I’m gonna tell you about some alarming statistics. We have more than 5,000 unsheltered people in Seattle and King County. The count from 2016 is up by about 1,000 people. The situation isn’t getting any better. But it is starting to get some attention from a whole lot of high places. So there are situations that are getting better.
I’m going to take you through a day in the life of a homeless person. I’m gonna tell you what it’s like to wake up in the morning and not know when or if you’re gonna get to take a shower. I’m going to tell what it’s like to not know when or if you’re going to eat today.
You wake up in your tent.
You might just be in a sleeping bag, or you might be one of the ones lucky enough to get a shelter bed last night.
You have to be up and out by 6 a.m. because we don’t fund shelter staff to be there in the middle of the day. Only for night time.
You have all day to do what you’re supposed to get done. You should have time to take a shower.
Get on the list by 7 a.m. because there can only be 45 people. There’s only 45 for laundry as well. Don’t be 46. They do 45 loads a day. If you have the 46th load of laundry, guess who doesn’t get their laundry done today?
Now you have two weeks’ worth of dirty clothes, and you don’t even have two weeks’ worth of clothes.
Because you have to carry everything you own on your back. Because when you come back to your tent, it could be gone, or someone might be in it.
You didn’t get your shower, you didn’t get your laundry done, but you do get to eat.
Oh, that’s right, they had fish today and you’re allergic to seafood.
So because you don’t have a refrigerator you can plug up in your tent, you don’t get lunch.
You do all the stuff you’re supposed to do because you don’t want to keep living in a tent.
You’re going to Department of Social and Human Services trying to get food stamps or Social Security. Maybe you’re trying to go back to school. But you’ve made ten thousand phone calls to your case worker and now there’s a line for the phone, because your phone got stolen. Again.
Homeless people aren’t lazy. When I was under the bridge, I slept next to a schoolteacher.
Homeless people aren’t lazy. When I was under the bridge, I slept next to a schoolteacher who couldn’t get a job because there were no jobs. Not because they’re uneducated or lazy.
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What happens is after you’ve been out there long enough is that you start to lose hope because no one cares. The head that you used to hold up high, now you recognize people by the shoes that they have on. Nobody cares.
If I was an employer and I saw you come in with everything you own on your back, would I hire you or the one who’s in the suit? Now you can’t get a job because you’re homeless.
You have a degree, but the other person is right out of college. Now you can’t get a job, because you’re homeless.
Don’t be a woman on the street alone. I have two staple marks on my forehead from where someone tried to rape me on the street in broad daylight. Because I was homeless. I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.
Being homeless is not easy, and it’s scary. It hurts.
Being homeless is not easy, and it’s scary. It hurts. I lost phones when I had a son at war, and I didn’t have any way of contacting him. I didn’t know if I would ever see him again. I found out my son’s father died. He had been dead for two months when I found out. Homelessness takes things that a house will never replace.
I have a degree in human services. I used to be someone’s case manager. Now I have a case manager. I’m starting law school in March.
People get so caught up in what they see that they forget to use what they feel. And it never hurts to help.
If you remember nothing that I said today, I want you to take away that homeless people are not lazy.
They have hope.
The Homeless Speakers Bureau is available to any organization, school or business. Host organizations pay a $125 honorarium to Real Change for two speakers. This payment covers $50 for each speaker, plus transportation and food for prep meetings. Speakers may be scheduled two or more weeks in advance of the event. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 206-441-3247 x 212.
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