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Archive for the ‘Homelessness in the news’ Category

A lot of items have crossed my screen recently that piqued my interest. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Is ‘a doll always a doll’, really? Would you pay $95 for a ‘homeless’ doll? We asked your opinion on our VibeGlobe page. I had to take a few days to process this one, but I’ve settled in on an opinion similar to the one expressed by Shannon Moriarty on Change.org’s blog. I could hop on my soapbox and excoriate Mattel, like others have. But I think this is less about a company doing what companies are supposed to do (make $), and more about how we (me, you, and the person sitting next to you) are afraid to accept the possibility that a child’s toy might be a little too real for us adults…
  • If you’re a reader of the Unite to End Homeless blog, you’ll be familiar with my muted disdain for the editorial board of the Seattle Times. I don’t always disagree with them, and I’m not the only one who does whenever I do. But when I read this recent editorial about Councilmember Tim Burgess’ proposed panhandling ordinance, I couldn’t remember what city I lived in. So I pose this question to you all: have you ever felt intimidated enough by someone asking for change that you felt compelled to give it to them, short of them having a weapon of some kind (that ain’t panhandling, that’s robbery). If you have, tell me. I want to know! I want to write your story! Because in all my time here, in the thousands of times I’ve been asked for money by someone who obviously needed it more than me, I have NEVER had anyone say anything to me other than ‘thank you’, ‘God Bless you’, or ‘have a nice day’, regardless of whether or not I gave them anything more than a smile. So let me hear it! I want to know! To paraphrase the last sentence of the editorial: ‘The city has a duty to regulate–within the law, within reason–the manner in which it treats its most vulnerable citizens as they go about their daily lives.’
  • And speaking of Mr. Burgess (and the Times editorial page, for that matter), it appears he had some overnight guests earlier this week. In this particular instance, I actually find myself agreeing with the editorial writers for the most part. Money is definitely tight, in everyone’s budget, and pulling something like this isn’t going to make someone like Mayor Nickels or the City Council open up their empty pocketbooks. As the writers stated, it would be far more productive for us to focus on getting the housing levy passed in November and other long-term issues like working with a new city administration.
  • And finally, since I’ve made it clear how I feel on Proposition 1, a few words about a few other items coming up this fall: Initiative 1033 and Referendum 71. While supporters of I-1033 would like you to believe that capping tax revenue makes government more accountable, all it really does is make it harder for government to fill its role as sole provider for such frivolous things as education, law enforcement, and public transportation, not to mention indispensable social services such as public health clinics and senior centers that, while also supported by nonprofits and religious organizations, would suffer immensely without government support. Now, I know this might not be a popular stance to take, that many of us truly believe taxes are evil and government is wasteful, slothful, etc and we want our money back! I just read the website, and it sounds wonderful. But the fact is that this Initiative would make it more difficult for government services to be enacted during the very time that they are needed the most. We’ll make it harder to hire more teachers, place more unemployed or underemployed people into job training and skill development programs at community colleges, or have an adequate response method in the event of a public emergency (last time I checked, we had a few active volcanoes in the region). ALL of that, and more, is paid for with tax revenue.
  • As for Ref 71, you may not see a link between a domestic partnership law and homelessness. But consider this: nearly 40% of homeless people under 18 years of age identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT). And if you don’t think being homeless had anything to do with their sexual orientation for these kids, just stop reading this because it’s not worth my time. They’re kicked out, they run away, they end up on the street. They’re called queer, fag, freak…and they are smacked in the face by laws in their own country that prevent them from growing up, falling in love, and marrying the person that they want to spend the rest of their life with.

    You may not think Ref 71 is about equal rights for gays and lesbians, and that’s fine. But passing this referendum will, at the very least, provide the residents of Washington with an opportunity to look into the faces of some of these young people and say: You are not worthless. You are not weird. You and your loved ones will be treated like everyone else.

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    I posted a story about Coreen a few days ago. Here are a few more stories, courtesy of The Arizona Republic and invisiblepeople.tv:

    “The Robinsons are like most middle-class families you know. Bridget worked at…”

    This is Yong, recently homeless in Greensboro, NC.

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    I had a chance to participate in some organized panel discussions recently, and one of the questions for the panelists asked about ‘the face of homelessness’. The truth is, this issue has many faces. I’ll write more about this over the next week or so. But today, I wanted to share this story with you. It’s from a project that I’ve mentioned several times before, invisiblepeople.tv. This is Coreen. Unlike many of the stories you hear these days, Coreen isn’t homeless due to the recession…

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    [This post was written by guest blogger Michael Kelly, Mobilization Coordinator for the Washington Low-Income Housing Alliance – Patrick]

    Everyone deserves the opportunity to live in a safe, decent, and affordable home.

    In Seattle, we have a chance to ensure that our city can fund the development, construction, and preservation of affordable housing; later this fall, we’ll vote on Proposition 1, the renewal of the Seattle Housing Levy. Seattle has boomed over the past thirty years and during that time housing has become increasingly unaffordable. We realized this and have renewed our commitment to affordable housing four times, and our investment in the Seattle Housing Levy has helped local families find that safe, decent, and affordable home for 28 years.

    Seattle has become a national leader, a model for other cities and states. We have consistently said that it should be possible for working people to afford housing and still have enough money for the basics like groceries and gas and childcare. We have a chance to renew our commitment again. Voting to renew the Housing Levy will provide more than 1,850 affordable homes, serving thousands of families over the next fifty years. It will prevent homelessness for over 3,000 families and individuals. A vote for the Seattle Housing Levy will create over 4,000 jobs and bring other funds–federal, state, and private–into Seattle. Your YES vote on Proposition 1 will continue to help our most vulnerable neighbors including seniors, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and working families and will only cost the typical homeowner $65 a year.

    It’s pretty simple (to me); a home is the thing. The Levy has been an amazing success. It has put thousands upon thousands of families and individuals in a home. It has helped people afford their rent and kept seniors housed, prevented people from ending up on the streets, and even helped some people purchase a home. Every neighborhood has benefited. Seattle has benefited.

    When you get your ballot in the mail, please vote YES on Proposition 1. Renew the Seattle Housing Levy. For more information about the campaign, visit YES for Homes. You can read more about the levy, volunteer, and donate.

    Don’t forget, ballots must be postmarked by November 3, 2009.

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    This Friday, United Way of King County will hold its annual Day of Caring.

    To be honest, I’ve never been fond of that name. I know I’m over-simplifying, but to set aside one day to “care” makes about as much sense to me as offering up a box of chocolate on February 14th to make up for all the other times we’ve messed up in our relationships throughout the year. This will be my 12th DoC since coming to United Way, and to me, over the years this day has become a Celebration of Caring, a chance to recognize that ‘caring’ is something that we do, generally, all the time…whether it’s for ourselves, our families and friends, or complete strangers.

    This year, it will also be a chance for me to reflect, because our Day also happens to fall on the 8th anniversary of September 11th. [For those of you not aware, it has been named a National Day of Service and Remembrance.]

    Since 9/11, the proximity of these two dates (Day of Caring always happens on a Friday in September) has always created mixed emotions on my part. Back in 2001, Day of Caring occurred on September 14th. My work assignment for that morning was to stand in the parking lot at Seattle Center and guide volunteers to where they could park. As I stood there by myself, I watched the sky get brighter over the Cascades, and noticed a dot come out of the mountain shadows. It was the first morning that air flights were allowed to continue after the attack. And I remember tears. I didn’t want to be there, volunteering or otherwise.

    I still get knots in my stomach thinking about that day. I still get moody and a little sad when I think about finding out later that I knew 2 people in the World Trade Center.

    But this year, on this day, I get to assist homeless individuals and families at our Community Resource Exchange. I get to celebrate caring, celebrate service, and remember how lucky and grateful I am for the opportunity to do so.

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    My co-worker Yuri wrote a great post yesterday about the Community Resource Exchange. I liked it so much, I want to refer to it again. Not only does this event offer people currently dealing with homelessness an opportunity to connect with a variety of different resources in one place on a single day, but it also offers something unique to those of us lucky enough to volunteer.

    We get to talk with people attending the event. We get to walk with them, side-by-side, from service provider to service provider. We get to sit down and eat with them. We share stories about our lives (‘How’d you end up in Seattle?’, ‘Where’d you go to college?’, ‘I dated a guy named Patrick back in high school’, etc). We have a chance to remind ourselves just how alike we really are; how simple acts like listening to someone or sharing a meal really can have a significant impact on someone’s life.

    And I’m not actually talking about the homeless person here. Although I like to think I’ve affected them positively, as well.

    So what can you do? Well, we have the volunteers, and just about all of the logistics are set.

    But, here’s something: you know that backpack or duffel bag sitting in the garage, attic, or trunk of your car? The one that is in fairly decent shape (not ripped apart at the seams), but you never use it anymore? Or maybe you just bought a new one for your kid as he or she gets ready to head back to school, and you figured you would just toss the old one?

    Don’t. Instead, drop it off at United Way of King County, 720 2nd Avenue in downtown Seattle (corner of 2nd & Columbia). Or you can email me at pkelley@uwkc.org, and we can figure something out.

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    Our old friend Mark Horvath stopped in at Nickelsville earlier today. You can check out his photos and link to his Invisiblepeople.tv Road Trip stories. Anyway, I heard about this, and I got to thinking, [insert post title here].

    [Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur asks the same question at the end of her heartbreaking article today about Philip Carrasco. I like to read Ms. Brodeur’s column regularly, but even if you don’t, check this one out. And thank you, Nicole, for telling stories “that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.”]


    Now, back to Nickelsville…what do you think, Seattle? (Mike) “McGinnville” definitely has a better ring than (Joe) “Mallahanville”, but that could just be because it sounds like McMinnville (I guess it’s a place in Oregon?). I’ve gone through both official websites, and have to say sadly that I’m not all that impressed with either candidate’s stance on homelessness, poverty, or affordable housing. Mr. McGinn mentions ‘housing’ exactly once as far as I can tell, although he does spend quite a bit of time talking about how he will effectively reduce poverty by providing broadband Internet access to ALL, which I take to mean EVERYONE. Huh. Maybe Mr. Mallahan can help him out with that by getting T-Mobile to offer up free handheld, broadband-access devices to the tens of thousands of Seattle residents living below the poverty level. Because when we talk about ‘basic needs’, that’s right up there with food and shelter.

    Speaking of Mr. Mallahan, his site does a slightly better job of describing at least some experience in working on these issues. But although he does provide some thoughts on homelessness in Seattle, he doesn’t really seem to say much more than ‘as Mayor, I’ll make sure these programs are funded and held accountable.’ Where haven’t we heard that before?

    I kind of look at both of these guys and think things like, sure, traffic’s a pain in the ass. But I mostly take the bus, and the bus works just fine. And surprisingly enough, I can’t live on a bus, or eat one.

    When it comes to elections, I have kind of a whacky way of choosing who I vote for. I’m generally not interested in knowing what a candidate will do for me. I’m usually more interested in knowing what they’ll do for someone who doesn’t have what I have. In this case, I’m talking about a roof over my head that I can afford and enough food to eat. And right now in that regard, I’m just not seeing either one of these candidates much differently than the guy we just kicked out. That could definitely change.

    And in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to admit that I did not vote for either Mr. McGinn or Mr. Mallahan. As a matter of fact, I volunteered for one of their opponents (not the incumbent guy). But I do have close friends who are intricately involved in the campaigns of both of these men. And by all accounts, they are both men of intelligence, fairness, and integrity, insofar as human beings can be. I wish them both the best of luck in the general election, and hope beyond all doubt that, no matter the outcome, neither man does anything that would lend credence to having a homeless encampment named after him. Because that would be weird.

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