Who are homeless people in Seattle?
Are they the criminals breaking into your cars? Are they the drug addicts doing anything for a fix? Are they people who want to remain homeless and live off public services indefinitely? Are they the mentally ill past the point of help? Or are they the criminals who will rape and kill you?
If you watch the news, there’s a good chance that’s your impression. If you never interact and only get secondhand opinions, what else could you be expected to think? You might want to be compassionate to people’s troubles, but find yourself angry and fearful of the allegedly dangerous homeless people. I say this based on conversations I’ve had with Seattleites at trade shows and conferences; people want to make a change but are scared of being involved.
So — is there any truth to the idea of “Seattle’s dangerous and degenerate homeless population?” Well, to some extent, yes. A portion of the homeless population does fit into each of those categories. However, the same is true of housed people. So, is it an accurate representation of the homeless population as a whole? Absolutely not. Just like we can’t fit all housed people into a collective description (beyond being housed), we similarly cannot conflate homelessness with criminal, drug addict, freeloader, insanity or dangerous.
Just like we can’t fit all housed people into a collective description (beyond being housed), we similarly cannot conflate homelessness with criminal, drug addict, freeloader, insanity or dangerous.
What I want to convey is that a large portion of the homeless population fits into a different identity. This identity shows that men and women become homeless after they lose a job and can’t afford rent. It shows that they become homeless after financial hardship. It reveals personal tragedies and broken homes that leave people with nowhere to go. The common thread with so many of these people is that they want to get back on their feet quickly. They want to assimilate back into society and feel productive again. They want to be given a chance to demonstrate their value.
How can they do so if being homeless comes with the public label of “criminal” or “untrustworthy” or “probably-just-going-to-use-this-money-for-drugs?” What does it take for a person to become whole again after experiencing homelessness? The old “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality and brazen command of “get a job, ya bum” don’t exactly work in this environment. If you were fearful of interacting with a homeless man or woman, would you hire them for the job you wish they’d get?
What would it take for you to trust a homeless man or woman? Is it based on appearance? Their housing situation? Their financial stability? Or how about their mentality and drive to succeed?
Millionair Club Charity recognizes just how difficult the socioeconomic landscape is for men and women trying to escape homelessness, in spite of all the public resources available. We know it’s a complex solution and we know that men and women need empowerment in a scenario where they are most often shot down. What we do to address their needs is provide job opportunities with very low barriers to employment. We provide training, showers, laundry, meals, transportation, lockers, vision care and career services to make sure those men and women are fully prepared. And we are sensitive to our employers’ needs, so we meet with each worker to assess their situation, establish their goals and pair them with appropriate jobs.
We provide valuable work experience, verifiable income and housing assistance that help people on their paths to stability. And for those men and women who may be struggling with substance abuse or mental illness, we have a robust referral network so that we can help them best address their needs before participating in our work program. In short, we help rebuild lives through jobs and job-readiness services.
So, what I want for you to take away from this is the following: Homelessness is a crisis in Seattle, but we can do something about it. In order to make substantial, lasting change, we have to recognize the homeless population as diverse, complex, and not defined by a few negative labels. It’s easy to get caught up in the media and politics of the situation, but this problem is going to continue until we take transformative action.
While we can’t solve all problems at Millionair Club Charity, we can earnestly provide job opportunities to the thousands of men and women who are willing and able to work, and we can get them on the path to stability. You can personally make a difference by hiring our workers, recommending our services to businesses in need, and donating to our cause to keep the job opportunities flowing. We’re not in the business of just giving handouts and enabling the situation. No, we want to make real, positive change for the future of Seattle. Won’t you join us?
Work first: Millionair Club Charity’s diverse services help people find employment
Read the full June 26 - July 2 issue.
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