My name is Mashyla Buckmaster. I’m 28 years old. I’m the proud single mom of a beautiful one-year-old named Ella. As of today I’m celebrating almost two years clean and sober. I live in Westport — in Grays Harbor County, Washington. I’ve spent five years of my life homeless. Once during my homelessness, a neighbor tried to assault me by throwing a log through the window of the empty building where I was squatting, because he was so enraged that homeless people were living on his block.
I got Section 8 housing after my daughter was born, just before my organization began providing cold weather shelter to our homeless members. For 110 days last winter, Chaplains on the Harbor hosted about 20 people in our church — most of them millennials who caught a record trying to survive in a county with no good jobs, no decent affordable housing, horrible healthcare, and plenty of heroin.
Mashyla Buckmaster, speaking at the launch of the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C. on December 4.
Business and property owners were outraged by our cold weather shelter. Our homeless members were stalked by police. Our pastor was threatened with vigilante violence. The same man who’d tried to attack me during my own time squatting also assaulted a 19-year-old homeless member of our community, on church property, and later attempted to run him over with a truck.
I volunteered to stay overnight at our church and keep people safe while they slept. I stayed there through the nights while the threats continued to pour in. I stayed because my community stepped up to save my life, when the rest of society didn’t care whether I lived or died, and now it was my turn to protect my community.
I volunteered to stay overnight at our church and keep people safe while they slept. I stayed there through the nights while the threats continued to pour in. I stayed because my community stepped up to save my life, when the rest of society didn’t care whether I lived or died, and now it was my turn to protect my community.I’m joining the Poor People’s Campaign because I need a movement that’s as tough as I am.
Poor and homeless people get stereotyped like we’re too stupid and lazy to solve our own problems. I wasn’t homeless because I was stupid and lazy. I was homeless because our country has no problem with pregnant mothers being homeless in the dead of winter while just two hours away, in Seattle, the founders of Microsoft and Amazon have made themselves the richest individuals on the planet. You tell me who’s messed up in this situation.
Some of you might be suspicious about a Grays Harbor County person getting up in front of this crowd, thinking, “Aren’t they just a bunch of rednecks out there?” Hell yes, we’re rednecks. We’re radical rednecks. We’re hillbillies for the liberation of all people. “We are the living reminder that when they threw out their white trash, they didn’t burn it.” We’re here to stand shoulder to shoulder with anybody taking up this campaign, and trust me, we are the kind of scrappy you want on your side in a fight.
Mashyla Buckmaster is an Apprentice Chaplain at Chaplains on the Harbor in Grays Harbor County, Washington. She delivered this testimony at the launch of the Poor People's Campaign on December 4 in Washington, D.C.