barrier shelter in the area. It’s a decent and humane thing to do.