Our ministry is located in a small town, surrounded by a rural county. Grays Harbor County is nestled between the roaring Pacific and the great old growth forests of the Olympic Mountains. Once owned by Native peoples who hunted the woods and fished the rivers of the Chehalis River Basin, the area became a mecca for the timber industry in the 19th century. When the timber industry collapsed in the 80s and 90s, it left extensive poverty in its wake. The largest town of the region is Aberdeen, a city of just over 16,000. Westport is a small fishing town on the south beach of the harbor. Several hundred people are homeless and living on the streets. Hit hard by the economic downturn, many of us are living just a step away from homelessness and struggling to survive. The harbor is a place of great beauty and great struggle, but full of gifted people with great wisdom and much to give.
22% of the population of Grays Harbor live below the poverty line. That’s 32% of our kids. Nearly half the population (46%) is eligible to access DSHS services.
The official (point in time) count of people living without a home is at 162 people. The actual number, by all accounts, is significantly higher. They call themselves the 1%ers (Aberdeen has a population of 16,000, so they are at least 1% of the population).
The school districts of the county list 880 students (K-12) as homeless. These kids couch surf, live in hotels or shelters, or double up with extended family.
In 1990, around 3% of population of Aberdeen was Latino; in 2013, officially 16%. As of 2009, 65% of Spanish speaking immigrants live below the poverty line.
[Sources: “Community Health Needs Assessment,” Grays Harbor Hospital, 2013; “Grays Harbor Community Health Profile,” Grays Harbor Public Health, July 2013; Annual Point in the Time Count, WA Department of Commerce, 2014; “Immigration on the Harbor,” TESC, Sarah Monroe, 2009]