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Posts Tagged ‘seattle homelessness’

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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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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If you can spare that much time right now, give this a listen. It includes the story of a woman currently staying at the Jubilee Women’s Center in Seattle. The familiarity of these stories gives me pause. Not to mention a 40% increase in the homeless population would be catastrophic.

How can you help?

  • Volunteer to lead a supply drive for the Community Resource Exchange on September 11th. You can help make sure a family currently experiencing homelessness gets the assistance they need to make it through the winter.
  • Want to volunteer? We do need 25 people or so to help us assemble about 1,500 hygiene care packages on September 10th. You can sign up right here.
  • “The future is not shaped by people who don’t believe in the future. It will be built by people who see the complexities that lie ahead but are not deterred; people who are conscious of the flaws of humankind but not overwhelmed by the doubts and anxieties of life; people with the vitality to gamble on their future, whatever the odds…”–John W. Gardner

    Patrick Kelley

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    Lots of items to talk about of late: an update on our buddy, Mark Horvath, creator of invisiblepeople.tv, an interesting school project in Chicago, the latest studies from HUD and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, and tent city.

  • I had a chance to meet Mark Horvath about a month ago, when he visited Seattle to talk about his work documenting the stories of homeless people. Since then, he has begun his road trip across America. I’ve been trying to keep up via my Facebook page, and just started following him on Twitter (I NEVER thought I’d sign up for Twitter, but this project prompted me to enlist…growth is change, change is growth. Right, Dad?). Anyway, Mark’s stories about stories are amazing. The LA Times wrote about his road trip a few days ago.
  • I came across this project while reading an article in the Chicago Tribune. It is, like Mark’s work, an attempt at ‘making the invisible visible, the inhuman human’.
  • The latest report from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty lists the top 10 worst cities in terms of criminalizing homelessness. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I gave a great big sigh o’ relief when I saw that my beloved Seattle wasn’t on there (now if we could just get officials to use our tax dollars to keep people out of jail instead of building more places to put them…see my last item for more info). In case you’re wondering, Los Angeles received the dubious honor of being Numero Uno on this list, which doesn’t surprise me. I was a little put off by the report’s use of the term “meanest” city or cities. I’ve actually been to 4 of the top 10 cities on the list, and I doth protest…a little. “Dumbest”, maybe, in terms of a severe lack of understanding of the underlying issues that make someone homeless (heads up, LA…you can’t get rid of homelessness by getting rid of homeless people). But I think “mean” is a little harsh.

    But I’m not going to argue with a bunch of lawyers.
  • According to the latest Homeless Assessment Report to Congress from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, “there were early signs that the economic crisis may be affecting trends in homelessness nationally.” Ummm, “may be”? Other discoveries of an earth-shattering nature:

    -The number of people in families accessing shelters in 2008 increased by 9%, “suggesting that family homelessness may be on the rise”…again, “may be”?? [Why is this thing written like someone’s trying to cover their a**?]

    -Homelessness in suburban and rural areas increased substantially for both individuals (34% from 07 to 08) and families (56% from 07 to 08). These are areas that traditionally don’t have a lot of social services easily accessible locally.
  • The Washington State Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of the Northshore United Church of Christ (and, by proxy, the residents of Tent City 4), saying that the City of Woodinville had violated the church’s Constitutional rights by refusing to consider a permit application by the church to host Tent City on its grounds back in 2006. The bureaucratic details of the case make me slightly wary of the City’s reasons for not considering the application, but suffice it to say I think it’s a good precedent set by the high court.
  • On a less enthusiastic “Tent City” note, the University of Washington recently decided to postpone its decision on hosting Tent City 3 at its Seattle campus. Despite all evidence to the contrary, some residents and students still equate ‘hosting Tent City’ with an ‘increase in criminal activity’ in a particular neighborhood. The truth is, while Tent Cities may not be the best long-term solution to homelessness, residents of these encampments live by a strict code of conduct and set of criteria for who can live there. According to the King County Sheriff’s office, there has never been “a problem with increased crime in a neighborhood where Tent City” is being hosted. I hope the UW can figure out the logistics of hosting TC3 soon…
  • The “No New Jail / I-100” movement will host a rally at Seattle City Hall (corner of 4th & James) this Wednesday, July 22nd, at 11 AM. If you work downtown, get out of the office for a while and come show city officials that ‘we prefer classrooms to jail cells, and investing in people instead of prisons.’
  • Patrick Kelley

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    Special thanks to Tim Harris, executive director of Real Change, for allowing me to reprint this in its entirety. Many things struck me about this piece, but this one made me hit my head several times on my desk: “the city workgroup on alternatives to the new jail predicts a sudden escalation in arrests and the need for new jail space in 2015, the year the contract with King County now expires. The new jail, says this report, is inevitable.” I’m sorry, but how in the f*ck does one ‘predict a sudden escalation in arrests’? Also inevitable is the $226 million price tag. [For some perspective, that’s more than one-fourth of what was cut from the public education coffers in this last legislative session.] Tim puts it quite nicely: “The business of creating a paradigm shift that values early intervention and investment in human potential over punishment and criminalization is a long-haul organizing project. Entrenched power is not easily stopped, and the necessary community-wide commitment to a new vision of the future is a work in progress.

    Patrick Kelley

    “It’s time for some truth telling. The fact that Real Change is in a period of unprecedented challenge is no secret. Our vendor numbers have climbed steadily over the past three years to more than 425 vendors monthly and are still rising. This increase of over 50% in the numbers of poor and homeless people that we serve has brought huge challenges.

    Additionally, Real Change has pursued a path of aggressive and risky organizing to address structural issues of poverty and race. Our Initiative 100 campaign to halt the Mayor’s unyielding commitment to a new $226 million municipal jail has taken Real Change out on a limb that, frankly, feels like it’s at the breaking point.

    Over the past year, our case for support has been consistent. This was set forth with admirable pith in last week’s Director’s Corner: (RSD + SCI) – $$$ = UCC. Rising Street Demand plus System Change Imperative in a tough fundraising environment equals Unsustainable Capacity Challenge.

    We have always been an organization that strains at the limits of the possible. This, broadly speaking, is one of those rare times in history where, amidst the crisis, the huge potential and clear need for system change is apparent. We have done our best to rise to this occasion.

    Our summer fund drive this year has been met with strong support. As of today, we have raised $77,404 since May 1 toward our $160,000 goal. This means that last week, our supporters came through with another $10,552. This is a measure of the deep and broad support that exists for our work.

    Yet, as we sit here, out on our limb, listening to the creaks, groans, and occasional cracks, we have arrived at a point where the choice we have struggled to avoid is upon us. We cannot sustain both the organizing and the heightened demand for vendor services with our present resources. Decisions must be made.

    The I-100 Campaign

    Marion Edelman Wright, the visionary leader of the Children’s Defense Fund, has described incarceration as “the new American apartheid,” where “poor children of color are the fodder.”

    It is more than telling that African Americans are represented within both Seattle’s homeless and incarcerated at roughly six times their percentage of population. As we have watched the increasing criminalization of poverty over the past fifteen years, most recently exemplified here by the Mayor’s sweeps of homeless encampments, we have come to understand that homelessness as a social issue does not exist in a vacuum.

    If we are ever going to make progress against homelessness, the structural roots of race and poverty have to be addressed. This means that those of us who work in our own issue areas must learn to reach out, trust, and combine in ways that challenge our comfort zones. None of us can win fundamental change on our own, and the divide and conquer single-issue politics of the past are a strategic dead end.

    The statistics that Edelman Wright offers speak for themselves: Children with an incarcerated parent are more likely to become incarcerated. Black children are nearly nine times and Latino children are three times as likely as White children to have an incarcerated parent. Blacks constitute one-third and Latinos one-fifth of the prisoners in America, and 1 in 3 Black men, 20 to 29 years old, is under correctional supervision or control. Of the 2.3 million in jail or prison, 64 percent are minority. Of the 4.2 million persons on probation, 45 percent are minority; of the 800,000 on parole, 59 percent are minority. Inequitable drug sentencing policies including mandatory minimums have greatly escalated the incarceration of minority adults and youths.”

    The I-100 campaign takes on the realities of race, poverty, and power that lie behind a municipal commitment to increased incarceration. While this has been, without question, the most ambitious organizing Real Change has ever done, it is also the most necessary and fruitful. A broad coalition of more that 40 allies has come together in 1-100’s support. The Seattle NAACP, the Church Council of Greater Seattle, The Queer/Trans Jail Stoppers, The League of Women Voters, the Green Party, and the International Socialists have been among the most high profile and hard-working.

    Since the inception of I-100 last December, the city’s rhetorical wall of inevitability has begun to crack. King County District Attorney Dan Satterberg, members of the County Council led by Dow Constantine, and the Seattle City Council under the leadership of Tim Burgess and Richard Conlin have all openly questioned the need for the new jail. The City and County have reached an agreement to extend their current jail space contract another three years while alternatives are explored.

    And yet, the Mayor and his staff have not budged. A new report issued by the city workgroup on alternatives to the new jail predicts a sudden escalation in arrests and the need for new jail space in 2015, the year the contract with King County now expires. The new jail, says this report, is inevitable.

    Much remains to be done. The business of creating a paradigm shift that values early intervention and investment in human potential over punishment and criminalization is a long-haul organizing project. Entrenched power is not easily stopped, and the necessary community-wide commitment to a new vision of the future is a work in progress.

    Real Change has set the ball in motion. We have provided the leadership and the staffing for this campaign despite our other challenges. As we near our July 22 deadline for signature gathering and the date of our Power Surge rally at City Hall, the demands of this campaign are more than daunting.

    We will see the I-100 campaign through to its completion, but our capacity to continue this work is seriously in question.

    The Truth of Our Situation

    Real Change is not on the verge of collapse, and our successes, even at this time of challenge, are huge. Circulation is at its highest ever and rising, with at least 17,000-18,000 copies sold each week. We are winning prestigious awards for our quality journalism. Our organizing is high profile, visionary, ambitious, and successful.

    The grassroots donor support that makes up the majority of our budget has grown each year, as has our earned income from paper sales. This funding combination offers enormous independence, and with that, a large capacity for organizing that entails political risk.

    Real Change is a treasured Seattle institution that rests upon an enormous number of unlikely relationships that exist across class. We’re here to stay.

    And yet, we have clearly arrived at that point where the need to take our resources to “the next level” is too pressing to be further ignored. Our overextension leaves us in the position of having to grow, or to make hard choices about priorities. In the push and pull between creating systemic change and meeting the immediate needs of our vendors, the vendors will always win.

    The strains right now are huge, and some hard choices are upon us. We are working hard to create a future for Real Change that takes us sustainably into the next decade.

    This month, we continue toward our goal of raising $160,000 during our summer drive. Two of our supporters have offered a match to help us on our way. Gifts of $100 or more from new donors and $250 or more from current supporters will be doubled until the $10,000 that they have committed runs out.

    The stakes for Real Change right now are very high. Please support the work, and help us to be all that we can. You can make a secure on-line donation at realchangenews.org, or mail your gift to 2129 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA 98121.”

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