Northwest NEWS

December 13, 1999

Front Page

Barely visible and extremely fragile

There are homeless and at-risk people in our area

by Carol Edwards

   Yes, we have homeless, at-risk, and destitute people living in the Northshore and Lower Snoqualmie areas. They are not as visible as in more urban settings. Few of them panhandle or carry signs.

   A 48-year-old working homeless man came into the Woodinville Weekly offices last Monday asking where he could get a photo ID card so that he could cash two company checks he had from a Woodinville company. The bank refused to cash them without a photo ID card. He did have one, but it was missing.

   We referred him to the Bothell Office of Department of Licensing, which is the only local place where, if he had a birth certificate or other acceptable papers, he could get a photo ID for a small charge. The only problem was that office was closed on Monday and the other papers he had were not the ones needed.

   He needed to get a copy of his birth certificate from out-of-state mailed to him, but he did not have an address. We offered our address, and in fact, on Thursday, his birth certificate arrived and he was able to get a photo ID.

   This man, and the others he knows on the streets of Woodinville, try to stay invisible. He was clearly uncomfortable asking for help. Why is this man, who is alcohol- and drug-free and not wanted by the law, homeless?

   "Even though I work for a living, I do not make enough money to rent a room in the Greater Seattle area. I am forced to live on the street," he said. "I have walked around town with $400 in my pocket and could not find a place to live. To get a room, I need a deposit, first month's rent and last month's rent, and money for utilities," he said.

   He is alone, independent, and according to his story, self-sufficient since age 14, when his mother died and his stepfather ran off and left him alone in their rented apartment with rent due. His schooling was sporadic and incomplete. He struggles with reading and writing, but manages. He has developed skills through on-the-job experience.

   The National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet in June 1999 stated: "Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped."

   In 1997, 13.3% of the U.S. population, or 35.6 million people, lived in poverty. Forty-one percent of all poor persons--14.6 million people--had incomes of less than half the poverty level (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998).

   A survey of 30 U.S. cities found that almost one in five homeless persons is employed (U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1998). Findings suggest that although more families are moving from welfare to work, many of them are faring poorly, due to low wages and inadequate work supports (Children's Defense Fund and the National Coalition for the Homeless,1998).

   "In this age of plenty where we are seeing excess, there is a core of poverty. If you are a senior, disabled, and/or poor, you are going to be poor for the rest of your life. The contrast between the haves and have-nots is stronger than it has ever been," said Win Hogben, Emergency Services Director of the Multi-Service Center for North and East King County, with a Snoqualmie Valley satellite center. This private non-profit agency in Bothell is the primary local organization providing comprehensive services for those in need.

   "For every one person that we put in our shelters, we are turning away 13 people. And 75% of the families in the shelters have one working member. Once the family is placed in the shelter, they can stay up to three weeks. We work with them to place them in low-cost apartments or any place we can. We also have a motel voucher program where we can put people up for a few days while we try to help them find housing. We are seeing more working families at our Food Bank. The numbers of our evening food bank are increasing rapidly," Hogben added.

   What can you do to help? You can donate food, and coupons for stores and restaurants, to the Multi-Service Center and other food banks. You can tell the center if you have any rooms for rent or know of housing opportunities. You can support the YMCA , the YWCA, St. Vincent's, Salvation Army, Goodwill and other social service agencies that serve the immediate needs of people in trouble.

Places to contribute

   Community Health Centers of King County: 1-425-277-1311 (provides low-income, uninsured, underinsured, and medically underserved residents with comprehensive primary health care).

   Crisis Clinic: 206-461-3222 or 1-800-244-5767 (24-hour crisis assistance).

   Eastside Domestic Violence: 1-425-746-1940; 24-hour line (provides services and advocacy to persons who have been abused).

   Emergency Feeding Program: 425-562-0698.

   Friends of Youth: 425-869-6490 (provides services to homeless and runaway children).

   Issaquah Food Bank: 425-392-4123.

   Multi-Service Centers of North and East King County (Bothell, Woodinville): 425-485-6521.

   Multi-Service Center of Snoqualmie Valley: 425-333-4163.

   Multi-Service Center of Redmond Food Bank: 425-882-0241 (provides the essential "safety net" of services that promote self-sufficiency to low-income, elderly, and disabled families and individuals).

   Northshore YMCA: 425-485-9797 (provides care for children of low-income, elderly, and disabled families and individuals).

   Salvation Army Eastside: 425-827-1930.

   Women's Resource Center: 1-425-562-6197 (access to job training, education, and career opportunities).