Tag Archives: Homelessness

Compromise City Budget Avoids Major Cuts, Including to Police Department

by Erica C. Barnett

(This article was originally published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.) 

The cessation of open warfare between Mayor Jenny Durkan and the Seattle City Council over the 2021 budget doesn’t make for the most dramatic headlines (see above), but the detente between the two feuding branches could mean a budget compromise that won’t end in another spate of open warfare.

The Council’s budget proposal makes dramatic cuts to Durkan’s proposal to designate $100 in funding “for BIPOC communities,” fulfills the City’s 2019 promise to invest proceeds from the the sale of publicly owned land in South Lake Union into housing and anti-displacement programs, and cuts the size of the police department by about 20%, with a commitment to spend the savings from those reductions on community safety projects through a participatory budgeting process, which the budget also funds.

On Monday, Durkan issued a statement praising the Council’s budget for “continuing that historic $100 million for communities through slightly different community-led processes.” This was a departure from Durkan’s previous position on the Council’s spending priorities. Last month, a mayoral spokeswoman responded to questions about the racial equity implications of Durkan’s $100 million plan by suggesting that the Council’s own spending proposals, including plans for COVID relief, participatory budgeting, and police department cuts, had not gone through a proper vetting to see if they truly benefited Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

Continue reading Compromise City Budget Avoids Major Cuts, Including to Police Department

Incoming Cold Snap This Weekend Could Prove Lethal for Unhoused People. Here’s How to Help.

by Carolyn Bick

“Deaths of despair” is what WHEEL executive committee member Anitra Freeman calls most of the ways in which 106 unhoused people have already died this year.

“Suicides, homicides, and drug overdoses — all three are deaths of despair. They are things that happen when people are extremely stressed out. … All the time, being homeless is stressful, but it’s even more stressful than ever, this year,” Freeman said, referring to the current novel coronavirus pandemic.

But there is now another worry plaguing the unhoused community and their advocates: the incoming early cold snap set to hit Seattle this weekend.

Already, two people have died from hypothermia this year, data from the King County Medical Examiner’s Office compiled by homelessness advocacy and shelter nonprofit SHARE/WHEEL shows. One of those deaths was in late May, when the recorded low that day was 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the high was 74 degree Fahrenheit.

“In this environment, it doesn’t have to be extremely cold to kill you. Just getting wet and not being able to get dry can kill you,” Freeman said.

David White, who lives in SHARE-managed Tent City 3 in North Seattle with his nine-year-old spaniel Gabe, knows well what it feels like to be wet and cold. A recent transplant from Iowa, White has only been living in Seattle since June, but has been on the road on and off for years. He is one of the city’s nearly 12,000 unhoused residents, and currently only lives here so that he can have access to a neurosurgeon to handle some spinal problems from which he will then need to heal in a sterile environment.

While White himself has a safe place to rest his head, he knows that not everyone does.

“We have resources being donated to Tent City, and we have protection from the elements in these tents … but people sleeping loose in doorways, or people who are camped by themselves don’t always have that support,” White said. “We’ve got hot food donated every day and a coffeemaker. [Other unhoused people] don’t have those means necessarily to get themselves internally warm.”

Even though the managed encampment is a much better place to live than out on the street, White said supplies of warm items — particularly blankets and men’s clothes in sizes ranging from medium to 2XL — are running low. He said the encampment could also use “anything waterproof,” as well as wool socks, which are much better than cotton socks that let in the cold and, once wet, are essentially useless. Even sleeping bags with broken zippers are great, White said — “makes a great quilt!” — and new tents are always welcome to replace the ones at the encampment that are old and falling apart.

The best things are “stuff for layering,” White said, because of the variable temperatures and the incoming cold.

“It’s warm now … but this morning I sure needed them,” White said, referring to blankets and warm layers. “We don’t have an indoors to go to.”

White also said that while Tent City 3 is fortunate enough to have portable toilets that are emptied daily, those who don’t have access to that would likely appreciate a plastic bag and a roll of toilet paper.

“It’s hard to find a safe place to go to the restroom,” White remarked. “A lot of people are using alleys or bushes or whatever.”

Anyone interested in donating to Tent City 3 can find more information about what the encampment needs here, while other SHARE/WHEEL-managed encampments’ needs can be found here. Donations to Tent City 3 can be dropped off at any time.

For those who are interested in helping, but want to start closer to home, Homeless Organizing Community Seattle (HOCS) co-organizer Chris Barker suggested personally asking an unhoused person who lives in the neighborhood what they need. Barker invited those who are interested in getting involved in this way but don’t know where to start to join the HOCS Facebook group and connect with other community members who may already be doing such work. He also said that people may drop off donations at The Waystation, a no-contact drop-off spot in SoDo that is a part of an ongoing grassroots homeless mutual aid network started up in response to the current pandemic.

The cold only serves to add an extra layer of danger to the threat the unhoused community already faces from the pandemic. With nowhere to sleep and little-to-no access to hygiene, it’s more likely that unhoused people will be exposed to the novel coronavirus and die from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes.

To that end, Freeman and other homelessness advocates at SHARE/WHEEL are trying to get the Seattle City Council (SCC) to continue funding for SHARE/WHEEL to operate its shelters 24 hours per day, seven days per week into 2021, rather than going back to the old model of only being able to keep the shelters open at night. The group is also pushing for a slew of other proposed budget items, including upgrades to a currently shuttered hygiene center that would allow unhoused people to take showers and wash their clothes, as proper hygiene is key to staying healthy

Freeman said that she and other have been trying to get ahold of other SCC members, as she said only Councilmembers Tammy Morales and Kshama Sawant have signed on to the proposal to continue SHARE/WHEEL shelter funding, and a third councilmember needs to sign on for it to pass. However, they haven’t been able to leave voicemails — the mailboxes are full — and emails just receive an automated reply saying the office has been inundated with messages. The deadline for such requests is tonight, Oct. 22.

“I don’t know if any of our last-minute pleas are even going to be noticed before midnight … but keep trying,” Freeman said. “That’s all we can do.”

Late in the evening on Oct. 22, the Emerald learned from Freeman that Councilmember Lisa Herbold signed on before the midnight deadline to continue funding to allow SHARE/WHEEL to keep their shelters open 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Freeman also said that the Homeless Remembrance Project’s Women in Black will be standing vigil at City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 27, for another seven unhoused people who died just this past week. Though the group usually holds vigils on Wednesdays, Freeman said they have altered the vigil schedule this coming week to coincide with the SCC’s budget hearings.

When the Emerald asked Freeman, White and Barker what the City could be doing to better help its unhoused residents, Barker said that the City could provide funding for more sanctioned encampments, housing, and more case workers. Freeman said that the City should be opening severe weather shelters now.

White said that that while he has personally not yet had any negative experiences with the City, he thinks the City needs to stop sweeping encampments, a practice that makes people feel unsafe.

“If somebody felt like they weren’t going to have to go hide, maybe they would make a safer camp, or take precautions to sleep in a more obvious spot,” White said. “Really, it’s the harassment by the police that’s really a problem for homeless people.”

Author’s Note: The organizations and groups mentioned in this article are just a few within the City of Seattle.

Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. You can reach them here and here.

Featured image: A pile of 1,000 stones sits on an ofrenda meant to commemorate homeless people who have died in Seattle at El Centro de la Raza in Seattle, Washington, on Nov. 1, 2018. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

The Morning Update Show — 10/22/20

The Morning Update Show — hosted by Trae Holiday and The Big O (Omari Salisbury) — is the only weekday news and information livestream that delivers culturally relevant content to the Pacific Northwest’s urban audience. Omari and Trae analyze the day’s local and national headlines as well as melanin magic in our community. Watch live every weekday at 11 a.m. on any of the following channels, hosted by Converge Media: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, and whereweconverge.com.

We’ll also post the Morning Update Show here on the Emerald each day after it airs, so you can catch up any time of day while you peruse our latest posts.

Morning Update Show — Thursday, Oct. 22

Today on the Morning Update Show:

$100M Task Force Update; Steven Severin — #KeepMusicLiveWA; **LIVE — Besa Gordon of KUBE 93**; **LIVE — Carlos Imani of FLVR**; Morales Talks Homelessness; HOPESPD Partners With Center for Policing Equity; #TBT

Durkan Suspends Navigation Team

by Erica C. Barnett 

(This article was originally published on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.) 

On Wednesday afternoon, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced in a press release that she is suspending the operations of the Navigation Team — which removes encampments and provides outreach and shelter offers to their displaced residents — and pursuing “out of order” layoffs for 70 Seattle Police Department officers, “with the expectation that layoffs cannot be completed by November 1, 2020.”

The City Council’s adopted budget, which Durkan unsuccessfully attempted to veto, calls for a reduction of 100 police positions and the elimination of the Navigation Team. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Navigation Team has not been removing encampments in significant numbers.

Continue reading Durkan Suspends Navigation Team

Advocates, Service Providers, and US Census Workers Describe ‘Chaotic,’ ‘Confusing’ Process to Count the Unsheltered

by Erica C. Barnett

 (This article was originally published by PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)

Tonight, temporary census workers will fan out across King County, and communities all over the country, and attempt to count everyone who is living unsheltered by doing a “head count” of people observed sleeping in tents, vehicles, and on streets and in green belts statewide. Similar head counts, which are a way to include homeless people in the census rather than an effort to count the number of people experiencing homelessness, began across the nation starting on Tuesday and will wrap up tomorrow.

Continue reading Advocates, Service Providers, and US Census Workers Describe ‘Chaotic,’ ‘Confusing’ Process to Count the Unsheltered

City to Open New SoDo Smoke Shelter, but Durkan Does Not Commit to Opening Any More Buildings, Leasing Hotels to Serve as Smoke Shelters

by Carolyn Bick

Though the City will be opening a new smoke shelter in SoDo, Mayor Jenny Durkan in a Sept. 11 press conference did not commit to opening any more government buildings or to working on leasing the mostly empty hotels and motels in downtown Seattle to serve as emergency smoke shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Continue reading City to Open New SoDo Smoke Shelter, but Durkan Does Not Commit to Opening Any More Buildings, Leasing Hotels to Serve as Smoke Shelters

POETRY: (S)Weep Us

by Art Gomez and Melanie Reed

Nowhere to go but another hole,
another alley, another pole,
another spread, another pitch,
just more dirty sons a bitch
caught in a sweep to push us out
some show sympathy, some sow doubt.
Exterminate this Shantytown,
lives dismantled, tents torn down,
ground impounded, trash swept clean
it’s as if we’ve never been.
We’re so easy to revile,
the Jungle is our domicile.
No Favala, no Hooverville.
Home is where

the heart beats still.

Continue reading POETRY: (S)Weep Us

OPINION: Who You Gonna Call? Not the Cops.

by Sarah Stuteville

A month ago, I woke up to a man with a broken jaw and a story about being a secret CIA operative sleeping on my porch. Last week a woman amid a mental-health crisis followed me and my four-year-old to our car screaming. Over the weekend my husband was punched in the head by someone who appeared to be having a psychotic episode. A few nights ago, gunfire echoed through the hot, exhausted streets of my neighborhood. 

In all these cases, people desperately needed help, and in none of these cases did I call the police. 

Continue reading OPINION: Who You Gonna Call? Not the Cops.

OPINION: Point in Time Count, 2020 Version: More of the Same. We Need Change

by Gordon Mchenry, Jr.

The results of the 2020 Point-in-Time Count demonstrate what we already know —  that we must  accelerate our approach to how we fight homelessness. The latest data reflect what we sense and see: despite all of our efforts, the number of people who are experiencing homelessness has remained too high, with only slight variations from year to year. Far too many of our neighbors are suffering from the trauma of homelessness, housing instability, the pandemic, and inequities rooted in race and ethnicity.

This latest count found an increase of about 5% more people experiencing homelessness over 2019 — and the survey took place before the coronavirus pandemic caused the economic disruption that led to widespread loss of income. We are especially concerned about the growth in family and chronic homelessness. And we recognize that we have yet to see the result the recession has had on our most vulnerable community members.

Continue reading OPINION: Point in Time Count, 2020 Version: More of the Same. We Need Change

OPINION: Crisis Management Is What Doctors Do Every Day. The Police Can and Must Do Better.

by Dr. Daniel H. Low, Dr. Amish J. Dave, and Dr. Rajneet S. Lamba

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, a broad array of activists and public figures have called for defunding the police in towns and cities across the nation. For many Americans, police officers are often the first responders to small and large crises. While surveys suggest much of the public wants police reform, there is concern that defunding efforts could erode the safety of our communities. Other voices argue that mere police reform is insufficient. Research has shown that measures such as implicit bias training, body cam usage, and firing problem officers with a history of misconduct have not led to meaningful change. In the interest of public safety, we are all vested in understanding how acute crises would be addressed if we were to defund police departments.

Continue reading OPINION: Crisis Management Is What Doctors Do Every Day. The Police Can and Must Do Better.