I have been donating to local charities for years and yet I only see more and more tents popping up. Am I correct to think my donation dollars have not made any difference?
Quite a bit of time and money has been exerted in order to address homelessness in Seattle and at a first glance, it may seem like nothing is happening. But while homelessness is up by an estimated 19% this year, a visible increase in tents is not necessarily correlated to that increase and in some cases, can even show progress.
For example, when the City of Seattle asked us to partner with them in clearing up the encampment under I-5 known as the Jungle, there were around 400 individuals living in isolation, fear, and unsanitary conditions. Fires, assaults and overdoses were common, yet firefighters and ambulances would not go in the area before police canvassed the area and deemed it safe. This time-consuming safety measure meant that extra lives were lost. Over the course of six months, the Mission was able to empty out the Jungle, providing resources, relocation, and for some, life-changing help through our recovery program. However, those who weren’t yet ready for help relocated to many of the sidewalks you may be thinking of.
The good news is that now we know all 400 of them by name and unique situation. No longer in isolation and imminent danger, these individuals can be visited more frequently by service providers and immediately attended to by firefighters and ambulances, should the need arise. So while we may see more tents on street corners near downtown Seattle, there are 400 less tents hidden away in the dark corners of our city, and 400 more people who know that someone like you cares about them, many of whom are now in recovery or housing.