[Hpn] SEATTLE TENT VILLAGE survives 11 months despite City's efforts (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Wed, 14 Feb 2001 17:47:44 -0800 (PST)

TO HELP SHARE/WHEEL Seattle Tent Village: CONTACT: "Anitra Freeman" <anitra@speakeasy.org> WHEEL http://www.insidewheel.org/ SHARE http://www.insideshare.org/ Tent City information: http://www.insideshare.org/tentcity/ "But despite the increase in the city's spending on homelessness, John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition says officials should hardly be congratulated. City government, he said, is directly responsible for growth policies that wiped out thousands of cheap apartments downtown." http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com:80/cgi-bin/texis/web/vortex/display?sl ug=homeless12m&date=20010212 FWD Seattle Times - Local News : Monday, February 12, 2001 TENT VILLAGE LIVES ON DESPITE CITY'S EFFORTS By Beth Kaiman - Seattle Times staff reporter The view from St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral is perfect Seattle: Space Needle, Lake Union and an urban landscape of plenty - rising glass towers and cranes stretched tall beside them, ready to build a dozen more. It isn't lost on the 100 homeless people living in tent city in St. Mark's parking lot that Seattle's most visible pocket of poverty offers one of the best views of good times out of reach. "Of course you think about it," said Greg Powers, a 45-year-old fisherman who has lived in tent city for three months. "I mean, not too much, because that doesn't help anything." Tent city is in its 11th month, and the peaceful, desperate gathering every night has made its point that there aren't enough places for the homeless to get off the street. But here's another point: In six years, Seattle has doubled the money it spends on emergency shelter, short-term housing, meals, job training, health care and other services for the homeless, and still, the population - about 4,500 - remains the same or even a bit larger. No one is sure why. The anecdotal evidence is that along with all the people who came to Seattle on a New Economy dream and made it, many others did not. "They came with too little savings and not enough skills to get by when things didn't work out as they planned," said Georgia Conti, homeless planner for the city. Also, the temperate climate and array of social services may make Seattle relatively appealing to people who are homeless. Increases in the numbers of shelter beds and transitional-housing units have helped, officials say, but the trend is toward gridlock. As homeless people fail to save enough money for an apartment -- because rents are out of step with low-wage, often part-time jobs -- they stay longer in shelters and transitional housing. As people spend more months in transitional housing, the waiting list grows and more people are stuck in emergency shelters and more still on the street. "The challenge we face, and at this moment we don't know how it will be answered, is moving people into permanent housing," said Alan Painter, who leads the city's community-services division. "It's hard to see land prices coming down and landlords charging substantially less." And so, the city spends. In 1996, Seattle paid $7.2 million for homeless services, and by 2002 the budget will be $15 million. At the same time, the homeless population appears to have reached about 6,500 in Seattle and King County. Getting anything close to a precise count is hard, but city officials say that about 3 & 1/2 years ago, the best guess was 5,500 people. Even before tent city, Mayor Paul Schell made homelessness a top issue. In 1998, he pledged to get all homeless women and children off Seattle's streets by Christmas. It seemed a nearly outrageous promise, but it had some short-term success and strengthened the city's long-term commitment. Through Schell's urging and the City Council's willingness, more city money has been devoted to operating expenses for homeless services, even as the annual federal share has remained about $4 million, Painter said. The number of year-round shelter beds in Seattle has increased from 2,046 in February 1998 to 2,278 currently. The city funds about 76 percent of those beds. The number of transitional housing units in Seattle has increased more dramatically, from 693 in February 1998 to 1,130 now. Most of that housing, where stays are limited to two years, is funded with federal, state and city money. But despite the increase in the city's spending on homelessness, John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition says officials should hardly be congratulated. City government, he said, is directly responsible for growth policies that wiped out thousands of cheap apartments downtown. Much of that loss occurred in the 1970s and 1980s, but politicians now lack the commitment to seek replacement housing, Fox said. The city has yet to act on a plan Fox considers critical to keeping more apartments affordable. He wants apartment dwellers in low and moderately priced units to have access to a city loan program and a first shot at buying their buildings when they come up for sale. Fox also said that the millions spent promoting neighborhood improvements and downtown projects such as Westlake Center show where Seattle's political will lies. "Spending on the homeless pales in relationship to what we need," Fox said. "It's a third or fourth priority." To an extent, City Councilman Peter Steinbrueck agrees. Last fall, he persuaded his colleagues to increase spending on homelessness beyond Schell's budget proposal. But it wasn't as much as he wanted. Steinbrueck worries that as the economy begins to slide, Seattle may have missed its best chance to curb homelessness. Steinbrueck joins Schell in saying the federal government must do more. Schell last month called on President George W. Bush to lead the charge for more federal funding for the homeless. In a letter to the new administration, signed by more than 40 of the nation's mayors, Schell urged Bush to persuade Congress to triple McKinney Act funding. The 1987 law now distributes $896 nationally on homelessness, $15 million of that in Seattle - largely for transitional housing. Deputy Mayor Tom Byers said Schell does not expect instant action, but as in 1998 with his accelerated push to get homeless women and children off the streets, the mayor wants to re-ignite interest in an issue about which many people have grown weary. One of the nation's most significant efforts to help the homeless is coming from the private sector. The Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation is spending $40 million to build transitional housing for families in Seattle and King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The donation, along with $116 million more in still-to-be-raised public and private money, would build 1,560 units and provide services such as child care, job training and domestic-violence counseling. The first contracts to build that housing will be announced this morning. Another boost in services for the homeless, expected over several years, is a computer system that would allow homeless people in Seattle to find out more quickly which beds and services are open. It also would give public and private funders better information on the services most in demand. The result, said Steinbrueck, who has been pushing the project, would be a coordinated system instead of the current hodgepodge of services. Someone now looking for a bed for the night gets a list of phone numbers and must call around, and with humiliating repetition, ask which services are available. In the Safe Harbors program, the information would be stored in a database and updated. Computers would be placed in social-service agencies and government buildings to give homeless people and service providers easy access. The city is spending $680,000 toward the start of the program in 2001 and 2002. The City Council will hear a progress report this morning. To Powers, the fisherman, a member of the tent-city executive committee, any changes in homeless services should include a rethinking of the shelter environment. He has stayed in a half-dozen shelters and considers tent city - where people can come and go at all hours and daily tasks are the responsibility of the residents - the most decent, private, supportive place he can live. Understandably, he said, couples are separated in shelters, and beds and mats are laid within inches of each other. Combine that with the sad, sometimes dangerous behavior of homeless people who are substance abusers or mentally ill, and the situation "destroys your sense of individuality." "You absorb that hopelessness," Powers said. END FORWARD **In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.** RELATED ARTICLES http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302 6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/702656280/_k/bvpIkcKGTv11WJnM FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Feb 13 2001 SEATTLE HOMELESS SPENDING DOUBLES; POPULATION REMAINS SAME http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302 6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/697863123/_k/cn27wlRQ88CVp5ss FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Jan 16, 2001 HOMELESS IN SEATTLE MOVE TENTS TO CITY PARK http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302 6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/696067925/_k/EWFB2bA0EXv5vh4s FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Jan 05, 2221 CITY DENIES REQUEST FOR TEMPORARY PERMIT FOR HOMELESS CAMP http://seattlep-i.nwsource.com/local/camp05.shtml FWD Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Friday, January 5, 2001 CAMP FOR SEATTLE'S HOMELESS IS FORCED TO MOVE AGAIN http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302 6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/675829680/_k/XIx1Y4mDJMUkVCa3 FWD Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Sep 10, 2000 EL CENTRO SEEKS PERMIT TO KEEP TENT CITY ON SITE SEE ALSO http://www.realchangenews.org/issue/current/index.html Real Change News 2129 2nd Ave. Seattle, WA 98121 Tel: 206.441.3247 Email: <rchange@speakeasy.org> Seattle Tent Vilage III photo journal (with captions): http://www.seattlep-i.com/photos/subcategory.asp?DisplayType=ThumbDesc&SubID=49 http://insideshare.hypermart.net/tentcity/index.html SHARE/WHEEL Tent City project http://insideshare.hypermart.net/ SHARE/WHEEL 1902 Second Avenue Seattle WA 98101 Phone: (206) 448-7889 Email: Anitra Freeman <anitra@speakeasy.org> http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/ Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People: *************************************************************** Over 10,000 articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people Been Homeless? 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