Outside City Hall for 2nd year joins over 30 other TV, Radio, and Print news sites covering the region’s homeless crisis

Here are five stories from authors with years of direct experience working with the homeless and addressing homeless issues that often go overlooked 

Today, as we did last year, Outside City Hall is participating in a area-wide news media blitz on Seattle and region’s homeless crisis.  As many as 30 radio, TV, and print/blog outlets will contribute ‘original content’ stories.  Special thanks to Crosscut and Channel 9 for bringing this together.

What follows are our five original-content stories covering critical aspects of the homeless crisis.  The authors have decades of experience, but for them it’s not just writing or assuming the traditional service provider-client relationship.  It’s about offering their skills and understanding while hearing and learning and interacting as co-equals with these affected communities.  Paulo Friere describes this in his book “Pedagogy of the Oppressed”: 

  • Both educator and educand (Freire’s word for student in an attempt to convey a more equitable relationship) teach and learn from each other as partners..

We’ll let each story speak for itself.   Scroll down to see all five. (For our previous coverage on this topic, it can be found here, including those we wrote for last years media-blitz. And for today’s other stories completed at other outlets, go to Crosscut.com.)

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Where do you go when the land under your home is sold and your home is worthless?

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The University Mobile Home Park in north Seattle was closed to make way for trendy townhomes.  Until recently this was a thriving well-maintained and long-running community of 100 low income and senior residents  (photo by David Bloom)

Ishbel Dickens writes about the plight of state’s mobile home park residents:

Imagine dreaming the American dream and living it – you are a low-income household or a senior living alone after the death of your spouse – you dream of homeownership or of downsizing now that you are on your own – you are thrilled beyond belief to find that you can afford to purchase a nice home for your family in a warm community setting and you move in.

Unfortunately, the dream becomes a nightmare, as you realize that the community owner who owns the land under your home has plans to sell the property for other development purposes – thus in one fell swoop ruining your dreams, your future, and causing you to lose your largest asset, your home, without being required to give you any compensation for the total loss of your investment.

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University Trailer Park   (photo by David Bloom)

Welcome to the world of manufactured homeowners living in Washington’s 1,600 manufactured housing communities (more commonly referred to as “mobile home parks”).

Currently 105 low-income households, primarily Latino families, are being evicted from three manufactured housing communities in Des Moines to make room for a fancy commercial development that includes an apartment complex that is unaffordable to these displaced households.

In October, another 69 Latino households are scheduled to be evicted from a community in Sea Tac to make room for apartments and two new hotels, despite the fact that Sea Tac already has 8,300 hotel rooms available.

More than twenty households in NE Seattle were all recently evicted from their manufactured housing community – at least one of these households is currently homeless, despite being a homeowner for over 12 years.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, Homelessness, Uncategorized

Cat Mary

Rebekah Demirel offers a personal look at homelessness and how we all are irrevocably bound to the plight of those affected by this crisis    

images (1)There is a basic humanity in everyone and set of feelings cutting across all classes and that bridges all divides between rich and poor, black and white, and the housed and unhoused.  

With Rebekah Demirel’s permission, what follows is an excerpt of her soon-to-be published book, Nothing’s for Nothing, that offers great insight into the reality and experience of being homeless. Rebekah, homeless herself for a time as a youth, writes about her interaction with an elderly woman and her many cats, and in doing so, captures the underlying meaning of what binds us all irrevocably together.  (Below, there’s more about Rebekah’s book.  Copies are not yet available but can be requested by going to her website here: http://www.traumaprograms.com/ )

Once church was done, we’d often spend Sunday afternoons driving around Richmond, where my dad worked part-time driving cab. He’d gotten to know a lot of the very poor people who lived on the outskirts, befriending them and inevitably talking to them about Jesus. And since we were on the way to Grandma’s house for dinner, there was no way out of going along on these “mission visits.”

My most vivid memory is of a woman called “Cat Mary”, who lived in a bramble covered shack on the Fraser River mud flats. The falling down, tin hovel was overrun by at least a hundred, runny eyed cats, all meowing and jumping around between the stacks of smelly newspapers and other garbage.

I never saw any furniture or appliances, so I never knew where she slept or if she had a bathroom or kitchen. It seemed like Cat Mary just slept on the newspapers with the cats and maybe she ate their food too.

When we came to see her, Cat Mary always ran to my dad with open arms, toothlessly grinning and giggling like a school girl. Her clothes were filthy, her hair was matted and she smelled like she bathed in cat pee, yet Cat Mary’s eyes sparkled, never seeming self-conscious in the slightest.

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Posted in City Hall, Homelessness, Uncategorized

Homeless on wheels

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Booted: the fate of hundreds of homeless who live in their vehicles

The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett writes about the lack of government response to the growing percent of the County’s unsheltered living in vehicles

Every year “Point in Time” homeless counts remain part of the national efforts to end homelessness. In years prior to 2017 in King County (WA), the event sustained protocols that were never inclusive of all geographic areas and used methodology estimating count numbers (2 per tent, 2 per vehicle, etc.). In 2017 the area counted extended to all census tracts, and the method to estimate numbers followed protocols using multipliers based on collective count results (in WA and CA; i.e., less than 2 per X).

What matters is that we cannot compare numbers directly between last year and this year quantitatively. But we can compare percentages. The number of unsheltered living in vehicles in 2016 was 35% of the unsheltered count. In 2017, it is 42%. Aside from any disputes about the numbers, we know we have more persons on any given night who are homelessness on wheels. In total this year, the one-night count found 2314 individuals living in cars, vans or RV’s.

Very little to no funding is devoted to this reality. In the City of Seattle, the only jurisdiction devoting funds toward people living in vehicles, the amount is .5% of their total Human Services spending. In fact, Mayor Murray has no policy in place, or any suggestion one will occur. Almost every nonprofit agency funded publicly and raising its own private funding does nothing intentionally to address persons living in vehicles. The largest response currently happening countywide for those living in vehicles is by faith communities. In fact, as Seattle helps to see between 50-100 folks in vehicles hosted with public funding via a nonprofit over the last several years, outside Seattle faith communities over the same period have hosted more than 1,000 folks with no public funding.

This is not intended to awaken the quick-to-judge as a call to turn all such efforts over to faith communities. Their efforts emerge from the mission they follow as people of faith. Their hosting is built on relationships. Occasionally they use their buildings for some needs, such as cooking and bathroom use, but in most cases they simply host persons in vehicles with needs as they emerge. Stabilizing from harm becomes the prime response. Also, outside Seattle, more faith communities have parking lots they can use.

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Posted in City Hall, Homelessness, Neighborhoods, Politics, Uncategorized

Homeless camps are good: we need more of them

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David Baum serving a meal at “Camp Dearborn,” an unauthorized homeless encampment since removed in SODO and its residents displaced

David Baum, tireless homeless advocate, writes about his experiences assisting in the camps and those who depend upon them

Organized camps are a good solution to the problem of how to care for homeless people while there is not enough affordable housing. Camps provide a stable environment where people without a home can find relief from the daily struggle for survival. In a safe place, they can calm down, focus, and work to solve the problems that have led to instability in their lives. Camps also provide a place where social services can be delivered to people who need help to achieve stability and become housed.

For the past year, I have been closely involved with two camps: Camp United We Stand, in north Seattle, and Camp Second Chance, in the south. I have been a welcome guest at each camp, and I have provided meals and other resources on a regular basis. (I should say explicitly that I do not speak for either camp, nor for their residents.)

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Camp United We Stand resident

I have become convinced that well-managed camps guided by experienced campers are a viable method to provide services to people who are seeking to stabilize their lives and return to housing. An organized camp provides at least the rudimentary elements of stability: safety from violence, a covered place to sleep, toilet facilities, and in most cases access to food. Some camps – those supported by City funds – also provide case management to help residents access social services, find employment, and move up and out into housing.

There are, at present, 11 homeless camps in the Greater Seattle area, of which six are “sanctioned” by the City of Seattle and receive public funding. The other five non-sanctioned camps are generally hosted on church property and rely on the charity of the church and surrounding community. For official information about the sanctioned camps, visit the City of Seattle’s web page. For a map and information about all 11 camps, visit the Greater Seattle Cares web page.

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Posted in City Hall, Homelessness, Uncategorized

ACLU lawsuit says City and WSDOT have not stopped destroying property of homeless campers and violate their civil rights

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Pushed out of the “Jungle” then booted from the Dearborn camp  (photo: city of Seattle)

Neil Powers reports on ACLU’s attempt to stop the sweeps and actions city has engaged in that were basis for the appeal

The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington (ACLU-WA) has major concerns about how people in Seattle’s homeless encampments are being treated. It filed a request for a preliminary injunction to the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Washington at Seattle, on June 14th, trying to force the City of Seattle and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to stop “unlawful actions immediately” related to sweeps of homeless encampments in the city and the destruction of private property.

The motion, filed on behalf “plaintiff’s” including several affected homeless, the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Trinity Parish of Seattle, and Real Change, offers declarations from 30 individuals and 70 exhibits, and a video that appears to show a worker using a cutting device to destroy a tent.

The ACLU maintains that the City of Seattle and WSDOT continue to destroy property of people experiencing homelessness, having broken-up encampments on average of one each weekday from February 22 – May 1, 2017. It claims the city and WSDOT (Defendants in the case) have not followed through on a commitment to do better in closing homeless encampments. The ACLU claims WSDOT and the city did not save any personal items from nearly 30 percent of encampment sweeps during this time.

The city, under its established protocols, also is required to provide at least a 72-hour notice at any encampment that is to be removed. The ACLU charges that during the recent February-May time period, Seattle did not post notice in over 55 percent of the encampment removals. They managed to avoid the requirement, according to the suit, by labeling most of the encampments as an “obstruction” or a “hazard”.

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Posted in City Hall, Homelessness, Uncategorized

Homeless encampments will continue

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If Seattle politicians think that campers like Ronnie are going to disappear, they are delusional. (Photo by Rex Hohlbein)

City Hall must stop harassing homeless campers and learn to help them

By George Howland Jr

Here’s the big news out of the 2017 One Night Count of the homeless: illegal encampments will continue. It’s a simple problem of numbers: too many homeless people and too little money to help and house them. Instead of harassing homeless campers, City Hall needs to figure out how to make the best of this tragic situation.

The first number: the best estimate of the number of homeless people in Seattle is 8,522. That figure comes from the chart on page 9 of All Home’s 2017 Count Us In report. Of those, 3,857 are living outside and 4,665 are living in shelters, safe havens and transitional housing.

The estimated cost of building a new studio apartment of affordable housing in Seattle is $250,000 (more for larger units). To build all of Seattle’s homeless persons an apartment would cost over $2 billion dollars. The city does not have that kind of money. The entire city’s general-fund budget is $1.2 billion. And it’s not like the city can stop paving streets, operating libraries, maintaining parks and paying police officers and firefighters.

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Posted in Affordable Housing, City Hall, George Howland articles, Homelessness, Neighborhoods, Politics