Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seattle's State of Emergency

This is the Declaration of a State of Emergency written by the homeless of Seattle. I think it speaks for itself. It's very well written and to the point. Please give it your time.

Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010
by and for Homeless People in Seattle & King County
Four years into Seattle/King County’s Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, our numbers are at an all time high.  Our shelters are overcrowded, noisy, at times infested with bed bugs, and often consist of little more than a mat on a floor.  We have no place to store our possessions, and so must carry them with us.  Pushed onto the street in the early morning hours, we are hidden from sight and forced to stay on the move. We are unwelcome in your public spaces, and are harassed by your police and private security when we stop to rest.
At least a third of us sleep outside, where we are subject to trespass and arrest.  Our belongings are routinely stolen and destroyed by government workers who are “just doing their jobs.” When we camp in cars, we are targeted for citations and our vehicles are towed and impounded.  When we come together to form safe, dignified communities, we are threatened with arrest and our supporters are bullied with threats and fines.
We die, on average, at 48 years of age.  Nine of us have died by suicide this year.
We are the working poor who have been set up to fail.  Our low wages, work insecurity, lack of healthcare, overcrowded and unaffordable housing, and unreliable transportation leave us vulnerable to economic disaster.
We are the expendable, the dehumanized, the written off, and the devalued.  We are the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the addicted.  We are the too poor, too uneducated, too old, and too unemployable to matter. We are the human wreckage of a broken system that denies its responsibility and blames us for our existence. 
IT SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS.  Homeless people deserve and are entitled to the same protections as our housed brothers and sisters:  a right to health and housing, freedom from violence and stereotyping, the ability to keep our families and loved ones together, and the tools to move ahead and thrive.
In 2010, worse will come.  King County, at the close of this year, reduced human services funding by 46%. Youth shelter funding was eliminated.  Food banks funding was slashed to zero at a time of record demand. The state budget crisis promises disaster. General Assistance for the Unemployable, the State Housing Trust Fund, drug treatment funding, and Basic Health Care are all to be eliminated. 
OUR STATE OF EMERGENCY MUST BE RECOGNIZED.  The Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness is a fraud. The true causes of homelessness – rent increases, gentrification, evictions, and the failure of the market to provide affordable housing – aren’t dealt with, measured, or touched.  For every unit of affordable housing produced under the plan, three to four have been lost to market forces.
Top leadership of the Plan has tokenized the participation of homeless people, and has fallen deaf to our pleas for safety, shelter, and community. The percentage of homeless people who are sheltered should be a plan benchmark. 
We can no longer wait for the expanded survival services we need today while our “leaders” promise housing in the future.
1.      EXPAND SURVIVAL SERVICES.   Since the Ten Year Plan began, homelessness has grown while emergency shelter supply has held steady and funding for day centers has declined.  Stop pretending and meet the need with clean, simple decent shelter.
2.      SUPPORT SELF-HELP HOMELESS GROUPS (like SHARE).  When we run our own shelters, we cost-effectively offer maximum dignity and community to residentsStable city funding will help us built community-wide solutions to meet the growing need.
3.      PROVIDE A PERMANENT SITE FOR NICKELSVILLE.  We need a site big enough for a non-moving eco village of up to 1,000.  There are over seventy sites in Seattle that will work and only one is needed.
4.      COMPLETE THE HOMELESS REMEMBRANCE PROJECT to honor people who have died while homeless.  The Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park and Leaves of Remembrance in sidewalks throughout the County will serve as reminders to us all that homeless lives have value.
5.      STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION.  Citations for trespass violations, panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks clog our courts and punish the poor with fines and jail time while denying us due process under law.
6.      EXPAND TREATMENT.  Drug and alcohol treatment services save lives and money.  Punitive policies undermine public health goals and deepen the misery and isolation that often underlies addiction.
7.      PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION.  As downtown gentrification has pushed more services outside the free ride zone, access to bus transportation has become a barrier to overcoming homelessness. Homeless people should receive free bus passes.
8.      SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING.  Strategies to cost-effectively increase supply must be prioritized over big-ticket infrastructure projects and sports arenas.  Encourage market solutions that don’t let excellent get in the way of good.  We need housing.  Now.
Listen to homeless people!  We call on our new leaders to govern with progressive values:  compassion, justice and common sense.  We call on our fellow citizens to act in solidarity with homeless people.  We call on voters to insist that human needs come before floating bridges, sport stadiums and arts.
This Declaration was written by people from, and is supported by the SHARE, WHEEL, Nickelsville and Real Change Communities.
REAL CHANGE is Seattle’s 15-year-old Street Newspaper and a cross-class Organizing Project to unite people in working for social justice.
WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League) is an organizing effort of homeless and formerly homeless women.
SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) is an organization of homeless and formerly homeless men and women working together to survive and solve homelessness.
NICKELSVILLE is presently a small organized encampment seeking to become an eco-village of up to 1,000 homeless men, women and families located on a permanent site with services.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not so sure points 7 and 8 can reasonably be demanded, but there is a great deal of merit to most of the other points. Thanks for the read. Good to consider.