OutsideIN rally this Sunday
This Sunday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the tourists and shoppers at downtown’s Westlake Plaza will see 3,123 silent reminders of those who have nowhere to go.
With the help of many friends and our partners at Redeeming Soles, we’ve collected more than 3,000 pairs of shoes to represent those counted outdoors on a chilly Friday morning between 2 and 5 a.m. in late January.
One of these may have been James Blumm, who has gone to work most days the last few years along Aurora Avenue North. James pulls aluminum cans from the trash and takes them to Northwest Metals and Salvage to sell by the pound. It’s a living.
Most days, James puts in around 10 miles, making his rounds. He might earn 20 bucks or so for the recycled cans.
For the past few years at least, James and his girlfriend Elizabeth have slept outside. Shelters don’t allow couples, so getting indoors means separating at night. Shelter, he says, means too many rules and questions. “I’d rather take my chances outside,” he says.
James drinks a bit. It takes the edge off.
Last April, during the cold snap that came with a light dusting of snow, the pain in James’ toes became excruciating. He couldn’t walk. When he pulled off his shoes, his toes had gone black. James went to a hospital, and the three-hour ER visit got him some gel for his toes and released back to the street.
A few days later, his feet were wet and cold and the pain was worse. “I thought I had covered my feet and probably didn’t,” James said. His girlfriend called 911, and he was admitted to Harborview. The surgeon told him the news was not good. When he woke up next, all his toes were gone.
James was issued special shoes, and he gets around OK. “I can walk. That’s one thing amazing about me, that I can. But the pain never goes away.”
He’s met with counselors from Evergreen Treatment Services and may be getting into housing. He’s hoping for light labor work. Toes or no toes, a guy’s got to live.
During the 2014 Homeless One Night Count, volunteers found people in all sorts of places. Some were out in tents, sleeping bags and blankets. Some rode “Night Owl” buses or stayed in their cars. Others just walked around, trying to get warm.
All of the shelters and emergency winter overflow mats were filled. While many of those outside would tell you they “chose” to be there, the fact is that unless they displaced someone else, they couldn’t get into a shelter that night if they wanted to.
And the numbers have risen. This year’s count of 3,126 was a 14 percent increase over 2013.
OutsideIN is a campaign to increase the resources available to those with nowhere to go. We’re calling for at least 500 new shelter beds this year. We want the housing resources to ensure no child or family sleeps outside, and we want funding for innovative solutions like shared housing.
We want to see flexible funds made available to outreach workers, so that when relatively small amounts of money can get people indoors, that can quickly happen.
And we want to see 1,000 fewer people counted outdoors next January.
Come by Westlake on May 18 to see what 3,123 looks like. Take a photo to post on your favorite social media site and ask your friends to sign our petition to get 1,000 people inside now.
Search for “Make 1,000 safe by 2015” on Change.org, or click on the OutsideIN logo at realchangenews.org.
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