Tuesday, April 12, 2016


RantWoman's faith community is replacing the carpet in our worship room. RantWoman's faith community hosts a SHARE group, a group of homeless people who stay together in our worship space at night. RantWoman considers it an interesting accident that carpet replacement is occurring the same time as SHARE is hosting what seems to be annual "we will sleep out until more money arrives" protests.

RantWoman frequently needs to start her day by getting her feet on the ground about something or other and today the something or other is the SHARE protests. Please hold on for the ride and consider options for further action and discussion.

Key elements in RantWoman's head:

--SHARE is an organization of self-managed homeless shelters that has done fantastic work for over two decades and now seems to have repeated internal struggles getting in the way of its mission and of ways to address stresses due to outside factors. Historically SHARE has developed groups of homeless people housed by different faith communities. In recent years SHARE has also been involved in the operation of tent cities. One point that sticks out from rantWoman's info streams: SHARE cites an incredibly low cost / bed night. The costs mostly include modest administrative costs and whatever different faith communities ask for as reimbursement for utility costs, paper products, or other needs.
    RantWoman actually thinks sometimes costs can be too low and if SHARE for example needs to ask for reimbursement for say bookkeeping services, that is part of the cost of doing business. Further comments out of scope of this blog.

--RantWoman's faith community includes a number of people who for various reasons are closer to homelessness realities than we might prefer. This includes a few current or former SHARE participants, people with long work connections to human services, and a couple people (urk, including RantWomana actually) for whom the faith community has been an important part of a picture about connections to badly-needed help.

--RantWoman's faith community has hosted a SHARE group for something like 10 years. The group sleeps in our worship space. Among SHARE participants, the space is highly prized for quiet and ways for people to feel privacy even though everyone is sleeping in one large room.
    Having the SHARE group sleep in our worship space is not really some effort to be holy or to subject SHARE participants to a particular spiritual regimen. It just works out that having the SHARE group sleep in our worship space works best for all the other things that happen in our building.
   RantWoman's faith community came to welcome the SHARE group after a long spell of various highly unsatisfactory issues with people sleeping outside under our eaves. The SHARE group offers much better control of our space, regular eyes on the area and predictability. Some in our congregation get to know individuals better than others. Many of us notice people who are working and cannot afford housing or who are experiencing various kinds of disability and medical issues. Some people only have jobs if they can show up and not seem homeless; they only accomplish this through challenging bus planning. In a few cases, there is nothing to be done except grieve alongside the group when someone cannot be helped.

--RantWoman often sits in meetings with representative of employers who want to ask various things of transportation systems. Some employers want low-wage workers to be available to clean offices outside the times when the offices are occupied by all the people who travel during usual commuting hours. Some employers ask for tax break that, to RantWoman's ear do not reflect their impact on the region's infrastructure. RantWoman notes recent news stories about Amazon. In one case, Amazon was trying to establish a distribution center on a much shorter timeline than transit planners can respond. In another case, Amazon cynically wanted to hire homeless people for graveyard shift work even though the ONLY time people sleeping in sheltersa hve to sleep is overnight. If the SHARE sleep outs do nothing else, it is important to keep provoking conversations about things like this.

--One aspect of the self-managed model is that groups housed at individual faith communities or  "everyone" will sometimes sleep outside as part of work on conflicts or violations of commitments to host congregations. RantWoman has gathered that SHARE participants are not united about the current sleepout strategy and is looking for more opportunities to listen to concerns.
   RantWoman also notes that the group her faith community hosts has slept out a couple times over the honoring commitment issues. One time the issue was an individual in the group and people from the faith community had no idea what the issue was until after the group returned. In the other case, both the faith community and the SHARE group identified a problem at about the same time and the group slept out until enough information emerged to identify one individual and address the problem.
   RantWoman mentions all this up front because RantWoman appreciates SHARE participants' efforts to honor their commitments even though RantWoman's faith community would not necessarily ask the same measures when conflicts arise. On the other hand, for some in RantWoman's faith community, theatrical protests are practically a sacrament and the only question is picking through details and figuring out who might feel called to do what. RantWoman is not in close contact with other faith communities but assumes there are some similar dynamics about addressing homelessness and other crises, figuring out what to do next.

--Over the two plus decades SHARE has existed, the housing crisis in the Seattle area has gotten a lot worse. Rents are skyrocketing. Both the state and county safety nets have basically been shredded through tax cuts and the effects of recession on revenue streams. At the very least theatrical protests should be prompting other people to look at realities and keep working at our regional housing crisis.

--SHARE articulates specific urgent needs related to bus tickets and to sharing resources with a growing number of organized tent cities. RantWoman would like to understand the tent city dynamic better but has plenty to say about bus tickets.

Frankly, the bus ticket issue annoys RantWoman and rantWoman is going to have to see if someone else from her faith community can help track down information.

RantWoman knows that Metro staff and service planners are very aware of many transportation issues affecting homeless people. VERY senior Metro staff participate in the Annual one-night count of homeless people with particular focus on people who sleep on buses or ride as much of the night as they can.

RantWoman knows that discount bus tickets are distributed to various nonprofits to help people in extreme circumstances get to necessary daily life and medical events.

RantWoman has written elsewhere of her own preference to have a pass rather than keep track of transfer windows or paper transfers from 1-time fares or bus tickets.

RantWoman gets panhandled fairly often, and frequently at bus stops. RantWoman often carries little cash and prefers at least modest entertainment, music or a good joke, as well as practical focus. If someone at a bus stop really needs to get on a bus, RantWoman wants to help; if they are just panhandling at a bus stop and not trying to go anywhere, RantWoman is generally less forthcoming. One of RantWoman's responses to panhandlers is to keep some money on  her ORCA wallet and occasionally to put bus drivers through the exercise of letting RantWoman pay someone's fare even though RantWoman really likes having a pass for herself.

RantWoman knows that the number of bus tickets available is probably pitiful relative to the need. RantWoman appreciates the value of having numbers to better specify the "pitiful"

RantWoman also thinks, but is going to ask someone else to verify,  that people who renew their car tabs still have the option of requesting 8 bus tickets so they can try the public transit their car tabs are helping fund. As an aside: RantWoman has NO problem asking car drivers to support congestion relief for cars by asking car drivers to help fund public transit. RantWoman would be happy to go on about how many more people can get around in limited road and street space on transit than if everyone drives. For the SHARE conversation though, RantWoman would simply like to tell people about the option of requesting the bus tickets and then donating them to the nonprofit of their choice to help ease the bus ticket crisis.

Here we come to another stopping point: the new ORCA Lift fare aimed at low-income people. RantWoman has so much more flexibility and opportunities to interact with life because of having a pass! RantWoman thinks anyone with even modest income might feel the same way. RantWoman wonders how many SHARE participants are signed up for ORCA lift? RantWoman wonders what barriers they encounter. Yes of COURSE the number of discount bus tickets available should be greater, but RantWoman also wants to encourage people trying to manage their own lives to connect with and use resources that are available.

There. Now RantWoman will get about actually talking to people, seeing what to do next with her concerns.

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