Camping out in support of the homeless
This Oct. 23, we’ll be camping out again at Westlake Park to draw attention to King County’s unmet need for emergency shelter. The next morning, Oct. 24, there will be a 7:30 a.m. rally and a march at 8:15 a.m. to Seattle City Hall, where the Governing Board of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County (CEHKC) will hold their quarterly meeting.
This will be the third time in nine months that homeless people and their allies have shown up to say, “Without shelter, people die.” We have asked that the governing board stop letting excellent get in the way of good and support homeless people’s efforts to meet their own survival needs.
We’re asking that you be there, and that you march with us to city hall.
We’re asking that you bring the blanket you slept in the night before. That blanket is a powerful symbol of the warmth and security that so many of us take for granted and too many of us lack.
We’re asking that, while wrapped in that blanket, you sit in support of homeless people’s safety and survival during the CEHKC Governing Board Meeting.
From its inception, CEHKC has held the line against funding new shelter. The committee has said resources are scarce, and there is a need to make choices that reflect our commitment to ending homelessness, and not just continuing to manage the problem. Housing, not shelter, it has said, is the solution to homelessness.
The intentions have been good. We all support long-term, structural solutions to the problem of homelessness, but not at the expense of adequate shelter tonight.
In January, 2,594 homeless people were counted outside in King County during the early morning hours after the shelters were full.
Since 2006, the first full year of the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the numbers of homeless people counted in shelter have risen by
7 percent. This is hard reality. The nonprofit housing sector simply cannot solve a problem this big. We are losing affordable housing more quickly than it can be replaced.
Nearly a decade ago, when Ten-Year Plans to End Homelessness began, there was some hope that the federal government would recommit to housing, that local, state and federal government, united in purpose to end homelessness, could turn this problem around.
That hasn’t happened. While foreclosed properties sit vacant across the nation, these houses are more likely to be torn down for scrap than opened to the poor and homeless.
Government, at all levels, lacks the vision and unity required to put “throwaway people” back to work, provide a decent minimal safety net and rebuild the communities that have been decimated by decades of disinvestment, austerity and financial predation.
And the cuts to programs that minimally support the poor will keep coming. Regardless of who becomes the next president, the federal government has promised this. A trillion dollars in cuts are required to balance the budget. Where do we imagine those are going to fall? On the military? Think again.
So, when poor people self-organize into tent cities to meet their survival needs, we need to listen. When the suffering that has been hidden, criminalized and pushed underground becomes visible, we need to see it. When communities of necessary resistance discover their own power and possibility, we need to support them.
This is how movements for economic justice begin. That is how change happens.
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