There have been several times in the past month when I’ve walked up to the front of our apartment building and found homeless folks sleeping on the front stoop or on the sidewalk in front of our building.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to think about the struggle in our city. Nick and I live in a 450 square foot apartment and pay $1250 in monthly rent for it. When I moved into the place as a single man less than two years ago in May 2015 rent was only $1050. The rising cost of living has impacted us, and we’re extremely privileged white dudes!
I work for an organization, TeamChild, that provides legal represention to a lot of homeless kids in Seattle. I hear the stories daily. And, I’ve been to a homeless camp only a few blocks from my office to witness our city and police force sweeping folks out of their tent communities.
The stats are alarming. On any given night in Seattle there are more than 800 homeless kids on the streets or in shelters. That number is only kids. When you include adults the number jumps to about 10,000! Dig into the stats a bit more and you see an even more alarming picture: More than 50% of homeless kids are kids of color, and more than 40% are LGBTQ–in many cases disowned by their families. We’re seeing it in headlines almost daily:
There are non-profit organizations scrambling to innovate solutions as quickly as they can, but as is the story with almost all non-profits, there is scarcity of money. Getting anything done depends on we the people showing up and giving a damn with our money, and in some cases our time and resources. If you want to talk about actually solving a problem, it will take significant investment from us, beyond our comfort zone of writing a small check that makes us feel good about ourselves.
That’s why I was very interested when I heard about a Seattle project called “Accelerator Host Home” which launched less than a year ago in June 2016. The YMCA program is aimed at finding host homes for kids who are homeless in Seattle. And, the need could not be more urgent.
Because LGBTQ kids are such a prominent part of the homeless population, the information session I went to about this new program was hosted at a place near our apartment called Gay City which is a place to find all sorts of resources, especially health-related help including free sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing.
The YMCA program aims to match homeless 18-24 year olds with willing host families who agree to house them for at least six months. The family agrees to house, feed, and treat the kid as if the kid is part of their family. I have an incredibly soft spot for this sort of program as a Cambodian family took me in like this for two years when I was a Peace Corps volunteer from 2010-2012.
Folks who take part in this program get a stipend and case worker support from the YMCA. The host home also knows the background of the kid before taking them in.
As I sat there, I thought about this. We live in a metro area with a few million folks in it. There are roughly 800 homeless kids in need. Seems like we can come up with that many host homes. Turns out in the first seven months of the program they have only found three (3) host homes. Ouch. If you’re reading this, you have an extra room, and are interested in learning more, this is the website to get started.
Housing, rent, homelessness, development, it’s all a complicated topic that I have a lot more to learn about and I’m doing that. I’m trying to bury myself in articles so that I know the issue front and back and can start to have ideas about best ways to move forward. We have neighbors who are much more well-versed on these issues and I’ve been looking to them as they step up to lead on these fronts.
One of those neighbors is Zachary DeWolf who just made headlines:
I’ve also looked to a neighbor DeAnne on social media because I appreciate her deep thinking about these issues. She responded to DeWolf’s new Renters’ Commission with this:
She also wrote this:
DeAnne also made this point when she took this photo of a Black Lives Matter sign in front of a house in Seattle’s Queen Anne Neighborhood, a house that is also gated to block folks out:
She also said this:
I’m on a mission to learn as much as I can about housing and homelessness in our city as it’s a pressing crisis. But I’m going to leave it at this for right now because I have to get up and go to work. I’ll have more later.
One big and somewhat unrelated note, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has sued the Trump Administration for his proposal to revoke funding from Sanctuary Cities. Here’s the national headline:
The piece goes on to say this about Seattle:
Here are the latest other headlines I’m seeing from The Washington Post on my phone. Things are heating up in a serious way. It’s very dark. I have no idea where this will all end.