To all my housed friends enjoying the snow

This is NOT meant to shame you. You shouldn’t feel bad for having a warm place to be, with hot food & beverages, heat & blankets. Nor should you feel ashamed that snow is fun and you love playing in it. I don’t want you to feel bad – I desperately want you to want what you have for every person. I want you to keep in your mind and in your heart those for whom snow is deadly. 

Our local response, once again, is entirely inadequate. 

Earlier this week, before the first flakes fell, there was – once again – no response plan for a significant snow event. No warming center. No emergency shelter. No plan to check on camps to ensure they have food, water, and ways to stay warm—the basic necessities for life. Thanks to a few dedicated heroes in our community, a warming center was arranged, shelter beds created, donations wrangled by volunteers. 

Yesterday, AFTER the snow had begun to pile up, a local hospital released a man who just had both legs amputated. They sent him to a shelter with only thin mats on the hard floor, where they make everyone leave at 4:30am. Thanks to dedicated members of the service community, he got a 24/7 bed (an actual bed) at a different shelter.

AFTER the snow began to fall, calls went out for donations. Organizers scrambled to purchase and deliver supplies before the storm worsened. This was done on the fly with little centralized coordination.

For at least a decade, people in the advocacy community have called for a community-wide emergency response plan for significant weather events or other natural disasters. Those calls have been ignored. Every other year or so, another big storm hits, people die, and just as the storm passes, so does our community’s concern.

I don’t want you to feel bad for loving the snow. I want you to feel ashamed that our community doesn’t have a strategic emergency response plan. I want you to feel furious that people die needlessly in every major storm that passes through. I want you to be enraged that the experts in our community trying to save lives are continually ignored.

Gandhi said, “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”

How do we measure? Who are we, as a community, that we let people die in the cold when we could prevent it with the flick of a pen?

Once again, I ask our elected officials to correct our collective moral failure. Do this by forming a citizen advisory committee to craft a multi-jurisdictional emergency response plan that protects our unhoused neighbors, the elderly, and anyone who is adversely impacted by catastrophic events.

I hope this is the last year I have to write this.

By Rob Richards


  • Thank you for speaking up for the unhoused citizens in our community. Good article with the right approach. Would it be helpful to write a follow up article explaining what exactly are citizen advisory committees, who can create one and how to do it, and examples of some CAC’s that are already functioning and what they have accomplished? This kind of information might give encouragement to some concerned citizens to take you up on your suggestion. Some bread crumbs to lure some caring individuals to the planning table.

  • Yes, thank you Rob. You articulated the problem better than I ever could!
    Over the last few years I have seen more and more people step up to help our unhoused community members. They see that there is no coordinated effort by the Powers That Be, so they do what they can to alleviate the suffering of those who have been abandoned by modern society.
    I’ve gotten texts from so many people; some asking how they can help, some wanting to deliver what they already knew we would need. Others just show up with needed supplies. It’s wonderful that the people of Oly see a need, and respond so enthusiastically. It’s sad that private citizens are using their limited resources to plug a hole that the municipalities seem to be ignoring.

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