Before getting to the issue, I want to express my heart-felt apology to merchants whose businesses have been affected by the presence of PowerHouse at 30 N. Wenatchee Ave. We have made some mistakes and it has had some adverse effects on our business neighbors that we truly regret. But I want to qualify this apology in two ways: 1) There are some folks who struggle with addiction and mental health issues who live in the downtown area that we have no control over; and, 2) The vast majority of homeless and poor people are not bad people but people down on their luck who need support, skills and resources to turn their lives around. Many of the homeless we deal with are veterans who have served our country selflessly and deserve better than what they’re getting.
It is a real issue, that we are located in the middle of the business community and we do impact our business neighbors. However, the larger issue is that this community needs a compassionate, comprehensive and coordinated plan to deal with problems of poverty and homelessness.
We did not choose our location deliberately. We scoured the city to find a place that met all city, state and federal codes and one we could afford on our meager budget. Off and on, we look for alternative locations, but they either do not meet all the code requirements or cost more than we can afford. We will continue this process on a more deliberate pace.
But the main issue is that our city (government, business, social service, ministries, etc.) can no longer play ostrich about the rampant problems of poverty and homelessness. Places for the homeless to reside have strict requirements — financial or behavioral. There is no coordinated effort to help poor and homeless people turn their lives around and find gainful employment. Rent costs are sky high even for lower middle class families. During the turnaround process each poor or homeless person or family needs a roof over their heads, food to eat and most importantly, caring encouragement.
We have always sought to work with any, and every, group that deals with some of these same issues. But there needs to be a master plan. The police are used too often and helping resources are used too little. Instead of just reacting to another “problem”, why don’t we deal with the causes of the issue by working together pooling finances, resources, ministries and programs to meet these issues head on?
Samuel Detwiler is the lead pastor of Shalom Church, Wenatchee, and a founder of PowerHouse Ministry Center.