If you’ve been following TBQ, you’ve heard me talking about Homeless, Inc.
Homeless, Inc. is the name I have given to Seattle’s mammoth low-income housing industry. It numbers among its members some of the most familiar names in the charity business, as well as some of the most obscure. Big or small, what all these organizations have in common is that get money from the government to provide shelter and shelter-related services to Seattle’s poor. Many of them have an unusually cozy relationship with government and with each other (for comparison, think military-industrial complex) and a few of them, notwithstanding the misleading term “non-profit,” manage to rake in a tidy surplus with which to reward their top execs. All courtesy of you, the taxpayer.
In the months ahead, I’m going to be devoting some special attention to the members of Homeless, Inc. And yes, of course that includes SHARE, the group the runs the Nickelsville squatters camps.
I’m doing this feature to test the assertion – made daily by countless do-gooders in countless public forms – that Seattle isn’t doing enough for homeless people. I’ve heard that claim so many times now that it’s got me to wondering: So just how much DOES Seattle do for homeless people? What is the nature of the help that we give? And, perhaps most important, what do we have to show for it?
Why have’t we ended homelessness already? Aren’t we about nine years into the so-called “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness in King County“? We’ve followed through on the plan as far as I know; we’ve spent all the money we proposed to spend, and more. But homelessness didn’t end in King County. If anything, it only worsened. And not just in absolute terms; in relative ones, too. Meanwhile, the larders of Homeless, Inc. are fuller than ever, and their political influence has increased accordingly.
Should we – as a city – be doing more to end homelessness? Should we be doing less? Should we be doing different? How do our efforts compare with those of similar cities across the country? Does anyone in Seattle government even know? I doubt it, yet these are the things that we, as citizens, must know before we can hope to address the problem of homelessness in Seattle, to say nothing of America.
There’s a determined core of homeless activists in Seattle – led by Scott Morrow of Nickelsville/SHARE and Timothy Harris of Real Change Magazine – who have been laboring for decades to keep the issue of homelessness in the public eye. It seems only fair that I should dedicate this feature to them . . .
Photo Source: MyNorthwest.com