Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tent City 3 is moving March 5!

I hear from the residents of Tent City 3 that the camp has found a host for March 5 -- the University Congregational United Church of Christ, at 4515 16th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105.

Nickelsville at UCUCC, 2009
Nickelsville at UCC, 2009. Photo by Joe Mabel.
From wikimedia Commons.

The actual spot the camp expects to use is on the northeast corner of 45th and 15th. This spot was used by Nickelsville a couple of times, and by the Ave Foundation for a short period of time while Tent City 3 was at the Ravenna site.

The site is a bit smaller than their current site, and moving in will be somewhat difficult because of that. They will need help moving in, so volunteers will probably be welcome.

Call Tent City 3 at 206-399-0412 and speak to the movemaster for details about volunteering to help them move. People with trucks and vans, willing to haul stuff in them, will likely be welcome. SHARE usually rents a couple of large yellow trucks from Handy-Andy, but they can always use additional help.

Tent City 3 starts its moves at 8 am, and keeps going until everything is off the old site.

One other thing: moving in the rain is no fun at all, so pray for a sunny day for them.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Basic food?

The qualifications in King County for Basic Food recently changed.

Before January, 2016, anyone in the county below a certain income threshold could obtain food stamps.

After January, 2016, Able Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) can only obtain 3 months of food stamps unless they are working, seeking work, disabled, or volunteering, or exempt for some other reason (pregnant, for example).

This has caused a rise in the number of people using food banks in the area.

Fortunately, there are ways for people who need food stamps, who are ABAWDs (nifty new acronym they coined), to qualify without having an actual job (for whatever reason). From the DSHS website:

ABAWD Work Programs

Workfare includes unpaid work in the community and participation in a BF E&T work program.
  1. Self-directed unpaid work in the community - ABAWDS can meet their work requirement by performing 16 hours a month of volunteer work for a non-profit organization.
    1. Workfare is unpaid work performed by an ABAWD for a public or private non-profit organization.
    2. An ABAWD may volunteer at any non-profit agency that agrees to provide volunteer work opportunities for ABAWDS to meet their work requirements.
    3. Non-profit agencies have agreed to verify that the person has met the 16-hour a month requirement for us not to count a month against the three-month limit. We will request verification of participation:
      1. At recertification; and
      2. Before issuing benefits beyond the three countable months.
    4. The workfare nonprofit agencies will notify us when a participant is no longer meeting the required hours.
There's a lot more at their website about this.

So: how many nonprofits need a bunch of poor and hungry (perhaps homeless) volunteers?

Medical help for the homeless

Many homeless do not receive medical help until it's too late. Many of them are afraid to seek medical help, for fear they'll become victims of untoward medical experiments, or they'll get so far along, and the doctor will deny care because of inability to pay.

Are you homeless? 

Do you live in poverty? 

Do you need medical help?

There are places and ways you can seek help for medical problems.

First, you likely qualify for Washington Apple Health. You should apply for it if you haven't already. If you go to any of the providers I mention below, they can help you apply. If you need a mailing address so they can send you a card, you can use General Delivery at Seattle's downtown Post Office (98101), or the Compass Center at 77 S. Washington (98104).

King County Public Health has several Mobile Medical vans; you can see their schedules on their website.

The City of Seattle is supposed to be funding a mobile medical van soon, but for now they're using King County's.

King County Public Health also operates several clinics; locations are listed on this webpage. Community health centers are listed here.

King County's clinics will not refuse service due to your inability to pay (they have a sign in their office that says that!). They will encourage you to apply for Washington Apple Health.

There are other medical clinics that will treat you for free, but you will have to apply for special consideration.

University of Washington Internal Medicine and Harborview. For each of those, you will need to apply for "Charity Care." You can read their policy on Charity Care here.  They did, at one time, have a zip code restriction on who could receive Charity Care, but that seems to have been lifted. At Harborview, there's an office to go physically apply for it.

Swedish also offers charity care. They gave away $35 million in services last year in direct charity care alone. And, I've heard good reports from those who've used Swedish.

There are other places you can seek help for medical issues, but these are some major ones in the Seattle area.

So find care, and get well.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Causes of homelessness?

What causes homelessness?

There is one cause and that's the lack of affordable housing. But what causes people to be unable to afford housing?

There's a long list:
  • Greedy landlords raise the rent higher than you can pay.
    • This has been reported in the papers, often, in and around Seattle.
    • Rents generally have risen too high for many to afford.
    • Developers are building high-rent apartments, and avoiding developing low-rent apartments, in Seattle.
  • Landlords evict you, self-help style, and seize your belongings
    • Several homeless I have talked to have said the police didn't help them when their landlord robbed them.
  • You lose your job, and don't have enough saved up to pay rent until you find another one
    • Even though the official unemployment rate is 4%, finding work is hard.
  • Your parents kick you out of the house because you're gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, et cetera
    • A large percentage of homeless youth are LGBTQ, and many are under 18. Yes, their parents kick them out, sometimes quite young. The youth don't want to go back -- would you go back to parents who hate what you are?
  • You move to a city in a last desperate gamble to find work, leaving everything else behind
    • I hear many tales of this.
    • In Seattle, some employers will not hire you if you haven't been here at least 2 years. Overcoming the discrimination is tough.
  • Your small business folds (80% failure rate every 5 years)
    • 80% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years.
    • 80% of those that are left fail in the second 5 years.
    • Starting a small business means gambling just about everything -- home included. So when it fails, you lose your housing.
  • You graduate from college with a degree in a field for which nobody is hiring
    • When you went to school, perhaps mechanical engineering was in demand. Four years later, mechanical engineers are a dime a gross; you can't find work that pays better than a burger joint.
  • You become addicted to drugs.
    • Your doctor prescribed oxycontin, to which you became addicted. Then he cut you off, and you tried heroin instead. Now you're addicted, and getting some more black tar is more important than paying rent.
  • You're Native American, Black, or Hispanic, and finding work is really difficult.
    • Racial discrimination is alive and well in Seattle. It hides itself in "encampment sweeps" and other actions that affect people of color disproportionately.
All of those, and more, are more distal causes of homelessness.

And, in many of these, there are few choices you, as the potential homeless person, can make to assure yourself of staying housed.

Is Seattle a magnet for the homeless?

A common thought I see repeated by many commenters is that Seattle is a magnet for the homeless because it is "soft" on the homeless.

Salt Lake City puts the chronically homeless in housing. I don't see many homeless clamoring to go back to Utah.

And, to be honest, having spoken with many homeless, a lot of them are from out of state. But, then, a lot of Seattle's current residents are from out of state, also. They didn't come here for the social services. And neither did most of those who are homeless.

They come here for medical care, from places where they can't get care. They come here for jobs, from areas of high unemployment. They have enough money for a while, but chances are they've given up whatever they had to come here.

Seattle is a magnet for people seeking employment.
Seattle is a magnet for people seeking to create or expand businesses.
Seattle is a magnet for people.

And people sometimes become homeless.

Again, about the One Night Count

The One Night Count found 4,505 people living outside in King County. 2,942 of those were in Seattle proper.

In Seattle, that's only a 4.5% increase. Some news stories make much of this, like this one from Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. What they're thinking, of course, is that the rate of increase is slowing in the city.

They couldn't be more wrong.

This year, you see, because of the shootings, we did not count areas we normally count. Parts of "the jungle," in particular, were not counted -- because of the recent shootings in that area.

Had we counted those areas, I'm sure the numbers would have been much closer to 5,000 for King County, and likely closer to 3,200 for Seattle proper.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Where do we let them sleep?

Today I went to a City Council committee meeting, convened by Sally Bagshaw, of a number of homeless service providers and homeless advocates from the City of Seattle. The Human Services Department had created a State of Emergency Implementation plan (3 months after the SOE was declared), and Sally wanted to get a bunch of people around the table to talk.

What we heard was, in large part, more of the same stuff. While there is some progress being made, they need more resources, they need more funding, they need... well... everything.

And someone asked the question: why, in 2/3 of the states in the US, are homeless counts dropping, while in the other 1/3 they're rising? What is there, in a general qualitative sense, that we in Washington are NOT doing that the other states ARE doing? Or, what are the 1/3 of states where homelessness is rising doing, that the other 2/3 are not doing? Or vice versa; maybe we're not doing something we should be. Yet, I can't find the data the commenter was talking about.

But maybe it's more complicated than that. This report from the US Conference of Mayors says homelessness is up in 53% of 21 surveyed cities.

At, this comment is echoed:
The operation surely doesn’t account for everyone, but so long as it’s carried out in the same way every year, it should tell us whether the solutions and money we’ve thrown at the wall have stuck.
By 2016’s count, so far they have not.
And King County's numbers aren't the only ones rising:
Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said “Homelessness is a crisis in this state. There isn’t a community in our state that is immune.”
Homelessness in King County is up by 19 percent from last year, and in Snohomish County it’s up by 54 percent. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction just reported that more than 35,000 students in Washington don’t have a safe place to call home.
The same gentleman who asked why in some states numbers are dropping and in ours they're rising, also mentioned that he doesn't believe that we should be allowing any unorganized, illegal encampments to exist.

Yet, the City of Seattle is playing "whack-a-mole" with the encampments. Take one down, two days later it's up in another location. It's a real waste of time and money, in large part.

Yet again, the City must respond to reports of crime in relation to those encampments, even if the residents are not the cause of it!

And the question rises: when there is nowhere they can afford to live, where do we let them sleep?

Not every homeless person can tolerate the rules in the organized encampments. They have to have rules to function. And many would say, "society is based on rules; so if you can't deal with rules, we won't help you." And there is something to that argument.

Yet human need demands a place to sleep. So where do we let them sleep?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

About the One Night Count

Photo from wikimedia commons, of people sleeping in Steinbrueck Park
(I added the number). Original photo by Joe Mabel, 2011.
This may be in the "more than you wanted to know" department.

The One Night Count in King County found 4,505 sleeping outside or without adequate shelter. I discussed this in the last post.

When counting: tents, sleeping bags, or tarps are not considered adequate shelter. All the folks in the organized encampments are considered to be unsheltered during the One Night Count. While they have somewhat more safety than those who are "sleeping rough" by themselves, they are still not housed.

This year, several shootings occurred during the period before the One Night Count, in the area known as "the Jungle." As a result, the agency conducting the One Night Count did not count the homeless in the Jungle this year, as it was considered too dangerous.

I believe that there are still many homeless living in the Jungle, living with the ever-present danger of being assaulted while they sleep.

During the One Night Count, they physically counted 29 minors. There are likely many more. The State of Washington reports over 35,000 schoolchildren were homeless at some point during the school year.

The statewide numbers were up this year.

Before the One Night Count, I had estimated that the count would be around 5,000. I was close; 4,505 is only 9.9% short. We don't know how many homeless live in the Jungle. Had they been counted, I think we'd be a lot closer to 5,000 than most politicians are comfortable with.

The fact that we have 5,000 people sleeping unsheltered in King County should generate outrage. But if you live with something long enough, you become inured to it. It doesn't cause that outrage any more.

The cities and the counties do not have the resources to deal with this problem. Washington is one of the states that has no income tax, and has one of the lowest overall government spending rates. It's also one of the states where homelessness is rising. Maybe -- just maybe -- those three facts are connected.

The State legislators know that we have a homelessness crisis. And many of them are trying (in their various silos) to solve it their own way. There is not a concerted and organized effort to solve these problems. What we have -- cities, counties, state -- is a mishmash of small private and public efforts.

A question remains: what shall we do about this?

Do you know who your United States Congressmen and United States Senators are? Have you made your views known to them?

Do you know who your State Representatives and State Senators are? Have you made your views known to them?

Do you know your City and County council members? Have you made your views known to them? Publicly? Have you spoken to these councils in the public comment periods of their meetings? The more people who talk about these facts, the more they'll pay attention to them!