Friday, January 29, 2016

One Night Count, King County: 4,505

 4,505 homeless outside in King County

Photo from wikimedia commons, of people sleeping in Steinbrueck Park
(I added the number). Original photo by Joe Mabel, 2011.
That's how many we counted outside last night.
It's a preliminary number, but it shouldn't change very much.
4,505 is enough to populate a good-sized town. The town I grew up in numbered 330; the nearest larger town was 2500.
There is only one way to solve homelessness. It's really simple.

Homes are the answer to homelessness.

Not everyone agrees with me about that. Most politicians want complicated solutions, technological solutions, psychological solutions. But the fact of the matter is that without housing, those will likely not help.

Employment, for example. A number of homeless are employed. Perhaps 30-35% of them, nationwide. Most of those jobs are menial jobs. Dirty, nasty jobs. The wages are lousy, the working conditions poor. Long hours of drudgery. Here in Seattle, many homeless work for various temporary firms after sporting events and concerts, cleaning up the stadiums.

And what of those who are only really suited for office work? Whether disabled, or simply not suited to menial jobs or manual labor? When you're homeless, you carry your stuff on your back, or it gets stolen. There is nowhere to store it -- with some exceptions (which I'll get to in a minute). When you walk into an interview with a backpack and suitcase, you generally don't get the job. Even a temporary job. Keeping your clothing clean while homeless is a major undertaking, because most of the time you're focused on survival.

The exceptions for storing your stuff?
  • SHARE/WHEEL's Tent Cities (3,4,5); 
  • SHARE/WHEEL's Storage Locker program
  • United We Stand (an encampment);
  • Camp Unity Eastside (another encampment); and 
  • Nickelsville (another encampment). 

There may be others, but I have not heard of them (An interesting side note: All of those are related to SHARE/WHEEL in some way. Not necessarily a friendly way...).

Housing changes the equation. When you're housed, with a locking door: your stuff is a lot safer. When you're housed, and you have a shower available to you, you can keep a lot cleaner. And you can likely obtain employment much easier.

This is why Housing First is such a game-changing policy. Stabilize the housing situation first. Then fix the other problems.

There's an article here about an actual controlled study on Housing First. And an article here about an interview with some details about the man who originated it, and some more information.

4,505 homeless outside in King County

What are we doing to end this crisis?

The opinions expressed in this post are mine. They may not be anyone else's. The Board of Greater Seattle Cares may not agree with this opinion.