On January 24, 2014 there were 9294 homeless people men, women and children in Seattle/King County.
- 3132 slept on the streets
- 2906 were in shelters
- 3265 were in transitional housing
How can so many be homeless in this city/county? The following facts certainly give some big hints:
- As of October, 2014, average apartment rent within 10 miles of Seattle, WA was $1694/month. One bedroom apartments rent for $1402/month on average and two bedroom apartments rent for an average of $1945/month.
- I couldn’t find the average cost for renting a house but I saw listings that ranged from $1450 to $6700/month.
- Prices for buying a house have skyrocketed. Average purchase prices for 2014 are:
1 bedroom $249,975
2 bedrooms $392,000
3 bedrooms $470,000
4 bedrooms $599,000
- Unemployment is 5%. That does not include the underemployed or people have given up looking for work.
- Minimum wage is $9.32 an hour. Working full-time, a person would earn $372.8/week or $1491.20/month.
- The lack of affordable housing in the city makes it extremely difficult to move people out of homelessness rapidly and the longer people are homeless the more difficult it is to house them.
- The citizens of Seattle have to pass a housing levy to fund homeless services. The levy lasts seven years before it needs to be renewed. While this is a potential problem, the levy has been renewed four times during good times and bad. This is a testament to the city’s commitment to the homeless.
There are City of Seattle and King County programs which help the homeless find shelter and food. Many churches and missions also devote a great deal of time and resources to this endeavor. In addition, numerous churches are now allowing homeless people who own cars to park in their parking lots at night.
While I could present a lot more information about the shelters and the feeding programs, I’m going to limit most of my focus to the tent cities. (Know that these communities are set up in a way that allows their residents to have some degree of privacy, so I took most of my pictures from a distance.)
The Seattle Housing and Resource Effort and Women’s Housing Equality and Enhancement League (SHARE/WHEEL) set up the first tent cities in 1990. Over time the first two disbanded but Tent City #3 and #4 are still active. The early tent cities had to move every 3 weeks to 3 months. Now they are allowed to stay in one place for six months, and an additional six month extension is sometimes possible.
Tent City #3 is currently located near the freeway entrance at NE 64 Street and 8th Avenue NE. They are able to shelter up to 100 residents.
Tent City #4 is now hosted by the Redmond Family Church in Redmond, Washington. It serves 80-100 people.
In 2008, a group of homeless people set up a group of pink tents that had been donated by the Girl Scouts. Mayor Greg Nickles had them evicted three days later; twenty people were arrested in the process. In protest, the camp was named Nicklesville! The group has moved 20 times over the years. After disbanding for a year, they were recently given a new Seattle location at 1010 S. Dearborn. Approximately 80 people are living there now.
In addition to the tent cities, there are individual tents scattered throughout the city. It is not unusual to see them on a street, under a freeway, or in the forested areas of the city. I was recently told that a group of homeless men and women had set up a camp on the sidewalk of the park that borders the King County Courthouse. When I checked it out I noticed people were also sleeping on the sidewalk.
May the day come when everyone in the world has both adequate food and shelter.
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
May all beings in the world live in peace
Peace, Peace, Peace