Members of Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (SHARE) remain camped outside the King County Courthouse as the hunt for solutions to settle the organization’s debts continues. Amid the effort to reopen shelter doors are allegations that the organization is leveraging its clients to get more public funding.
The organization received a $25,000 donation from a local nonprofit that chose to remain anonymous and will see an influx from various fundraising events. In addition, churches that partner with SHARE met April 13 to brainstorm ways to help the organization get back on its feet.
SHARE needs dependable funding to bring back the 249 beds that it is contracted with the city of Seattle to provide, said Clint Wade, a share participant.
That should come from the county, which didn’t fund SHARE in its 2014–16 biennial budget cycle but committed to support existing shelters when it formed its All Home Strategic Plan in 2015, Wade said.
In its 2016 budget, SHARE included $75,000 in funding from King County and United Way of King County, a charitable organization that has never funded SHARE.
That amount is very close to the $70,000 hole that SHARE participants say they need to fill, on top of ongoing operating costs.
The organization casts city and county government as starving it of resources because of its independent style and light-touch approach to homeless services. Public officials referred to the protest encampment, called Tent City 6, as a publicity stunt, suggesting it was a calculated move to extract money from government coffers. It’s a war of ideologies that puts Seattle’s most vulnerable squarely in the middle.
Tent City 6 formed on March 31 when SHARE rallied outside the King County Courthouse to declare itself broke.
City and county officials said at the time that the end of March was the first they’d heard that SHARE was experiencing such significant cash flow problems that it would have to shutter 13 of its shelters.
Seattle’s Human Services Director Catherine Lester told SHARE organizer Michele Marchand in a letter that the city would not find new money for SHARE.
“To quote your organization’s messaging, ‘Without shelter, people die,’” Lester wrote. “Therefore, we cannot officially condone any attempt to take away a roof overhead and an indoor space from people experiencing homelessness.”
Members of SHARE have blamed the city and the county for creating its financial problems by not adequately funding its operations. They cite new money pressures including the increased minimum wage and rising costs.
The Human Services Department set aside $328,751 to reimburse SHARE for 75,000 shelter beds per year for a total reimbursement of $4.39 per bed, per night. Previous reporting stated that SHARE was given $610,932 for 90,555 shelter nights — in fact that was the total for share and its sister organization WHEEL (Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League), which runs a women’s shelter.
Although separate organizations, they SHARE office space. But the contract to run the WHEEL shelter is officially between Lester and share.
The county has not funded SHARE since the 2013–14 fiscal year. The county used a competitive bidding process for the first time in the 2014–16 cycle to allocate $4.4 million to homeless service agencies.
The organizations requested $11 million, so some, including SHARE, lost out, said Adrienne Quinn, director of King County’s Community and Social Services Department.
SHARE lost out on funds in part because it could not prove that it moved its members out of homelessness and into permanent housing, county officials said. It’s a unique organization in that it doesn’t provide case management. Instead, its shelters and tent cities are self-managed by the residents.
Ironically, the same light touch that makes its beds so cost-effective resulted in SHARE losing out on public funding.
That new process shouldn’t absolve the county of its responsibility to SHARE, since it committed to keep existing shelters open, Wade said.
The All Home Strategic Plan, a document meant to guide the efforts to fight homelessness across agencies in King County, states that participants will “ensure sufficient shelter capacity, including the preservation of existing shelter and increasing capacity to meet specific needs by population and region.”
The organization will continue to look for other funding options while applying pressure to get the county to pony up funds. It’s not a publicity stunt; it’s a direct action to alert people to the problem and find solutions, both from the county and elsewhere, to fix it, Wade said.