• Wes Cormier

City of Aberdeen: Low Barrier Shelter

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

A low barrier shelter is defined as: an Emergency Shelter that does not require any of the following for a client to stay at the shelter:

(a) sobriety

(b) program participation

(c) criminal background checks

(d) identification

Low Barrier Shelters may, however, enforce safety requirements for staff and others.

There has been a lot of discussion lately by the County Commissioners regarding the syringe exchange program, shelters, homelessness and addiction. These topics were at the forefront of discussion during the campaign season not less than a year ago and continues to be an ongoing issue in Grays Harbor.

The county recently talked about a grant through the Washington State Department of Commerce. It is slated to assist paying for a low barrier shelter. Some questions arose as to whether the county could apply restrictions, rules or regulations on clients in such a shelter. According to documents from the county and the Department of Commerce. Such conditions cannot be imposed. See excerpts from the contract below.


The City of Aberdeen recently and unanimously passed a very oddly written Resolution supporting the county opening a low barrier shelter. In the Resolution, it states:

While this is true, it infers that in parts, a low barrier shelter is part of the solution. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, the Seattle area is spending more than $1 billion per year on homelessness and over the last 5 years homelessness has increased 131%, while nationwide trends are going down. The question remains, should Grays Harbor County follow the Seattle model?

The Aberdeen Resolution also contained a statement from former Mayor Erik Larson. The statement itself was not controversial, but including a statement from a former Mayor in a Resolution more than two years later is nothing short of strange.

Not far from city hall sits the Union Gospel Mission, a shelter that is half empty most nights. The shelter has three basic requirements - shower, sobriety and a sermon. If that low bar is a deterrent, isn't a lack of responsibility on the individual in need part of the problem?

You hear it over and over, bureaucrats say they need more resources (housing, money, social workers and programs), and that "something" is better than nothing. $1 billion dollars per year is spent in King County and the problems get worse as shown in other cities throughout the US doing the same things. If you listen closely, you hear the same bureaucratic-speak here in Grays Harbor. They need more money, housing, social workers and programs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

If the new low barrier shelter does impose rules and requirements as was suggested at a recent Commissioner meeting, will it then sit empty as well?

While the county is set to make a decision on the matter soon, the question remains. Will a low barrier shelter prove to help curb addiction, will it sit empty or will it exacerbate the problem by inviting addicts from overcrowded cities like Seattle and Olympia?

You decide.


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