Homelessness – A Symptom of  a Deep –Rooted Societal Malaise

Homelessness is an ongoing and disturbing aspect of modern American life.  It is an issue that affects every geographic region of the country - within rural and suburban areas as well as the major cities.  In addition to the purely moral aspect of our obligation to those bearing such a burden, there are also strictly legal obligations.  It needs to be kept in mind that The United States is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 25 of this document clearly states that, "Everyone has the right to ... food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services In addition, the Housing Act of 1949, clearly enunciates the  long term goal regarding the, "realization as soon as feasible of the goal of a decent home ... for every American family.”  And again, The Fair Housing Act of 1968 made discrimination on the basis of race in the housing market illegal. To date, none of these issues have been satisfactorily addressed.  It seems that decisions made consistently by the real estate industry and its developers have been driven purely by the marketplace and by the making of profit leading to the pitiful lack of affordable housing and the continuation of practices that include racial profiling and discrimination.  The meteoric rise of housing prices and increase in rents in Seattle and Bellevue are examples of this trend.  If this rate of decrease in affordable housing is allowed to continue unabated, the impact it will necessarily have on individuals and families is not difficult to imagine.

There are many reasons for the development and growth of homelessness In the United States over the recent past.   A connection that is avoidable relates to the wholesale decision in terms of public policy to remove the mentally ill from the institutions that housed them in the late 1970s.  Part of the rationale for this horrific decision was based on the promise, never kept, of providing sufficient outpatient medical and social services to accommodate those who no longer had the protection provided by institutionalization.  This new reality led to a large increase in the homeless mentally ill population.

In addition there was also an apparent sea-change in public policy beginning with the administration of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.  This change was motivated by a political philosophy that embodied the idea that government was not only incapable of solving societal issues but was also part of the problem -  “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” As a direct result of this political philosophy, social services were severely curtailed leading to the growth in the number of homeless due to the precipitous drop in government subsidies previously allocated to help provide housing for those in need. These issues were further exacerbated by a huge transfer of public monies to defense-based industries and in the concomitant increase in federal budget deficits.  This was also the era in which the inequity between the vast wealth of the few in relation to the rest of the population began to rise – to eventually reach its present proportions.

Currently, homelessness is largely ignored by the mainstream media and, therefore, not a topic of conversation or concern among the general public. The following data indicate the real enormity of the problem:
·         Over 7% of persons living in the United States have been homeless (defined as sleeping in shelters, the street, abandoned buildings, cars, or bus and train stations) at some point in their lives.  
·         Homelessness rates have increased over each of the past 2 decades. An estimated 2.5 to 3.5 million people now experience homelessness each year- this represents approximately 1% of the entire population.  
·         Approximately half are families with children, the fastest-growing segment of the homeless population. In one study, 7.6% of young people experienced at least one night of homelessness in one year.

Not only do the homeless face the agonizing challenges of attempting to live without shelter, but there is also the problem of the medical issues that they face often as a direct consequence of the emotional and physical toll of living without the warmth and protection that reliable housing provides.  There are many myths associated with the homeless that are not supported by the data.  One of these is that simply getting employment would quickly resolve the issue for those affected.  The fact is, however, that 20% of homeless persons maintain either full- or part-time jobs.
Even given this fact regarding the rate of employment among the homeless, only 5% are privately insured, often through COBRA.  In addition, the majority of homeless adults is not eligible for Medicaid in most States, and is also not eligible for Medicare due to the age requirement for eligibility.  Homelessness is particularly prevalent among US military veterans.  Although 23% of homeless persons are veterans of the armed services, only 57% have received healthcare services through the VA system that is apparently unable to meet the extent of the demand.
The following is taken from a report entitled, Homelessness in the United States: History, Epidemiology, Health Issues, Women and Public Policy authored by Dr. Martin Donohoe (July 7, 2004) and appearing in Medscape.com.

“Because they usually lack health insurance, homeless persons tend not to get adequate preventive care and appropriate routine management of such chronic illnesses as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and emphysema. They tend to visit emergency rooms for acute illnesses.  Besides lack of health insurance, other barriers to care include denial of health problems; the pressure to fulfill competing nonfinancial needs, such as those for food, clothing, and temporary shelter; and misconceptions, prejudices, and frustrations on the part of health professionals.  When hospitalized, the average length of stay of a homeless individual, in 1 study, was 4.1 days, or 36% longer than that of low-income, non-homeless individuals, even after adjustment for differences in the rates of substance abuse and mental illness and other clinical and demographic characteristics. The cost of the additional hospital days per discharge ranged from $2414 to $4094 (1992-1993 dollars).

“Homeless adults have an age-adjusted mortality rate nearly 4 times that of the general population; their average life span is shorter than 45 years. Homeless women 18 to 44 years of age are between 5 and 31 times more likely to die than women in the general population. Homeless women older than age 44 are only 1 to 2 times as likely to die, and are healthier than their male counterparts. However, homeless women in their mid-fifties are as physiologically aged as housed women in their seventies and are afflicted to a similar degree with chronic diseases, yet they do not qualify for elderly housing assistance.

“Homeless women are more likely than homeless men to have experienced childhood sexual abuse and/or foster care and adult partner abuse. More than 50% of all homeless women and children become homeless as a direct result of fleeing domestic violence. The availability of domestic violence shelter beds in the United States is poor; up to 70% to 80% of women, and 80% of children, are turned away on any given night in major cities. Shelters are woefully underfunded; some do not allow children. Average length of stay at a US shelter is 14 days; most allow a 30-day maximum stay.  Ironically, women fleeing domestic violence are often not counted in studies of homelessness, since they are considered to have a home (albeit unlivable) or are staying temporarily in shelters.

 "On average, homeless adults have 8 to 9 concurrent medical illnesses.  The homeless commonly suffer from dermatologic conditions (e.g., skin lice, scabies, eczema, and allergic rashes), respiratory infections, tooth decay, foot problems (e.g., trench foot, tinea pedis), vision disturbances, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and trauma. Functional limitations, substance abuse, and mental illness (particularly depression, schizophrenia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders) are very common. Mental illness is reported in 30% of homeless persons, and in 50% to 60% of homeless women.  The usual chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and asthma, are quite prevalent and difficult to manage. Preventive tests are underutilized because of time and funding constraints and because patients tend to present with acute care needs that require immediate attention. Homeless children frequently suffer from respiratory, ear, and skin infections, failure to thrive, developmental delay, and face neglect and abuse. 

"STIs are common among homeless girls and women, a function of limited access to reproductive health services, prostitution, and survival sex (i.e., sex in exchange for food, drugs, or temporary shelter). Twenty-six percent of female street youths (28% of male street youths and 10% of shelter youths) report having participated in survival sex, which is associated with older age, more days away from home, victimization, criminal behaviors, substance use, suicide attempts, STIs, and pregnancy.  Homeless women have a pregnancy rate about twice the national rate.  HIV rates are higher than in the general population, which has been attributed to higher prevalence of intravenous drug use, STIs, prostitution, survival sex, and limited access to condoms.
"Unique aspects of homelessness that contribute to hard-to-manage medical and psychiatric illness include enhanced vulnerability to crime and violence; prolonged standing; excessive outdoor exposure; infectious disease transmission due to overcrowding; high risk of being robbed of medication; limited access to water for showers, dental care, and personal hygiene; inability to follow complex treatment and home care regimens; lack of privacy; and social isolation.  Those with language barriers -- particularly those who lack citizenship and work long hours under dangerous conditions -- such as homeless migrant and seasonal farm workers, face particular challenges and are often afraid to access even emergency care.”

These data shed a disturbing light on the enormity of the problem of homelessness.  It is unconscionable that a prosperous nation that often prides itself on its adherence to so-called “family values” and repeatedly claims the moral high ground within the community of nations would permit such an issue to go unaddressed within its own borders.

Homelessness is one of the many disturbing aspects of poverty in the United States.  Others include inadequate access to nutrition, appropriate medical and dental care and mental health services and quality education - some of these issues have been described above.  The fundamental and underlying cause of the condition of poverty for so many Americans in a wealthiest country on the planet has its origins in the highly disproportionate share of the nation’s wealth by the very few.       

Homelessness continues to be a daunting issue for the residents of Seattle and King County.  In addition to the public agencies grapling with this endemic problem, there are many private non-profit agencies dedicated to addressing homelessness.  An example of one of these is the Faith and Family Homelessness Project.  Alki UCC is one of 14 faith communities across three counties (King, Snohomish and Pierce) participating in this project.  Homeward Bound is  an organization operating out of Alki UCC Church located in West Seattle.  This organization has been funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is administered through Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry.  In addition, there is the Westside Interfaith Network that is composed of churches in West Seattle and White Center that coordinates efforts on behalf of social justice issues facing the local community.
The purpose of these organizations is to educate and engage its listeners to better understand the issues of poverty and homelessness and to ultimately inspire and encourage action for social change.  In the process of fulfilling this role, these organizations attempt to offer methodologies that can be effectively employed to help end the devastating problem of homelessness that plagues so many families and encourage advocacy on behalf of the homeless.  Through a combination of effective education and advocacy, a world is envisioned in which the cycle of family homelessness is broken such that positive and productive lives can be experienced by all - in all walks of life.

The following reports document the extent and serious nature of homelessness in this region of the country.


The Gravity of Homelessness

It is important to examine the actual the reality and scale of homelessness not only in the Seattle region (King County) but also in the nation.  The following reports provide some important statistics in this regard -

A recent report (2009) indicated that there are currently 40,000 homeless in New York City.  This is a staggering statistic – this number is equivalent to the entire population of a small town.  Given the harsh winters in New York, this is a very disturbing reality.  New York is by no means unique in this regard.  The following table shows homelessness statistics for the entire nation as of 2009.

In addition, there are many millions of individuals at a greater risk for homelessness as the following table indicates

These data clearly demonstrate that the major causes for homelessness are the prohibitive cost of housing, unemployment and poverty - conditions that are further aggravated by housing foreclosures.

Despite the economic downturn, a decrease by 1% in homelessness across America between 2009 and 2011 was found in a report issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The following were some of the findings issued in this report –

·         “The nation’s homeless population decreased 1 percent, or by about 7,000 people; it went from 643,067 in 2009 to 636,017 in 2011. There were a decreased number of people experiencing homelessness in most of the subpopulations examined in this report: families, individuals in families, chronic, and individuals. The only increase was among those unsheltered.

·     The largest decrease was among homeless veterans, whose population declined 11 percent. The number of homeless veterans went from 75,609 in 2009 to 67,495 in 2011, a reduction of about 8,000.
·         The national rate of homelessness was 21 homeless people per 10,000 people in the general population. The rate for veterans was 31 homeless veterans per 10,000 veterans in the general population.

·     Chronic homelessness decreased by 3 percent from 110,911 in 2009 to 107,148 in 2011. The chronically homeless population has decreased by 13 percent since 2007. The decrease is associated with an increase in the number of permanent supportive housing beds from 188,636 in 2007 to 266,968 in 2011. Permanent supportive housing ends chronic homelessness.

·         A majority of homeless people counted were in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs, but nearly 4 in 10 were unsheltered, living on the streets, or in cars, abandoned buildings, or other places not intended for human habitationThe unsheltered population increased by 2 percent from 239,759 in 2009 to 243,701 in 2011, the only subpopulation to increase.
T    The number of individuals in homeless families decreased by 1 percent nationally, but increased by 20 percent or more in 11 states.
·         While the homeless population decreased nationally, it increased in 24 states and the District of Columbia.”
Note – I have purposefully underlined those aspects of the report that I believe warrant special attention.

The horrific state of homelessness impacts men, women, children, the old and the young, the mentally ill and even the handicapped.  There are, in fact, whole families that are homeless.  It is not uncommon for families to be homeless in which the head of the household is employed.  In my mind, there is no justifiable reason for anyone to be homeless in America; the suffering that is endured by so many is wholly unnecessary.  Consider the extent of the waste evident in the federal budget especially in regards to military expenditures and the ludicrous concessions made to corporations with the help of the legions of lobbyists paid exorbitant sums to extricate concessions from an essentially apathetic and pliant Congress.  Consider the vast transfer of public wealth to private hands that has transpired within the last thirty years.  Consider the corruption that is so evident within local governments.  These are governments that often pander to wealth and find all manner of rationales to ignore the plight of so many of their citizens.

National priorities should gravitate around meaningful solutions to societal problems and conditions that lead to unwarranted and unnecessary suffering on the part of those who are effectively economically and politically powerless to change their state of being - with special regard to children.  Homelessness and hunger are issues that need to be placed at the top of the list.  Not to do so, is, in my judgment, morally indefensible.
The state of homelessness in America is evidence of the seemingly pervasive cultural indifference to the living conditions of those less fortunate.  This is a troubling aspect of American life.  It need not be the case, however.  This nation is woefully out of balance.  What is required is a sense of urgency in meeting the needs of those who are in crisis.  What is required is a serious reevaluation of what we, as a people, collectively regards as important and worthy of immediate attention.  In my mind, to ignore those who suffer unnecessarily is to effectively undermine the future.

Mental Illness and the Homeless

It has recently been reported that 1 out of every 17 individuals in the U.S. suffers from mental illness - that translates to approximately 20.5 million people. This is a significant number of individuals plagued by this galaxy of diseases that disrupts mental processes. Those of us who function “normally” do not fully recognize how much processing - within the circuitry of the human brain – is ordinarily required to perform even the most mundane activities. The daily tasks that are required to work every day, for example, include waking up on time, preparing for the day doing such things as showering, brushing one’s teeth, preparing clothes, planning for the day’s eventualities, taking a bus or train or driving a car. All of these tasks must be performed in an orderly, precise and timely fashion. These functions are required simply to get to a place of employment not to mention all the social skills, capabilities, human interactions, use of learned abilities and reliable memory, timeliness, prioritizing of goals etc. that are the minimal requirements to accomplish rather complex work-related functions successfully.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “20 to 25% of the homeless population in the United States suffers from some form of severe mental illness.” This compares to the 6% of the general population that is afflicted with mental illness as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health, 2009. In addition, a survey was conducted in 25 U.S. cities in which the question was posed as to what were the three major causes of homelessness for single adults. The results of this investigation indicated that mental illness was ranked as the third largest cause. In addition, mental illness was also indicated as playing a significant role as a cause of homelessness among families. This is not surprising given the fact that living with a mentally ill individual places significant stresses upon the entire family. Additional fallout from these and similar studies is that individuals with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are particularly vulnerable.

There is yet another level to this issue that adds further complexity and concern –a strong correlation exists between the state of mental health in an individual and the corresponding status of overall physical health. Individuals that are constantly distracted, confused and disoriented by mental disease are far less likely to pay attention to their physical well-being. They are far more likely to ignore significant warning signs that would ordinarily send people to their physicians. Furthermore, they are more likely to contract HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis or other communicable diseases. They pay less attention to their personal hygiene and often place themselves in dangerous situations that often lead to bodily harm.

In addition, it has been reliably estimated by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that approximately one-half of the mentally ill homeless in the United States also are substance abusers. It is a well-established fact that many sufferers from mental illness use drugs as a form of self-medication.

These extensive studies regarding the real implications of mental illness demonstrate that the individual overtaken by aberrations within the functioning brain experiences a satellite of related conditions including substance abuse and the resulting poor physical health. These conditions when taken together make it very difficult to find reliable employment and ultimately adequate shelter.

In spite of the fact that the scientific disciplines of Neurobiology and Neuroscience have elucidated many of the biological and biochemical mechanisms that are responsible for the galaxy of symptoms that are collectively regarded as mental illness, there remains a great deal of suspicion and the resulting stigma that is associated with those who are afflicted by mental illness. This kind of fallacious preconception regarding mental illness obscures the indisputable reality that mental illness is a result of definitive imbalances in the biochemistry and function of the human brain. The society, at large, has inadequately addressed this issue in a way that could produce meaningful help and remediation for those who suffer from mental illness. A reevaluation of the status of the mentally ill and homelessness would certainly be in the public interest.

Here is additional information regarding the role of mental illness in homeless.


Regional Implications of Homelessness - 

What is Being Done

On January 20, 2013, a panel discussion moderated by Shannon Thomas was convened at Alki UCC.  The panelists for this discussion included the following individuals who have devoted their time, energy and talents in dealing with the issue of homelessness and offering direct help to those in need. -

Allison Howard - King County Drug Court
Liz McDaniel - Mary's Place
Gillian Parke - Sacred Heart Shelter
Chris Meinhold - Broadview Domestic Violence Shelter.
Solid Ground - Providing Housing

A panel discussion sponsored by the Safe Parking Community Network was convened to discuss the issue of homelessness especially in regards to those individuals and families living in cars.  The emphasis of this meeting was to address ways to provide safe parking for the homeless.  This Panel met at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in West Seattle on February 1, 2013. 

The meeting was introduced and moderated by Elizabeth Maupin Outreach Coordinator for the Safe Parking Community Network and a presentation of three short films preceded the panel discussion.  These films highlighted the severity of the problem of homelessness and the issues that individuals and families face that ultimately leads to homelessness.  Some of the more salient points of these presentations were the following:
·         Minimum wage, both state and federal, woefully inadequate
·         Introduction of the so-called “Self-Sufficiency Standard that is a measure of the difference between actual wages and what is required to live
·         One million school-aged children are homeless throughout the nation
·         Reported 60% rise in homelessness since the Great Recession of 2008
·         Significant rise in the number of working families who are homeless
·         Factors that may drive an individual or family to the state of homelessness
o   Unemployment
o   Medical Crisis
o   Decrease in Wages
·         Homeless families often choose not to use shelters; for, these often prohibit gender mixing.

Following this presentation, a brief talk was given by Alison Eisinger – Director of the King County Coalition on Homelessness.  Eisinger discussed the logistics of the One-Night Count of the homeless in Seattle/King County.  There are ten one-night count headquarters and approximately 850 volunteers are employed who literally walk the streets between 2:00 and 5:00 am.  This year (2013) the number of homeless individuals counted was 2,736.   This number when added to the total number of individuals sleeping in shelters and in transition housing brings the total count to approximately 10,000.  This number is significantly higher (13.6%) than the total for 2012 – 8,800.  In addition, it has been estimated that there have been 27,000 homeless in this region (Seattle/King County) sometime during the past year.

These are, of course, staggering statistics.  In response to this apparent epidemic, the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has allocated 20-24 million dollars towards housing for the homeless – part of this coming from President Obama’s stimulus package.

The team from Homeward Bound gave a brief description of some of the items on their agenda – one of these being a reference to a Homeless Advocacy event scheduled for Olympia on February 11.  The object of this event is to draw state legislator’s attention to the enormity and seriousness of this problem.

Jean Darsie -Steering Committee member for Safe Parking Community Network and part of the Scofflaw Mitigation Team – proceeded to give description of the concerns and goals of the Safe Parking Community Network.  Darsie pointed out that 32% of the individuals counted (875) during the one-night count was found in their vehicles.  The advantages of living in a vehicle are the avoidance of shelters all together and retaining some degree of independence.  The obvious disadvantages include the necessity to be constantly on the move and the issues of personal safety and access to hygienic accommodations - bathrooms.   It is these factors the Committee wishes to address.  Currently, there are two participating churches that have donated 7 parking spots – this includes allowing access to restroom facilities.  Two additional sites are expected for the 2013-2014 period.  This, of course, is far from ideal, but the program is still in its infancy.

A panel discussion followed.   The members of this panel included –
·         Alison Eisinger -- Director of the King County Coalition on Homelessness
·         Jean Darsie -- Steering Committee member for Safe Parking Community Network and part of the Scofflaw Mitigation Team
·         Tim Harris -- Founding Director of Real Change newspaper
·         Larry Neilson -- Artist, now homeless and disabled
·         Rebecca Butler -- Steering Committee member for Safe Parking Community Network
·         Gabriella Duncan -- music & community awareness teacher, foster parent, currently homeless
·         Robert Canamar -- business person now disabled and involved with Disability Commission for the City of Seattle.
Gabriella Duncan and Larry Neilson are currently homeless and were able to contribute valuable insights into the complex issues surrounding homelessness.  In particular, a common path to homelessness was discussed.  

A typical scenario involves an inability to pay rent or mortgage leading to eviction or foreclosure.  If suitable housing is inaccessible then sleeping at friend or family member’s house is the logical next step.  After this is no longer a viable option, then sleeping on the street, or in a vehicle or in a shelter might follow.  A progression from a shelter to transition housing is often the case; although, this may end in a return to a shelter or the streets.

Some of the factors that can lead to homeless include: unemployment, decrease in wages, cuts in essential services as a result of loss of public funds, a personal crisis often involving a change in health status, mental illness and drug abuse.  The essential factor in all of this is the lack of a sufficient number of affordable housing units.

Lastly, a representative from the Seattle Occupy Movement brought up the issue of home foreclosures and referred to the fact that 100 foreclosures happen every month and that there is a working group in the occupy movement whose goal is to obstruct evictions through eviction blockades.  He urged everyone to get involved.

The meeting was adjourned and the group was encouraged to remain involved in helping to secure safe parking for homeless individuals and families currently living in their vehicles.

In order to futher the discussion regarding the severity and prevalence of homelessness in the Seattle/King County region of Washington State another panel discussion - Advocacy for the Homeless - was organized under the aegis of the Homeward Bound Seattle Team at Alki UCC on February 17, 2013 and moderated by Shannon Thomas. It was a thought provoking, informative, nuanced, candid, and charged discussion with Alison Eisinger (Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness) and Timothy Harris (Real Change)...discussing political advocacy, charity downstream and justice upstream: housing inequality and advocating for the homeless.

_________________________________________________________________________________Homelessness from a Religious Perspective
On February 3, 2013, David Bloom gave a presentation regarding the spiritual imperative of solving the problem of homelessness at the Sunday Service at Alki UCC


Legislative Initiatives

Meeting with Seattle Councilman Nicholas Licata 0n May 21, 2013 Regarding the Status of Nickelsville and to Discuss  the Broader Issue of Homelessness in the Region

On Wednesday, May 22 at 2:00 PM in Seattle City Hall there will be a committee meeting headed by Nicholas  Licata to gather public  testimony  regarding proposed legislation related to the present and future status of Nickelsville.  There are two proposed pieces of legislation –
·         The first legislative proposal, authored by Licata, sets up and defines the conditions for legally-sanctioned encampments – designed to meet and assuage the anxieties of concerned citizens.   However, both  Share Wheel and Nickelsville representatives, do not support this legislation as it stands on account of the requirements that encampments be located in non-residential areas and would be sanctioned for one-year intervals.  They are in support of an amendment that would allow residential placement and that includes  a two-year arrangement.  Licata is doubtful that this amendment will pass.  In addition, he feels that in spite of this disagreement, this legislation may have enough support to pass.  Furthermore, Licata believes that those councilmen who oppose this legislation, including Richard Conlin and Tom Rasmussen, do so for a number of reasons including -
o   The idea of supporting encampments does not address the issues surrounding homelessness and, in some sense, may help perpetuate the crisis
o   The situation at Nickolsville is essentially  inhumane
o   It is essentially the mayor’s problem.

·         The second legislative proposal, supported by the mayor, requires that an environmental assessment be done to determine the suitability of the current location of Nickelsville for habitation.  If this legislation should pass and an assessment demonstrates that the location is not suitable, Nickelsville would be disbanded and if it is demonstrates that the location is suitable, the encampment could remain.  Licata believes that this legislation has no real chance of becoming law.

Licata pointed out that the issue around Nickelsville  in particular and homeless encampments in general is complex and politically challenging.  For example, in terms of the Nickelsville site another player in this is Food Lifeline – an “unwilling hostage,” as Licata described it - that provides a significant community service in providing food for those in need.  They would like to use the site to expand their operations.  Interestingly, Nickelsville, under the supposed leadership of Scott Morrow, is not against this use.  As a group, they seem to prefer leasing land from a church (or churches) - Please see his comments below.  In this way they would be outside of the public domain and, therefore, not subject to  urban regulations.  Licata pointed out that one important impediment to this approach is the expense that would be incurred, for a church or a group of churches would have to lease a sizeable piece of property from a private owner at considerable cost – Licata cited as an example the amount of $16000/month.  The city might be called on to subsidize this amount in whole or in part.

Note: The following is taken from a “Nickelsville Updates”  from Scott Morrow in regards to his proposal for a future encampment

No one at City Hall has tried harder to help Nickelsville than
Councilman Licata and Mayor McGinn,  BUT:  Neither of these options is
a win/win solution, or good for Nickelsville.  Nickelsville also
opposes the New Encampment Ordinance in Option #1.  Encampments
operating under it would not be allowed in residentially zoned areas -
they would be redlined out of over 65% of Seattle City Land!!  That
neither helps or hurts Nickelsville directly, but it could harm other
encampment efforts, including our friends at SHARE and Tent City3.

We've got another option.  It has us moving out of our present
location very quickly and turning it over to Food Lifeline.  We would
then move to two locations that are 'controlled' (but not owned) by
religious institutions.  We would stay at each site for two years, and
have not more than 100 people at either site.  Most of the sites we
are looking at could require rent payments to the owner (but not more
than the $300,000 study proposed for the Glassyards).  As always, we
would be glad to work with a Non-Profit Social Service Organization on
Management Aspects of Nickelsville.

We are grateful to the Church Council of Greater Seattle, the Low
Income Housing Institute, and Food Lifeline for providing us advice,
assistance and counsel on this option to move quickly.

Showing your support would be greatly appreciated and helpful!
Consider coming (promptly) to the Seattle City Council Committee on
Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee next Wednesday.
It starts at 2:00 PM in the City Council Chambers at 600 4th Avenue.

When asked what would happen to Nickolsville if nothing is done, Licata's answer was that the encampment would remain but sizeable lawsuits directed against the city  would probably follow from the neighboring property owner, local residents and even so-called, “Nickolodians.”  In addition, Food Lifeline  would need to find another location for their enterprise.

Finally, when asked to clarify his position on the large issue of providing affordable housing as an “upstream” solution to the problem of homelessness, Licata described in some detail the kind of legislation he is in the process of formulating.  This legislation would have the following general features – it needs to be remembered that this is a work in progress.

·         Developers would be required to set aside 10% of housing units at every location for affordable housing
·     One-half of these units would be set at 60% of the average median income (AMI) and the remaining half would be set at 80% of the AMI.  

     Although the Council is currently looking at the total number of such units at 700 – 775, Licata is aiming for 2400 units.

Finally, the point was raised that current statistics demonstrate that 7% of the homeless in this region are living under conditions, “unfit for human habitation.”   Licata said that his hope is that by the end of the year the number of individuals living under such horrendous conditions would be reduced to 0.

In conclusion, the attendees at this meeting, Shannon Thomas, Diane Darling and Joe Aprile, felt that this was a very productive meeting.  In addition, they are of the opinion that Homeward Bound should support the following efforts –
·         Call for approval of Licata’s legislative proposal in regards to homeless encampments as described above
·         Support Licata’s efforts in regards to requiring developers to build supportable housing units
·       Consider encouraging  like-minded churches to pool resources to lease land for a future  encampment until there is no longer a need for such encampments.  Also, the following is a link to the members of the Seattle City Council -


Promoting Awareness of the Problem

The Line - a video produced by the Sojourners was shown in three different households of members of Alki UCC on May 23, June 1 and June 8 (See the Calendar of Events).  This video draws the viewers attention to the challenging life situations  experienced  by the 46 million Americans who are the nation's poor.


On June 2, 2013 King County Executive Dow Constantine discussed the issue of homelessness as it relates to King County to a group of interested members of the Alki UCC Congregation of West Seattle.  In his presentation he talked about the Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness and the progress that has been made in that area.  Constantine made note of the fact that in the current King County budget, 58 million dollars has been allocated to address the issue of homelessness.  He stressed that significant expenditures are required to tackle this issue as part of responsible public administration.

He also spent a considerable of time referring to the overall strategy adopted by his administration to not only provide shelter for those currently homeless, but also put into place those approaches designed to prevent individuals and families from losing their homes to begin with.  Some of the more salient features of this strategy include:
  • The concept of Housing First - the goal of finding housing for those at risk immediately rather than going through a prolonged process with securing housing being the last step - a methodology that has been the traditional model
  • Establishing a Coordinated Entry in which clients would only need to go to a single site in order to be connected to the appropriate services
  • Addressing the need of providing educational and employment services to clients - a need that has been repeatedly expressed by those in need
  • Integrating health coverage with human services - Constantine stressed his desire to achieve full enrollment in the Federal Health Care Reform Act that will operating in full force in 2014.
In relation to advocacy, Constantine asked that interested citizens contact the appropriate state representatives in terms of pending decisions to be made in regard to the currently constrained state budget.


On the evening of Monday, June 17, 2013, the WestsideInterfaith Network (WIN) held a gathering at Our Lady of Guadalupe in West Seattle for the purpose of addressing the issue of homelessness in Seattle.  The format for this meeting was a panel discussion to which members of the Seattle City Council were invited.  Those who did attend were – Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien and an aide to Sally Bagshaw who was unable to come as a result of a previous engagement.  Rick Jump, the managing director of the West Seattle Food Bank, served as moderator.

Representatives of five member churches posed a series of questions related to homelessness in general and the fate of Nickelsville in particular.
The responses to the various questions can be summarized as follows –
·         It was the consensus of the panel that homelessness is a serious issue that needs to be addressed especially given the “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness” already in its ninth year.  They also felt that the situation in Nickelsville required resolution though there were significant differences of opinion regarding how this should be approached.

·         The following is a cursory description of the views held by the individual Councilmen –
§  Not in agreement with the letter drafted by seven Councilmen to instruct the mayor to disband Nickelsville by September 1. 
§  Although $500,000 dollars was allocated for the purpose of helping encampment residents with the transition, where the funds would come from is unspecified
§  Although tents are not a good solution, what is the alternative?
§  Stressed the need for a policy that would allow the setup of “managed” encampments – Licata has proposed an ordinance to do just that
§  In regards to policies to prevent homelessness, alluded to rent protection and tenant relocation assistance that is actually on the books and allows for $2500 to be paid  to those who have been evicted by a landlord for purposes of redevelopment of property
§   Stressed the need for the city to work with private organizations in regards to overcoming hurtles around issues of private property.
§  Maintained that many of the homeless in Seattle come from outside the city and are drawn to Seattle for its services
§  Posed the question “Should we help?” those who come to the city for this reason
§  In regards to the question posed by members of the audience as to how they could help, he urged churches to contact member churches throughout the state to put pressure on Olympia on the issue of homelessness
§  In regards to Nickelsville, stressed repeatedly that the encampment is illegal and must go
§  Indicated he was “unhappy” with the mayor’s “lack of leadership” around this issue
§  Supported the use of motels a s a temporary measure to house the homeless
§  Claimed that some of the homeless do not want to sleep inside
§  Brought up the issue of transportation and urged individuals to pressure Olympia to allow municipalities to collect revenues to solve their own unique transportation problems
§  Described the homeless population as being divisible into two groups – those who take the opportunity to change their situation and those that don’t
§  Emphasized the importance of providing services such as drug rehabilitation and mental health services as a way to get individuals back on track.
§  Emphasized that he felt that he had a responsibility to serve all our citizens
§  Involved in the Safe Parking Program that would provide safe parking for those individuals living in their cars and limited services
§  Stated that the current proposed state budget was draconian especially in regards to providing services for the homeless sand the disabled
§  Like Rasmussen, asked that individuals pressure Olympia to give Seattle  greater revenue-raising authority
§  In regards to creative solutions – what is needed is more jobs providing sustainable income
§  Co-supporter with Licata of the ordinance that would set up policies for safe and viable homeless encampments

§  On a more philosophical note, reminded everyone of the currently proposed bill to “get money out of politics.”