It is impossible to ignore homelessness in Seattle. Just take a stroll downtown. One can’t turn a blind eye to this situation, and it’s important to know that homelessness is not a choice, nor is it a self-inflicted circumstance. The faster Seattle accepts this, the faster we start creating solutions.
On July 19, Seattle is participating in #SeaHomeless, a collective effort by news organizations to highlight homelessness in the news. Real Change, as an organization and newspaper, exists to help people who experience homelessness and poverty to have a voice and find immediate employment. In effect, every issue of Real Change is a #SeaHomeless issue.
This year Real Change asked our vendors how they would solve homelessness and to be a part of a discussion that, for many, encompasses their daily experiences yet leaves them out of it.
We asked our vendors the question, “How can homelessness be solved?” and here are some of their responses:
First what I would do is take a lot of the vacant buildings that are empty right now that are still in good shape instead of turning them into more businesses, I would convert them into shelter facilities or temporary houses for people to be in until they get a chance to get out and get a job and get on their two feet.
On top of that, in these buildings, I would have a case management worker that helps people find the resources needed to get the clothes so they can have the proper attire to getting a job. Teach them how to do résumés and letter of applications to get their foot in the door to a job and help them do mock interviews to prepare for a job interview.
They approach me to work here at Real Change almost four years ago. When I start here, I’m working. I apply for work when I come here in U.S. in 2011 and the time I first stayed with somebody because I have a salary. But when I entered with Real Change, I stayed outside because I could not afford to pay rent — $650. When I start working here, I stayed outside for almost three months. I come from work, I work at Ross Display. After I’m done, I go out and one of the vendors, my friend vendor, wait for me outside and we sleep under the tree. Almost three months I sleep outside, it’s very scary. I did not stay in shelter, I try my best, be patient and have faith. Now I have one-bedroom apartment, Seattle Housing gave me apartment, and it’s very nice and I can still afford to pay. But sleeping outside is very hard, really very hard. But always have faith and always be patient.
I believe to end homelessness is, first of all, people getting above this Facebook level and always being absorbed on what’s going on with them and really taking the time and effort to invest in people. I think in today’s day and age, it’s so fast-paced that people just don’t love on people, and I know this sounds kind of like ethereal but it’s really true to life. So it’s literally like stopping the guy that is asking for money and saying, “Hey man, can I get you some food?” “Can I get you a shirt, can I bring you to my house and give you a shower?” I mean I know this sounds a little intrusive but let’s get to the heart of the matter. Isn’t that what people really need is value placed in them? Aren’t they disconnected and need something to bond to? So for me, that’s what really allowed me to move past … and I know it’s not really about me, it’s about homelessness, but I was homeless. So for me, it was finding what in my life I was disconnected from and bonding to those things that put value in myself. And I really believe that’s at the heart of homelessness since there’s so many disconnected people that we just need to find a place to bond, something to bond, community of love, forgiveness. I really feel that’s at the heart of homelessness.
Of course corporations should be heavily taxed. They make their fortune because there is a society that they can tap. Including all the resources, roadways and infrastructures and so forth, so they should be heavily taxed. Much of it should be earmarked to house the indigent, of course, and the political climate won’t let that happen, common sense will not prevail. Further explanation of why it won’t prevail it’s what you might call Lincoln’s fourth statement, the unstated one, are you ready for this? Everyone knows it. He said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, you can fool some of the people all the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” And that’s supposed to be not a triumph note but an optimistic note. You know what was in the back of his head? Well in my speculation, you can fool most of the people most of the time and that’s all it takes to rule. I’m sorry, I don’t have a solution. All I’m doing is describing the size of the problem.
More affordable housing, more shelters and I think what they’re doing now with the tiny house villages is a great idea but there are a lot of vacant buildings around Seattle that can be transformed into affordable housing and shelter spaces for people. Like there’s a space between Third and Fourth Avenue between Cherry and James, vacant lot, you can build something there for the homeless and help them out.
It’s been proven that there are a lot of people that die out here in these streets. We also need to provide more mental health services for these people to go to and really good officials like psychologists and therapists to go and help people and meet their needs.
To stabilize them and if we can meet the people’s needs, then that’s one good step in the right direction.
It means people can help themselves and be productive citizens at the end. I’ve seen people really deteriorate out here to the worst, and it’s something no human should go through. Homeless people need all the help they can get to get off of the street. Homeless people don’t like being downgrades, you know. I just read a Facebook comment a week ago and said they wish the elderly, poor and disabled die and I responded to that with anger because we are all people just like they are, and we need respect, dignity and kindness and love.
We’re people with limited means and these people can’t control the situation that they end up in.
The needs of the people is what matters the most.
I was thinking that we need more shelters. Well, we probably do need more low-income housing, and I know that takes a while for them to do something about that, but I believe that that’s more important. I mean it’s very important because we want to clear the street up, you know. It’s really hard for a lot of working people and people in general. So, I think that if you had a 24-hour shelter, that might help to get the people off the street and provide them with a place to be at, you know showers, maybe entertainments like TV or games, like table tennis to keep them interested in something.
I would actually talk to the neighborhood watch and neighborhood community leaders and the people that are actually in the community that have experience and trusted by the citizens/neighbors and gather their opinions and do a vote for it. To improve the community and get some of the community issues. Go to some of the neighborhood leaders to get the issues, that would be valuable.
Check out the full July 18 - July 24 issue.
Real Change is a non-profit organization advocating for economic, social and racial justice. Since 1994 our award-winning weekly newspaper has provided an immediate employment opportunity for people who are homeless and low income. Learn more about Real Change.