An independent community activist organizer says he was trespassed by the Hobby Lobby in Mount Vernon as he gave water to the homeless in 90-degree heat on Saturday.
Matt Uyeno told KIRO 7 News that the the pandemic has fueled an escalating homeless situation in Mount Vernon, which has been especially dire in Skagit Valley.
He also said that very few cooling shelters are available to help, especially those that allow pets and that remain open past 6 p.m., which can oftentimes be the warmest part of the day. Skagit County lists nine available cooling centers on its website, two of which are located in Mount Vernon. Just one of those two is open on weekends, while the other is only open between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.
After taking in $600 in donations, Uyeno bought 30 gallons of water and coolers with food and went to the Safeway gas station on College Way last Friday.
According to Uyeno, he set up in a parking spot near the gas station where he refilled people’s water bottles with water and Gatorade for two hours. The Mount Vernon Police Department then arrived and ordered everyone to “move along,” but didn’t provide resources for the homeless, according to Uyeno.
Uyeno says they packed up and went across East College Way to the Dollar Tree where a manager said they could set up.
KIRO 7 News spoke with a manager at Dollar Tree who confirmed that permission was given.
After approximately five hours, Uyeno packed up, disposed of their garbage, and left the property.
On Saturday, Uyeno returned to Dollar Tree around 4 p.m., with Styrofoam coolers full of cold water and cooling towels.
Soon after, an SUV with the Mount Vernon Police Department pulled up and an officer said Uyeno was being trespassed from Hobby Lobby, which is next door to Dollar Tree.
Uyeno said all he was doing was trying to save people’s lives and initially refused to give his name to the police. Once he did, officers trespassed him from the Mount Vernon Hobby Lobby for one year, informing him that he had crossed a few feet onto the Hobby Lobby property.
Uyeno said no one from Hobby Lobby came out and asked them to move, and that the first he heard about the situation was the police showing up.
KIRO 7 News contacted Hobby Lobby in Mount Vernon to ask about the incident and was told, “No comment.”
Uyeno said he moved his coolers back to the Dollar Tree property where they continued their assistance until 10 p.m., even ordering 17 large pizzas for themselves, the homeless, and employees of Dollar Tree.
According to the Mount Vernon Police Department, a trespass call was made by Hobby Lobby on Saturday, saying those who were trespassed were “setting up a camp on the business property.”
The Mount Vernon Police Department was unable to send a police report, saying the report was unfinished and the investigating officer was off this week.