It’s Saturday morning. Nick and I were up at 6:00 a.m. because he had to get to work to see a full slate of clients. That’s the usual for us on Saturdays. I think I’ve mentioned it, but just to remind you, Nick is a clinical therapist as well as General Manager of a therapy practice that has dozens of providers and three locations across the Seattle metro area. He works six days a week.
This morning I, too, was working in my capacity as a volunteer organizer for the blossoming Housing For All grassroots movement to pressure our city to provide housing and stability for all our neighbors, especially the thousands who are most marginalized, vulnerable and living outside. Part of my scope of work over the past two months has been reaching out to public school parents and teachers in all corners of the city to have in-person meetings and get them to support our campaign. Last year, city legislation to stabilize the situation for homeless folks was shutdown immediately, mostly because of blowback from misinformed parents and teachers who were scared homeless folks would move to their school playgrounds (which they won’t).
The meeting this morning consisted of five PTA members from four different elementary schools in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. A Columbia Legal Services attorney and an organizer from Transit Riders Union who are both heavily involved with the Housing For All campaign also joined me.
I’d already had several meet ups with a couple of the parents, but this meeting was really good. They were very supportive of our ideas and asked excellent questions. They also told us that homelessness is a crisis in their schools. Two of the schools have between 30% and 40% of their student bodies experiencing homelessness! Overall in Seattle Public Schools one in 15 students is homeless. Can you fucking believe that?!? Seattle declared a Homeless State of Emergency two years ago and we are even more deeply in crisis today with the number of folks living outside going up dramatically.
Like I’ve told you before, Nick and I often see homeless folks sleeping in front of our apartment building.
In an hour, I’m headed to the official campaign launch event for Housing For All. This event is the culmination of months of work building grassroots community support. We hope to be introducing city legislation in late November 2017 as a first step to end the police sweeps of homeless encampments, but it won’t pass unless it’s brought forward by a mass of our neighbors, so that’s our job—to build the mass movement behind it.
As if to highlight the crisis, two days after the campaign kickoff (two from now), Seattle Police will sweep a large homeless encampment in the SoDo neighborhood. This is not new to us, as I’ve shown you in detail before on this website, the sweeps happen all the time and they are inhumane, to say the least.
Earlier this week I joined some fellow activists to visit our neighbors living in this encampment below an interstate on Spokane Street. I took the bus there and when I arrived I saw a very tidy community—tents elaborately set up and evenly spaced out between each other down a long stretch under the interstate. I’d say dozens of folks are living outside there. They have a very organized community structure that they themselves have created. Here are some photos I took:
The folks living here have determined that this is their best option and that’s because the City is not handling the crisis by building more deeply affordable housing. Afterall, 93% of people living outside in Seattle today say they’d go inside if there was housing available for them.
The few shelter options that exist are not feasible for so many folks because of things like the shelters not allowing partners, kids, pets, vehicles, or because of violence against LGBTQ folks, women and people of color, or because of people’s belongings being stolen there, or because the time limits on the shelter don’t work for folks, and the list of hurdles goes on and on and on.
When I arrived to the Spokane Street encampment earlier this week, it was about 6:00 p.m. and my fellow activists had set up a table adorned with a tablecloth. On it was a spread of all kinds of food to offer our neighbors living there. The idea was to eat together and have conversation about the upcoming police eviction of their community, this was to gauge what folks living there wanted us to do on Monday and Tuesday as police come and start the process of kicking them out.
There had been an event set up on Facebook to notify activists that we’d be meeting here, so a handful of folks showed up and we walked along the quarter-mile stretch of tent homes under the interstate, visiting with folks living there. Some folks were already packing up, preparing to leave, others had already left. But, many were preparing to stay until the police sweeps begin to see if there might be some way to remain in their homes.
There had also been notice from activists to the folks living here that we would be coming to visit them. Here’s what the posting looked like:
Most folks living under the bridge seemed happy to talk with us and share their thoughts. Some seemed surprised to find people sharing food with them or just being nice to them in general. One man talked to us about 30 minutes telling us how he felt stripped of his basic humanity when he went to a shelter before. He says shelters are not the answer to anything and that for him shelters only made his situation worse.
On the same day, a legal battle led by the local ACLU and homeless folks, was hitting the courts. Here’s what it looked like in our local paper The Stranger:
I want to highlight part of what Heidi Groover reported in her Stranger piece. Here it is, a screen capture from my phone:
At our Housing For All campaign kickoff in a couple hours from now, folks will be passing out these flyers to ask people to join us in standing in solidarity with our neighbors as police come for them Monday and Tuesday:
There was other major news in Seattle this week about Amazon announcing that it will create a second headquarters location equal in size to Seattle (50,000 employees). It will be in another city yet to be determined. Here’s what that looked like in The Seattle Times:
In major national news, there is a massive hurricane, Irma, which is the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. It will start to hit south Florida today in what forecasters are calling a “once-in-a-generation” storm. My best friend from college journalism school, Brian Entin, is a reporter for WSVN, a local TV station in Miami. His boyfriend, mother and dog have evacuated, but he’s staying in Miami to cover the destruction! Here’s a picture of him reporting from an electric power plant in Fort Lauderdale a couple days prior to the eye of the storm hitting:
And here are other headlines in national news from The Washington Post: