#SeaHomeless | A Day of Focused Coverage

How much do we know about homelessness? Why do we see more people experiencing homelessness when it seems like we’re doing more now than ever to address the crisis? What are others in our neighborhoods, cities, Washington State and along the West Coast doing to move people into safe, affordable housing? Where can we find hope?

Local media will try to find answers to these questions – and more – through a day of focused reporting on the topic of homelessness. 

The idea for June 29th focused day of coverage was sparked in San Francisco where more than 70 news outlets signed on do an “all out blitz” on the topic of homelessness. The idea was quickly adopted by other regions, including some in the Pacific Northwest. Locally, at least 17 news outlets* have joined Crosscut’s Homeless in Seattle  project.

The hashtag #SEAHomeless will connect all the stories, offering us a way to see the wide range of viewpoints, approaches and solutions that come out of today’s coverage. 

All the effort won’t matter unless we begin tomorrow with new energies, ideas and commitments to make homelessness rare, brief and a one-time occurrence. To help move us towards solutions, we are supporting today’s coverage with a series of three #SEAHomeless To Do   lists to convert today’s coverage into action.

Join us! We will be posting a morning, noon and afternoon #SEAHomeless To Do lists along with links to some of the great coverage we’re finding throughout the day on  Facebook  and Twitter  @lisagustaveson  and @hhunthausen.

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*Participating news outlets include: 

Crosscut

KCTS9.org

The Seattle Times

KING 5

Q13FOX

International Examiner

YES! Magazine

Real Change

KUOW

Seattle Weekly

Geekwire

Seattlish

PubliCola at Seattle Met

ParentMap

South Seattle Emerald

Seattle Channel

Seattle Globalist

State of Reform

The C is for Crank

Outside City Hall

Animal News Northwest

Seattle’s Child

Action Advocacy Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness

Addressing the Affordability Crisis: Homeownership and the Housing Continuum

Our latest guest blogger, Kathleen Hosfeld, is a current student  at the School of Theology and Ministry (pursuing a Master of Arts in Transforming Spirituality) and the Executive Director of Seattle-based Homestead Community Land Trust. Like all community land trusts, Homestead is in the business of making communities more stable, sustainable, accessible and affordable.  Kathleen sees their work – “creating and preserving affordable homeownership opportunities for modest-income homebuyers in the Greater Seattle/Puget Sound area” – as an essential piece of a multidimensional and holistic response to the complex problems of homelessness and housing affordability/insecurity. It’s a way to both empower and stabilize individuals and families, and strengthen communities. Learn more about the what, how and why of their work at www.homesteadclt.org.


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By Kathleen Hosfeld, Executive Director, Homestead Community Land Trust

The facts are stark. As of February 2016, the Seattle Times reported that the median price of a home in Seattle had risen to almost $644,000 – a 24% increase over the previous year. To afford that home a person has to have an income in excess of $100,000 per year and a down payment of more than $100,000. That price is out of reach for 60% of the potential buyers in our community, where median income is closer to $75,000.

We live in a community where only the affluent have the opportunity to own their own home. As the Executive Director of a community land trust, I see teachers, non-profit employees, medical technicians, first responders and social workers denied this part of the American Dream. Modest-income people who try to own a home often buy more home than they can afford. Those who relocate for affordability often have longer commutes – transportation time and expense can bring their cost of living back to unaffordable levels, increase their environmental impact and take time away from their families.

Runaway real estate costs have created an affordability crisis that affects everyone. But for more than 100 years restrictive covenants, discriminatory federal policies, bank redlining and predatory lending practices have also disproportionately targeted minorities, creating more obstacles to homeownership.

Racial Wealth Gap (Pew 2013)
As a result, in addition to a growing wealth gap, there is an even wider racial wealth gap, with median-income white families having 13 times the wealth of median-income black families.  Homestead-CLT-logoCommunity land trusts like Homestead arose out of the Civil Rights era and the work of colleagues of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  They’ve shown that when communities work together, we can change these statistics and change lives for the better.

As we grapple with our crises of homelessness and housing affordability in the greater Seattle area, we must at the same time take a holistic view of the roles played by different forms of housing in lifting people’s financial circumstances. In Washington State we talk about the “housing continuum” – a progression of services that includes emergency housing, transitional and permanent supportive housing and subsidized rental. Each form of housing plays a critical role in creating a just community, where the most vulnerable are protected. And a holistic, systems view of housing recognizes that increasing access to affordable homeownership is a strategy that helps the whole continuum. Programs that support people in safely building equity reduce their risk of future housing instability.

Main image - We make it possible

Photo credit: HomesteadCLT.org

Alyssa’s story provides a great example. Six years ago, Alyssa was a single mother struggling with an unsympathetic landlord who refused to address mold issues that affected the health of her children. Alyssa had significant financial and credit issues. By working with Homestead staff over time, she was able to clean up her financial issues and in 2015 she bought a single-family home in West Seattle, close to bus lines, schools and grocery stores.

Without this opportunity, families like Alyssa’s could easily end up on the street. The changes that Alyssa made in her life to prepare for homeownership, combined with an affordable mortgage and a consistent housing payment give her and her family opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach.

As I write this, the Washington State legislature is considering increasing the funding available to organizations like Homestead that make homeownership a reality for modest income people. People in Seattle are now being invited to discuss the Mayor’s proposal for renewal of our housing levy.  As you exercise your civic voice, consider the important role that access to homeownership plays in creating inclusive and equitable communities.

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  1. LEARN how you and your faith community can partner with Homestead Community Land Trust to make homeownership possible for modest income families. Contact Homestead CLT at 206-323-1227 Ext 113 and speak to Kathleen Hosfeld for more information.
  2. WATCH 99 Homes, a 2015 film that explores the brutality of the Great Recession housing crisis.
  3. DISCUSS: Homeownership – its role in an inclusive, equitable community. Free panel discussion on Thursday, March 24, 6-8:00pm, Learn more and register here→
  4. ADVOCATE! Write letters to your elected officials, send Letters to the Editor at your local paper and talk to others about the need for affordable housing options and the structural causes of poverty and homelessness.

Sign up to get Action Alerts on social service and housing policy and budget issues from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance at wliha.org; Firesteel – YWCA at firesteelwa.org; and the Housing Development Consortium (Seattle and King County) at housingconsortium.org.

Data and Reports Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness

Shared Brokenness: A Reflection on “Nourish” and the One Night Count

FEBRUARY-NOURISH-CALENDARThis academic year, we at the School of Theology and Ministry are taking time each month to reflect on a theme as a learning community. Every month, a faculty or staff member offers up a personal reflection, exploring how that month’s theme applies to their life and work. (See here for an overview of these themes, which will also be highlighted in each month’s school e-newsletter.)→

The theme for our school community this February 2016 is “Nourish.” We choose to unite. We choose to nourish body, mind and spirit.

When I was invited to offer a reflection on this theme, I felt compelled to share my recent experience with the One Night Count in King County, and reflect on the personal and systemic implications of human brokenness, connection and compassion.


By Hannah Hunthausen, Program Coordinator, School of Theology and Ministry (Originally published 2/2/16 on the School of Theology and Ministry website)

Last Friday morning, around 4:00am, my flashlight roved over the park grounds and rested briefly on a human figure bundled up on the ground beneath a picnic shelter. I stared for a moment before turning out my light, and the image burned behind my eyes. A sharp pit gnawed at my stomach as we made a note and moved on.

It was the 2016 One Night Count of homeless people in King County, and our team had already seen and counted several people sleeping in their cars in grocery store parking lots and next to auto-repair shops (an all-too-common sight in neighborhoods like Ballard, SODO, and along sections of Aurora, where folks try to find a place to park where they won’t be harassed, disturbed, or ticketed).

One Night Count 2016 - 3

January 29, 2016, One Night Count in King County. Photo credit: Susan Fried, The Skanner News Group.

But it was the individual in the park who jarred and haunted me. There was something about that lonely figure in the still, silent night that magnified anew the raw human tragedy of homelessness. There – a fellow human being, totally alone, isolated and vulnerable on the cold hard ground of a deserted park in the wee hours of the morning.

It was overwhelming.

Where was his mother? Is she out there somewhere worrying about her son? Does this person in the sleeping bag have friends to share her dreams and fears with, laugh with, and call on when she needs help? What gets him or her up in the morning and through each day? And what must it be like to try to find rest and safety alone in the open air on a cold January night?

When the numbers were announced a few hours later, I found out that he or she was one of 4,505 people sleeping out of doors in our county (a 19% increase from last year’s count).

Now, a few days later, I continue to reflect on what it says about our society, our communities and our neighborhoods that we allow our neighbors – siblings, parents, children, grandparents – to sleep in their cars, on the street, under bridges, in shelters, and in places where they can’t find the peace, safety and stability of “home.”

Homelessness is not just about a lack of housing and resources, or about bad choices or tough luck. I believe it’s a symptom of many layers of brokenness – the brokenness of a society that doesn’t ensure and provide for the wellbeing of all of its people, the brokenness among different groups and communities who don’t communicate with or adequately support one another, the brokenness of modern life that simultaneously connects us yet stymies and weakens social bonds, and the brokenness in each of us that prevents us from living fully into our humanness and compassion for each other.

One Night Count 2016 - 2

Photo Credit: Susan Fried, The Skanner News Group.

Nourishing and Flourishing

When I was invited to reflect on the word “nourish,” this pervasive brokenness that allows for social ills like homelessness came immediately to mind. The way I see it, homelessness is a symptom of various forms of malnourishment – and we humans need nourishing well beyond the biological.

I like to think of “nourishing” and the concept of “flourishing” together. These words conjure up a vision of the “good life,” speaking to the things that sustain human life and make it meaningful and whole.

We are, after all, social, relational, material and spiritual beings who can only truly flourish if we nourish mind, body, and spirit–in ourselves and in others.

I was reminded recently of the analogy of the oxygen mask in the airplane to explain the concept of self-care. The idea is that you need to make sure you’ve taken care of yourself before you can successfully take care of others.

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For my part, I’ve been working a lot more on self-care this year and I’ve noticed it slowly transforming my ability and capacity to be present to others and to seek and do more of what I find meaningful in this world. I’m about halfway through a nine-month long Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life retreat – nine months of making time and space for spiritual nourishment each day and actively seeking and finding God in all things. By taking this time for myself and for my relationship with God, I’ve opened up new spaces in myself for others.

One of the places I find God most often is in the faces, words and actions of the people in my life – in my fiancé, friends, family, the people I work with and the people I meet on the street. Ironically, I’m holed away in my office while writing this, but it’s true that my days are most enriched and light-filled when I’m intentional about making more time to nurture the relationships in my life, from a conversation with a coworker about their child to a couple of extra minutes talking about weather and politics with a Real Change vendor.

I think if we all took a little more time to nourish ourselves and our relationships with others, we just might be able to acknowledge, move beyond and maybe even heal some of our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world.

I saw a thought-provoking video recently on YouTube called “Everything We Think We Know About Addiction is Wrong.” (You can also watch the original TED Talk on the topic, here.) The video reviews many of the things I’ve already mentioned–that we are innately social beings who crave relationships and interaction with one another and are most fulfilled when we are nourishing healthy connections with others. The narrator explains that when we are deprived of these connections because we are “traumatized, isolated, or beaten down by life” we turn to other things to fill the void – it might be drugs or alcohol, or it might be our smartphone, video games, or gambling. Hence, the video’s moral: “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.”

We are all broken in our own ways. In spite of and because of this, we all need connection, and are deserving of love, mercy, and justice.

JustMercy_BookCover.pngI just finished reading, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson, and his are the words that sparked my ruminations on brokenness. I want to leave you with his words now:

I guess I’d always known but never fully considered that being broken is what makes us human. We all have our reasons. Sometimes we’re fractured by the choices we make; sometimes we’re shattered by things we would never have chosen. But our brokenness is also the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning, and healing. Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion. We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity. (Stevenson, p. 289)

HH_HHAD2015.jpgIf we’re going to bring about a more just and humane world and end homelessness, we need to embrace and engage the brokenness at its root. Then, together, and from a place of compassion and love, we can go on to nourish and build the healing relationships and systems that will transform the world.

If you’re interested in learning and doing more, watch this great video by All Home and be part of the community (our community) that’s working to end homelessness!

All Home Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness School of Theology & Ministry

Holding the Paradox: The Band-Aid and the Long Haul

Margeby Margie Quinn

Margie is a native of Nashville, Tennessee and  graduate of the University of Georgia. After graduating with a Women’s Studies/French degree, Margie moved to Seattle to begin a one-year “Justice Leadership Program” through the United Church of Christ (UCC) church.

Margie made many happy when she decided to stay with us in the Pacific Northwest after completing her program. She is now the Program Manager for Facing Homelessness, a national effort to build a new awareness about our relationship with homelessness. She also manages Homeless in Seattle, a local effort to raise awareness for those living without shelter and other basic needs through the sharing of photos and personal stories that highlight their beauty.

This is Margie’s second post for our blog. Her first, The Power of Interruption: A Call for Advocacy  remains one of the most popular posts on our site.


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We are a verb-heavy generation. Helping, doing, serving, saving. “We are not human beings, we are human doings!” we shout, determined to accomplish it all. So naturally when I took a job at Facing Homelessness in the fall, I prepared for an active role, one that would allow me to help people in need every day and see them benefit from our work.

Our organization began from a Facebook project, Homeless in Seattle. While we have reached outside of this community to do other projects, we still use our Facebook page as our main awareness-raising and people-helping machine.

Here is how our Facebook page works. Every week, we post photographs and stories of people in need with the intention of showing the beauty of people experiencing homelessness in Seattle. We then invite our community of over 17,000 people to help these individuals by providing them with a tent, a pair of boots, or even a month’s rent to get them through a rough spot.

It is a rewarding feeling to post about someone in need and, within two hours, see that need filled by a number of caring people. The phrases that ring through my head are, “Instant gratification!” “Wow, that was fast!” “We did it! One down, 3,771 to go!” While I want to honor how quickly our community comes forward with compassion, I have to admit that my “fix-it” mentality is a slippery slope.

It’s tricky, this fix-it game. I can become so overjoyed when we help someone that I close the book on their story, assuming that they are now on an upward trajectory toward healing and hope. I know, I know. Total Millennial. But it takes a lot to fight against that part of me that longs for the happy ending, every time.

I met a man in the fall who changed the way I see homelessness. Let’s call him Jim. Jim would come to our office almost every day and help me sort donations or hand out socks to people on the street. Despite being homeless himself, Jim was diligent about doing street outreach with us in his spare time. We made a post about Jim a few months into knowing him, just announcing what a beautiful person he is. He’s a got a big heart.

A few months ago, Jim called our office and told us that he had gotten into housing. He would be moving from his shelter that weekend and couldn’t wait. He was elated and so were we.

I can’t explain the joy I felt the day Jim got housing. Enthusiasm, relief, victory. Jim had become a close friend of ours and his success felt personal in a new way for me.

What I couldn’t have known at the time is that Jim’s mental illness and psychological issues would not go away as soon as he got housing. In fact, as Jim transitioned into a single room in a big building, I started to hear from him less and less. He would send emails sporadically, saying that he was going out of town for a few weeks or that he couldn’t come by the office. Clearly, Jim was going through something and I couldn’t help him.

Here is what I am trying to say: I want the happy ending. I want to know that Jim gets better and stays better. I want to know that Jim is a happier man now. And so do many of our Facebook friends. When people drop off donations in our office, they ask about many of the people with whom we post. “How is she doing? Did she make it to that recovery appointment?” “How is he doing? Is he back on his feet yet?” I love it when my answer is a positive one, and it often is. But in the times when I have to say, “I don’t know, we haven’t seen him in a while,” or “He is back on the street,” I feel heartbreak.

Craig-3xWe talk about local minister Craig Rennebohm (pictured left) a lot in our office. Craig did street ministry in Seattle for a number of years and introduced a new way of helping people, in which you recognize that you yourself need help, too. He calls it Companioning. (read our 2012 post about Craig’s work here and  learn more about the Mental Health Chaplaincy here.

Companioning is not fixing. It is walking with someone through their suffering. Companioning is not telling someone what to do. It’s listening deeply to their wants and needs.

Companioning is not giving someone a dollar and wishing them luck. It’s showing up in someone’s life, time and time again, to bear witness to their existence and humanity.

This is the paradox, isn’t it? It’s finding how to celebrate the small victories and the acts of kindness pouring forth without forgetting the slow work of God. Because sometimes, God’s work is slow. Real slow.

Lately I’m trying to hold the paradox: The beautiful, quick fixes that our community provides for people in need with the slower, deeper process of walking with someone experiencing homelessness. There is no right or wrong here. Both the Band-Aid and the friendship are necessary in changing someone. But more importantly, both are necessary in changing ourselves.

♥ To join the Homeless in Seattle community visit their Facebook page.

♥ Want to start a movement in your community? Learn more at Facing Homelessness.

Action Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Seattle U Social Justice

A Student Perspective: Homeless are Setting up Camp in Seattle

Seattle University sits in the center of the fifth fastest growing city in the country. We are also third in the nation for the number of people experiencing homelessness. Sadly, this gives our students plenty of opportunities to explore the crisis. Recently, we accompanied one student on a tour of Nickelsville to learn how encampments work, and if they are a solution.

(Originally posted in Seattle University’s student paper – The Spectator

By Lena Beck

Down on South Dearborn Street, a sign and pink picket fence marks the entrance into one of Seattle’s overlooked communities. Nickelsville is an encampment of tents and individual shelters packed onto a steep hill, a transitory home to homeless people and families in the area.

Last week, Seattle City Council, backed by Mayor Ed Murray, voted unanimously to allow three new tent encampments across Seattle. Each encampment is predicted to hold up to 100 people.



“The legislation passed unanimously,” wrote Councilmember Sally Clark in an email to the Spectator. “There was debate about studying potential locations in single family zones, but otherwise, all 9 members supported passage of the bill.”

City Council also passed two more measures which will allocate a total of $375,000 toward the improvement of certain resources for the homeless community. The funds should last a year.

According to Lisa Gustaveson, Program Manager of Seattle University’s Faith & Family Homelessness Project, it’s significant that the Seattle government is making these moves, because it shows acknowledgment of a problem that Seattle has been struggling to solve. But she is clear that installing new tent encampments is not a permanent solution.

The One Night Count this year found 3,772 people sleeping outside or in their cars—providing shelter for 300 of those people at any one time is not going to solve the problem, Gustaveson said.

Gustaveson added that these encampments should be considered a temporary solution—a transitory place where people can get the resources they need to move into real housing.

In other words, this should not be an attempt to solve Seattle’s homelessness problem by pushing the entire homeless population into one corner of the city.

“Warehousing people isn’t the way to solve homelessness; it’s affordable housing and services,” said Gustaveson.

“And so [tent encampments] can’t be a stand-alone solution.”

Right inside the pink picket fence of Nickelsville is a booth with an attendant. Once you sign in, you can walk between the wooden shelters and through to the outdoor cooking area. Those who ascend the steep hill can climb up to the top where the tent residents live.

One of Nickelsville’s longer-time residents is a man named Lee, who has been living there since July of last year. He said he was pleased with City Council’s decision to add more tent cities.

“I think it’s great because this place…it saves lives,” Lee said. “A lot of people that were on the street or don’t know how to handle themselves out there, a lot of them die.”

Lee has been saving money from his job at an IHOP in Aurora. He recently thought he was going to move into real housing but after filling out all of the paperwork, he was told that he didn’t actually qualify for the housing option because he made too much money. So he remains in Nickelsville.

A variety of people make up his neighbors, and they stay there for varying lengths of time.

“We have a couple of families; I live across the way from one,” Lee said. “Some people stay for a week or two, some people a month or two. Some people never leave.”

What he would like to see from future tent encampments is a multiplicity of available resources and improvements that will help to make these tent encampments the transitory spaces that they should be.

The next step, Gustaveson said, will be figuring out the budget.

“There’s no extra money laying around,” Gustaveson said. “Part of what they’re trying to do is divert some funds to help this, but that could possibly hurt somebody on the other end.”

According to Gustaveson, although this is not a permanent solution, it’s a big step forward. She said that it was public will that made this happen, and that people should continue to let their voices and desires be heard by Seattle’s government.

And it’s true that City Council and Mayor Murray are moving in a different direction than their predecessors. “Nickelsville” is not named in honor of pocket change, but rather it is a grim mockery of Seattle’s former Mayor, Greg Nickels, and reflects disdain of the ways he addressed the issue of homelessness.

Lena can be reached at lbeck@su-spectator.com

Lena Beck

Lena Beck is a freshman Humanities for Leadership major. She does best with ample access to coffee, and enjoys people-watching from the top of parking garages.

Action Encampments Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Homelessness

End homelessness? For me, it’s personal.

By Lisa Gustaveson, Faith & Family Homelessness Program Manager

553830_10200650804746093_599565699_n[1]In the spring of 2002 I was offered a six-month contract to manage the development of a local plan to end homelessness. I quickly accepted – I love project management and come on, the goal was to end homelessness!

Eighteen months and a ton of gray hairs later, I proudly stood by as the planning committee adopted a 57-page plan, A Roof Over Every Bed: Our Community’s Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County.

Many people don’t know or remember that the 10 Year Plan represents countless hours of research, meetings and then, more meetings. A broad coalition of people from local government, service providers, faith communities, advocacy organizations and people experiencing homelessness created the first Committee to End Homelessness (CEH) and the Staff Circle. Throughout the project hundreds of people offered ideas and suggestions at community meetings. At times it was easy for the committee to agree, but more than once tough compromises were made to move the plan forward. Draft versions of the plan circulated between committee members; each word was carefully chosen to clearly convey our intentions. The final plan represents our collective vision; using the resources we had available at that time.

I tell you all this to explain why it’s hard for me to hear people say the plan has failed. You see, ending homelessness is PERSONAL to me – and many others in the community. When I hear about a family who finally finds housing I feel great. When the numbers of people experiencing homelessness go up… and up, I feel responsible, and take it personally. It’s personal when a family tells me they’ve been living in their car while waiting for a space in a shelter. It’s personal when I drive by a makeshift shelter on the side of the road knowing a person who was, or is someone’s child calls it home.

It’s not like we don’t know the problem exists. Show me a city in the region where you don’t see homelessness in plain sight. The topic of homelessness is all over social media and local news stories.  Recent coverage includes Jon Stewart’s tongue in cheek “The Homeless Homed.” The Dean of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, Mark Markuly, contributes through his February 19th Seattle Times Op-Ed, “Seattle can solve the homeless puzzle by learning from other cities,” and the Seattle Times followed closely behind with their February 25th straightforward message from the Editorial Board, “Cities should use the Golden Rule when dealing with homelessness.” Just this week our local radio station, KUOW, probes deep into the issue through their well researched six part series, “Seattle’s Homeless: No End in Sight.”

So, what to do? Throw up our hands in despair? Or, do we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and start again?

We are tough Seattleites – we don’t give up that easily. This year CEH is working hard to migrate from the 10 Year Plan to a community-wide Strategic Plan. The Plan will guide policymakers, service providers, advocates and the greater community as we recommit to our goal of making homelessness rare, brief and one-time. The Plan’s strategies build upon local success and national best practices, and offer clear guidance to the organizations and individuals who make up the Homeless Services System.

The Downtown Emergency Service Center’s Emergency Shelter Program serves more than 4,000 men and women each year, providing safe, secure shelter, meals and a day-time safe haven from the streets. DESC’s outreach efforts help people stabilize their lives, and ultimately get permanent housing. Photo by Gabriel Rozycki.

Photo by Gabriel Rozycki.

What is new – and in my opinion game changing – is the acknowledgment that success will continue to elude us until the crisis of homelessness is made personal to each King County resident. I think we are closer than ever before; when the new plan is adopted CEH plans to offer specific actions for people of faith to take to be part of the movement

That said; you don’t have to wait for the new plan! You can make a difference today by taking one step… just one. I’m making it easy for you – look at the list below, pick one thing to do, and see where that leads you.

Then, let me know when solving homelessness becomes personal for you.

  1. Volunteer for, or donate to, an organization that helps people who are living in poverty. In addition to the speakers you heard today; check out United Way of King County’s great volunteer database uwkc.org/ways-to-volunteer/
  1. Gather a group and watch SU’s American Refugees: four short films on family homelessness, especially “The Smiths”. Download the discussion guides and reflect on ways you can get involved americanrefugess.org
  1. Use the power of the Internet to advocate for affordable housing and an end to poverty and homelessness. Stay up to date on what’s happening in Olympia through Action Alerts on social service policy and budget issues:
  1. Join Firesteel, the statewide platform for social change led by Washington YWCAs. Sign up at firesteelwa.org
  1. Learn about the policies that affect poverty, housing and homelessness by reading a blog such as “Schmudget.” budgetandpolicy.org/schmudget
  1. Make sure your local school has appointed a homeless education liaison who can help get children connected with the services they are entitled to. Contact the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for more information: k12.wa.us/HomelessEd/default.aspx  
  1. Support low income and homeless newspaper sellers by buying a copy of Real Change from an authorized vendor. Find your local vendor: realchangenews.org/index.php/site/vendor-map
  1. Participate in a Poverty Simulation to learn experientially about the incredible stresses and challenges faced by those living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. (Check out our “Upcoming Events” feed to find the next one in your area.)
  1. If you’re one of the thousands of board members of Washington state social service nonprofits, get involved with advocacy to end poverty and homelessness. standforyourmission.org
  1. Write letters to your elected officials, newspaper Letters to the Editor pages and others about the causes of poverty.
  1. Spend time reflecting on the impact of poverty on people in our community. How do their struggles affect the greater community? What responsibilities do I have to address the causes of poverty in my community and nation?
Action Citizen Committee to End Homelessness Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness

Dean Mark Markuly: Seattle can solve the homeless puzzle by learning from other cities

In case you missed it, we’re reposting School of Theology and Ministry Dean Mark Markuly‘s recent Seattle Times Op Ed.  He asks some important questions about what it will take for our city and region to solve the problem of homelessness and speaks to the need to make the crisis more personal for all of us.  Something to ponder: what would you do if one of the 32,000 homeless students in WA State was your niece or nephew?


By Mark Markuly, originally published by the Seattle Times on 2/19/15

The 35th annual One Night Count of homeless people in King County last month demonstrated that one of the wealthiest, most literate, gifted and altruistic cities in the country is also hosting one of the most rapidly growing metropolitan homeless populations in the nation. Given the significant number of people, organizations and resources our region dedicates to the issue, the 21 percent increase of homeless people should haunt us.

Why is the problem of homelessness so vexing for Seattle?

In my view, we have not mustered the political will and right combination of contextual responses. Other cities have. According to NationSwell.com, the state of Utah discovered it is $5,670 a year less expensive to provide an apartment and a social worker to a homeless person than it is having society bear the cost of emergency-room visits, law-enforcement interventions and jail.

By putting a roof over the head of the homeless and providing a trained coach or mentor, Utah has reduced homelessness by 74 percent since 2005, and saved money as well.

New Orleans announced last month that it was the first city in the nation to end one demographic of homelessness: veterans. Through a coalition of nonprofits, homeless-service providers, U.S. service members, veterans and federal, state and local agencies, the city has permanently housed 227 homeless veterans. Phoenix has also made significant improvements in veterans’ homelessness.

Many cities have found solutions to homelessness by galvanizing inspiration, citizen involvement, agency coordination and political determination through participation in programs like the 100,000 Homes campaign.

Nashville, Tenn., placed an average of 19 homeless people per month into permanent housing in 2013, but is now housing 47 monthly. Since 2011, Jacksonville, Fla., has lowered its homeless population by one-third, and its chronic homeless population by two-thirds.

In many cities, including Seattle, religious traditions are an essential ingredient in the recipe, often providing space for “cross-sector” collaboration.

In Shreveport, La., an ecumenical group of churches called FaithWorks brought together 32 organizations serving the homeless to discuss a collaboration that is beginning to move the needle on the issue.

In Seattle, the Road to Housing program, a collaborative venture between the city and faith-based organizations, provides safe places to park for those living in automobiles and access to essential services such as bathrooms, meals and clean clothing.

The Downtown Emergency Service Center is a similar state-church partnership, begun in 1979 between the Greater Seattle Council of Churches, the City of Seattle and Washington Advocates for the Mentally Ill. Plymouth Church’s Commitment to Social Justice’s Housing Group, and Healing Communities are two other highly effective faith-based responses to homelessness.

So, why are Seattle’s homeless numbers going up while those in other cities are going down?

We’re still trying to figure out the Rubik’s Cube of issues. We certainly lack the housing stock of Utah, continue to struggle with coordinating our service providers (unlike Nashville and Jacksonville), and cannot muster the political will to dramatically impact the issue (as in New Orleans).

Because homelessness is so complicated, with a blinding array of intersecting causes, we also have failed to integrate the right resources from government, industry, nonprofit agencies, private citizens and religious traditions in the correct intensity and chronology.

However, I think our biggest challenge to this problem is something more fundamental: For most of us, homelessness isn’t personal enough.

As part of its interfaith Faith & Family Homelessness Project, the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University conducts workshops in schools and congregations that allow participants to experience a small taste of the challenges that homeless people face every day.

By role-playing scenarios that represent the common setbacks in the lives of very poor people, participants experience the frustration and Catch-22s that suck the motivation, creativity and hope from people on the verge of homelessness. The workshop makes the issue of homelessness more personal, and instills in participants the human values, virtues and resolve needed to go the distance with this stubborn social problem.

Ending homelessness in a nation as wealthy as ours is not impossible, but it is apparently more difficult than the kinds of problems our highly gifted region is conditioned to solving. The One Night Count should frustrate and anger us and it should invite real humility in our past efforts. It should also drive us back to reassessing the nature of the problem and our collaborations to fix it. Let’s just hope it doesn’t convince us to give up on the problem. As a community, we’re better than that.

Ending Homelessness Faith and Family Homelessness Media Alert Moral budget School of Theology & Ministry Seattle U Social Justice