Sharon Jones would have loved the May 20 meeting of the full Seattle City Council.
As the session began, Council President Bruce Harrell suspended the rules of order so that Councilmember Lisa Herbold could say a few words in honor of the late Real Change vendor Sharon Jones, and read a proclamation into the official record:
A Proclamation Honoring the Life of Sharon Jones
Whereas, Sharon Jones was born in Shreveport, Louisiana into an Air Force family; and
Whereas, after succumbing to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) passed away in hospice care at the age of 66 on Sunday, April 28, 2019; and
Whereas, Sharon Jones was a tireless advocate for people experiencing homelessness with a frequent presence in City Hall, and a beloved part of the Real Change, Resident Action Project, and Top Pot Doughnut communities; and
Whereas, Sharon Jones was active in local and statewide advocacy for homelessness services and affordable housing; and
Whereas, Sharon Jones modeled the importance of vision with her “The Greatest Love Homeless Ministry” housing plan that espoused the principles of Housing First, resident self-management, transit-oriented development, and communities of opportunity; and
Whereas, in King County, 3 out of 4 extremely low-income households pay more than half of their income towards rent, and, according to the 2018 Count Us In report, people of color, survivors of domestic violence, and people with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the homeless population; and
Whereas, the lack of affordable housing and rising rents are primary drivers of homelessness, and the trauma of living unsheltered takes a significant health toll; and
Whereas, a 2018 King County Medical Examiner report records 194 known deaths of people experiencing homelessness primarily by natural causes, but at a median age 25 years younger than the King County average; and
Whereas, recent studies show people living unsheltered can be 10 times more likely to experience violence than housed people, and, according to the Seattle Times, more than 10% of homicide victims in 2018 were homeless when they were attacked; and
Whereas, Sharon Jones dedicated herself to changing these conditions by telling her story, using ingenuity to advance the public good, and highlighting structural barriers of racism and poverty; and
Whereas, Sharon Jones was known for her reliability, loyalty, and selfless attitude despite the demands of commuting from Federal Way and working multiple jobs, and
Whereas, Sharon Jones’ iconic greeting “I’m blessed and well” reflects the optimism and humility by which the city strives to approach public service and work to end suffering; and
Whereas, the city of Seattle and its elected leaders mourn the loss of Sharon and graciously celebrate her life and the efforts to effect justice;
Now, therefore, the Seattle City Council hereby proclaims May 14, 2019 to be honored for the life and service of Sharon L. Jones.
Signed by all members of the Seattle City Council.
Sharon’s good friends and fellow vendors Lisa Sawyer and Shelly Cohen were on hand to say a few words of appreciation in front of City Council, and to underscore the urgency of the homeless crisis from the perspective of those most affected.
And to simply say how much Sharon will be missed.
As we walked up the hill from Real Change to City Hall, Lisa told me how strange it felt that Sharon would never again join us on this familiar five-block trip.
We talked about our sense of loss, and how much we’ll miss Sharon’s palpable sense of love and joy, and that thousand-watt smile that was so uniquely hers.
But I believe that Sharon’s spirit lives on, and that as we continue to trudge up that hill, Sharon will always be with us. Sharon’s spirit lives on in the resolve she brought to the corridors of City Hall, in the Real Change community and in the hearts of all who knew her.
Sharon may be gone, but her community remains strong.
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Remembering Sharon Jones: Big dreams, faith and community are what inspired 'Ms. Real Change'
Tim Harris is the Founding Director Real Change and has been active as a poor people’s organizer for more than two decades. Prior to moving to Seattle in 1994, Harris founded street newspaper Spare Change in Boston while working as Executive Director of Boston Jobs with Peace.
Read the full May 22 - 28 issue.
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