Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010 by and for Homeless People in Seattle & King County

Here is the declaration that was presented at a press conference on Monday at Nickelsville (a long-term outdoor encampment)-
it lists how to help those outside survive, and end homelessness in 8 points. our support with voice and action is needed to change the status of the non-housed in our city (& everywhere actually), PLEASE READ ON and help by spreading the word!>>>

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Declaration of a State of Emergency in 2010 by and for Homeless People
in Seattle & King County

Four years into Seattle/King County’s Ten Year Plan to End
Homelessness, our numbers are at an all time high. Our shelters are
overcrowded, noisy, at times infested with bed bugs, and often consist
of little more than a mat on a floor. We have no place to store our
possessions, and so must carry them with us. Pushed onto the street in
the early morning hours, we are hidden from sight and forced to stay
on the move. We are unwelcome in your public spaces, and are harassed
by your police and private security when we stop to rest.

At least a third of us sleep outside, where we are subject to trespass
and arrest. Our belongings are routinely stolen and destroyed by
government workers who are “just doing their jobs.” When we camp in
cars, we are targeted for citations and our vehicles are towed and
impounded. When we come together to form safe, dignified communities,
we are threatened with arrest and our supporters are bullied with
threats and fines.

We die, on average, at 48 years of age. Nine of us have died by
suicide this year.

We are the working poor who have been set up to fail. Our low wages,
work insecurity, lack of healthcare, overcrowded and unaffordable
housing, and unreliable transportation leave us vulnerable to economic
disaster.

We are the expendable, the dehumanized, the written off, and the
devalued. We are the sick, the disabled, the mentally ill, and the
addicted. We are the too poor, too uneducated, too old, and too
unemployable to matter. We are the human wreckage of a broken system
that denies its responsibility and blames us for our existence.

IT SHOULDN’T BE LIKE THIS. Homeless people deserve and are entitled to
the same protections as our housed brothers and sisters: a right to
health and housing, freedom from violence and stereotyping, the
ability to keep our families and loved ones together, and the tools to
move ahead and thrive.

In 2010, worse will come. King County, at the close of this year,
reduced human services funding by 46%. Youth shelter funding was
eliminated. Food banks funding was slashed to zero at a time of record
demand. The state budget crisis promises disaster. General Assistance
for the Unemployable, the State Housing Trust Fund, drug treatment
funding, and Basic Health Care are all to be eliminated.

OUR STATE OF EMERGENCY MUST BE RECOGNIZED. The Ten Year Plan to End
Homelessness is a fraud. The true causes of homelessness – rent
increases, gentrification, evictions, and the failure of the market to
provide affordable housing – aren’t dealt with, measured, or touched.
For every unit of affordable housing produced under the plan, three to
four have been lost to market forces.

Top leadership of the Plan has tokenized the participation of homeless
people, and has fallen deaf to our pleas for safety, shelter, and
community. The percentage of homeless people who are sheltered should
be a plan benchmark.

We can no longer wait for the expanded survival services we need today
while our “leaders” promise housing in the future.

HELP US TO SURVIVE AND SOLVE HOMELESSNESS:

1. EXPAND SURVIVAL SERVICES. Since the Ten Year Plan began,
homelessness has grown while emergency shelter supply has held steady
and funding for day centers has declined. Stop pretending and meet the
need with clean, simple decent shelter.
2. SUPPORT SELF-HELP HOMELESS GROUPS (like SHARE). When we run our own
shelters, we cost-effectively offer maximum dignity and community to
residents. Stable city funding will help us built community-wide
solutions to meet the growing need.
3. PROVIDE A PERMANENT SITE FOR NICKELSVILLE. We need a site big
enough for a non-moving eco village of up to 1,000. There are over
seventy sites in Seattle that will work and only one is needed.
4. COMPLETE THE HOMELESS REMEMBRANCE PROJECT to honor people who have
died while homeless. The Tree of Life in Victor Steinbrueck Park and
Leaves of Remembrance in sidewalks throughout the County will serve as
reminders to us all that homeless lives have value.
5. STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION. Citations for trespass violations,
panhandling, and sitting on sidewalks clog our courts and punish the
poor with fines and jail time while denying us due process under law.
6. EXPAND TREATMENT. Drug and alcohol treatment services save lives
and money. Punitive policies undermine public health goals and deepen
the misery and isolation that often underlies addiction.
7. PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION. As downtown gentrification has pushed more
services outside the free ride zone, access to bus transportation has
become a barrier to overcoming homelessness. Homeless people should
receive free bus passes.
8. SUPPORT AFFORDABLE HOUSING. Strategies to cost-effectively increase
supply must be prioritized over big-ticket infrastructure projects and
sports arenas. Encourage market solutions that don’t let excellent get
in the way of good. We need housing. Now.

This Declaration was written by people from, and is supported by the
SHARE, WHEEL, Nickelsville and Real Change Communities.

REAL CHANGE is Seattle’s 15-year-old Street Newspaper and a cross-
class Organizing Project to unite people in working for social
justice.
2129 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Web: realchangenews.org Email: organizer@realchangenews.or

WHEEL (Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League) is an
organizing effort of homeless and formerly homeless women.
P.O. Box 2548, Seattle WA 98118-0334
Web: sharewheel.org Email: wheelorg.@yahoo.com
Homeless remembrance project http://www.homeless project.org

SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resource Effort) is an organization of
homeless and formerly homeless men and women working together to
survive and solve homelessness.
P.O. Boz 2548, Seattle WA 98118 (206) 448-7889
Web: http://www.sharewheel.org
NICKELSVILLE is presently a small organized encampment seeking to
become an eco-village of up to 1,000 homeless men, women and families
located on a permanent site with services.
(206) 450-9136
Web Nickelsvilleseattle.org Email: Scott@nickelsvilleseattle.org

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Help Rescue & Recovery of Prostituted Children in Seattle

with 300-500 prostituted children in King County, WA right now, this is a very tangible way that we can help this very real problem and help the children who are victims of such an atrocity. please read and help by donating if you are able… this would be such a great program to be running… a huge help in making an impact on the issue of child prostitution an sex trafficking locally! thanks for your help an support!!

A Residential Recovery Program for Prostituted Children in King County

January 2010

There are between 300 and 500 prostituted children in King County today, some as young as 11. Prostituted children are subject to severe physical and psychological abuse from pimps and “johns”. They often experience mental illness and substance abuse problems. Recovery from the resulting trauma requires extensive and highly specialized services provided in a safe setting. There are no services specifically designed for these children today—in Seattle, in King County, or anywhere in the state of Washington. In fact, few such programs exist in the country.

After years of planning, many community partners are coming together to raise money to support a two year pilot program that will house and provide services to approximately 20 youth per year between the ages of 14 and 17. Services will be delivered in a highly structured environment, with activities designed to meet both the individual and collective needs of participants. Specialized prostitution recovery services will be provided including counseling for traumatic stress and trauma recovery, survivor support groups, health education, medical care, life skills training, support for GED or high school completion, help preparing for enrollment in post-secondary education, job readiness training, employment placement and internships. Lastly, participants will be given safety, security and opportunities to have fun, engage in age-appropriate activities and begin to reclaim their youth.

This program will be professionally evaluated to ensure that the services are working to help children heal from the trauma they have experienced, achieve their goals and reach their potential.

The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department will contract with YouthCare, a local 501(c) 3 nonprofit agency located in Seattle, Washington to provide the services. YouthCare has extensive experience as a provider of services to troubled youth.

Our goal is to launch this program in the spring of 2010. To make this dream a reality, please make a tax deductible donation:

Send a check to: City of Seattle Prostituted Children Rescue Fund, c/o Human Services Department, PO Box 34215, Seattle, WA 98124-4215, or

Donate by credit card: Call the City of Seattle’s Treasury Department at (206) 684-3911 and ask that your contribution be deposited in the Prostituted Children Rescue Fund

Thank you for your kind support of this important project.

You Care About ME??

‘Rodney’ is back at Nickelsville. things didn’t work out where he was trying to stay, and from what I hear, it was probably a great decision to leave. So he came back, this time at the new location. it has been about 2 months since I had seen him. when he first saw us, he was so happy to see us! “you all still comin’ out here every week”. he said, excited to see our familiar faces (its stuff like that that’s why we can’t stay away!) In our gatherings, ‘Rodney’ is one who often shares his own struggles in his life. He is quick to see his faults and mistakes, as are we, which creates an environment of vulnerability and honest like no other.
In two weeks, ‘Rodney’ goes to school to get his CDL license. he had a suspended license but got that taken care of and now he’s saved up to go to school. hopefully he will be able to get a good paying job driving a truck so he can get off the streets and get a place of his own. it wasn’t that long ago, he did 9 years for making and selling Meth. “I’m done with the drugs man… no more for me”, he says. “I’m not going back there!” He’s had some problems with alcohol before, but holds up his Arizona Iced Tea to show me, “Ya see what I’m drinking now”, in his southern accent and ear to ear grin. He also told me of the many other felonies he had committed… all in his past. Struggling to make money, he finds himself living outside… at least in a safe place like Nickelsville!
After some conversation, he comes over after our gathering and tells me how bothered he is that hear that I was still having financial problems. He lives in a tent, in Nickelsville, (which is threatening to be kicked out of their current location next week, btw!) He’s concerned for MY well being… MY needs. “You are an amazing singer”, he tells me…”I know American Idol has an age limit, but you should go on America’s Got Talent… all you need is the right person to hear you and you’ll get signed”.
I laughed but was overpowered by his encouragement… and amazingly humbled by his genuine concern for me! I am consistenly floored by my friends who sleep outside, and how much they care for us and our well being! It is an eye-opening and heart-changing experience to hang out with my friends. They have incredible stories, and they share them with us… just because we see them, and we take the time to listen. the mind-blowing part is they see us back… and they want to listen to our stories, and encourage us… and love us!
“Don’t worry man… it will all work out ok for you” he says to me as I’m leaving.
I will never be the same!

quotes of the day – will we learn to love in community?

“Resistance to oppression is often based on a love that leads us to value ourselves, and leads us to hope for more than the established cultural system is willing to grant … such love is far more energizing than guilt, duty, or self-sacrifice. … Solidarity does not require self-sacrifice, but an enlargement of the self to include community with others.”

– Sharon Welch,
The Feminist Ethic of Risk

‘love only functions when we value ourselves enough to engage wholly in community… and that, a community inclusive of those whom society deems hard to love. love is hard to learn, but it’s the most valuable lesson of all… through it all of creation is altered…without it, our lives truly become meaningless’.
— j. greer

“there is no us and them, only us!”
“we love people face to face…”
“we do mostly nothing special…”
— ken loyd
ken loyd’s blog

are we ready to love? a lot of times it sucks, but it’s always amazing!

Church Under the Bridge, Waco -Article

Below is an article that was in the most recent RELEVANT Magazine posted online. What Jimmy Dorrell and all the ‘Trolls’ are doing in Waco is so similar to the heart and vision of what several of us here in Seattle have been journeying towards, in connecting with our outdoor friends. I am currently reading Jimmy Dorrel’s book ‘Trolls and Truth’, which is great. His work has helped in mentoring us as we embark on what is becoming known as ‘church outside’ here in Seattle. There is some great stuff to take a hold of in their story if we are willing to hear it and let it sink in.


Bridges and Trolls: The Church Under the Bridge
Lee Ann Marcel
Crack addicts, prostitutes and criminals filter in under the bridge as the sun rises. College students begin folding chairs around a stage. Meanwhile groups of people fill the empty bowls of the homeless. This isn’t your typical Sunday morning church service.

A few men sporting scraggly beards lean against the huge concrete pillars as the roar of cars rush overhead. The gray-headed, stocky pastor jumps out of his beat-up truck, sporting a college T-shirt and shorts. He mingles with several of the college students and the homeless, giving them bear hugs or a hearty pat on the back. The pastor, Jimmy Dorrell, makes his way to the stage and begins to preach. Pigeons coo and bustle above, dropping an occasional “surprise” onto the heads below. While some pastors may preach about health, wealth and prosperity, Dorrell teaches on the idea of simple living.

Waco, a historic town in the heart of Texas, is filled with religious culture and poverty. Baylor University, the largest Baptist college in the world, is located right in the heart of the city, but immediately surrounding the college is immense poverty.

Waco is the fifth poorest city in Texas with twice the poverty rate. The average poverty rate for a city is 13 percent, but Waco has a rate of 27.6 percent. The city is historically full of poverty, low wages and ingrained racism that make it difficult to break out of the poverty cycle.

In the midst of these two contrasting worlds, stands a bridge where people come to worship. The Church Under the Bridge provides an unorthodox yet beautiful image of what the Church should be, where the unlovely come to be loved. It’s a place where social walls are demolished, left crumpled at the foot of the cross.

The Beginning

Church Under the Bridge began as Bible study in 1992. Dorrell had just started an interdenominational program called Mission Waco, a program that aided the poorest parts of the city. One morning Dorrell and his wife, Janet, treated a group of homeless men to breakfast. This soon developed into a Bible study where his wife played guitar and he presented a message.

What started as a group of homeless men that slept under the I-35 bridge soon developed into a church of 300. The church still meets under that same bridge.

“Today, we have this very diverse group of people, not just homeless people but lower income, and we also have middle income and even wealthy folks,” Dorrell says. “So it’s very racially diverse, black white and brown, rich and poor.”

Trolls and a Bridge
But why does the Church brave the elements?

“There were a lot of folks who where unchurched who would never walk into the doors of a building but feel free to just stand on the edges,” Dorrell says. “As soon as you go into a building, you lose that. You begin to have walls that mean people have to come in and sort of be there and participate so it changes that.”

But the reason behind using the interstate bridge isn’t just for the members. Dorrell found that there is a visual impact on people who simply pass by and see the church service.

“We also just found out that this has an incredible impact on being the visible community. We think that the church is the visible community—not a building but the people.”

They call themselves “trolls.” Many members of Church Under the Bridge even sport a shirt proudly displaying the word.

Trolls are usually considered to live under bridges, Dorrell explained. The image seemed appropriate for the Church, not just because of their location.

“We are all trolls and we are all the sinners. So we got our warts and ugliness, and people are scared sometimes of the old troll under the bridge,” Dorrell says. “By society’s standards, we are misfits. We don’t have buildings, we don’t have pretty people—we have these people who are somewhat rejected in culture but when you really get to know the trolls, with all the warts and the ugly side of their past experiences, there really is a genuineness and a lot to learn from them. So we are trolls, nobody gets excluded. You can even be a Pharisee, and rich and be a troll.”

Sunday Mornings

Each Sunday a group of people come to serve a meal to the church attendees. Dorrell says they feed up to 125 people each week.

“We serve our meal early at 10:30 a.m. so that we don’t create the soup kitchen mindset that says, ‘You gotta listen to the sermon before you eat.’ We say, ‘You know if you wanna eat and leave, that’s fine. We’re gonna be here worshiping.’ So most everyone sticks around, but it’s the sense of, you can stay as far back and away from the sermon, or be in the center of it if you’re not comfortable with,” Dorrell says.

The service starts. The band is mutli-racial, not your typical white middle class Christians. A mentally handicapped man stands boldly as he sings joyfully on stage, turning back to the drummer every now and again giving him directions.

“There is this real interesting love relationship with people crossing social barriers socially, and it’s a pretty amazing atmosphere,” Dorrell says. “We try to incorporate the people who are a part of the city that might not be accepted anywhere else. So, we are going to have a mentally challenged guy helping out with music, who really can’t sing or really can’t play anything. But we let him play like he is playing a guitar.”

The church also provides special events such as their health fair on Sundays for their less fortunate members. Groups of professionals along with medical students from the nearby college will give people checkups.

The church has also tried to do away with a clergy and laity feel. They hope to encourage that everyone has equal spiritual gifts, from pastor to the college student.

“I’m just Jimmy, I don’t want to be known as reverend,” Dorrell explains. “I want everybody in the church to know that they have gifts no matter what they have done, or where they have been. So there is a real sense of empowerment.

Bursting the Bubble

At Baylor University, there is a saying that students live in a sheltered bubble nicknamed the “Baylor Bubble.” Some students are unaware of the world around them and live their day-to-day lives wrapped up in school and social circles.

“We have a lot of students who never leave campus or the nicer areas of the city, and they don’t even recognize that poverty is in the shadows of their own buildings,” Dorrell says.

But the same can be said about the Church. Many churches can be wrapped up within their own walls and can fail to see their neighbors.

“Mission Waco began to not only provide empowerment programs for the poor but also to say, ‘Hey, Church, wake up! Worshiping is more than being in this quiet environment behind stained glass windows,’” Dorrell says. “That you got to address the social concerns of the community. The Church has got to press back the darkness and let the light penetrate in and make a difference for the poor.”

But a trap that the Church often falls into is the mistake of looking down on the poor. We often just throw money at the situation rather than seeing them as equals worthy of our time.

“One of the biggest challenges is that we want outsiders to understand that not only is this a ministry that includes the poor, we do not look down on the poor as sort of the victims. We treat each other as equals. Especially if middle class Christians who typically have a tendency to feel sorry for people that are poor and all these people considering, lets go fix them or help them.”

Many times the middle class can merely feel sorry for the poor and never move to the next step or simply don’t know where to start.

“Our values are very skewed as the middle class people,” Dorrell says. “Even though we are Christian, we have synchronized our values with more of the culture than our faith. So we know that most middle class people don’t understand poverty, they feel sorry for them, they care, but they don’t understand a lot of the issues.”

Dorrell suggested simply opening your eyes to the community around you and outside the safe walls of your church and your home

“I think the main thing is just to figure out a way that most people could feel enough comfort, they should feel a little bit of risk that’s a part of the whole deal, we move into a place of apathy and safety instead of the risk,” Dorrell says.

But for some of us, we aren’t quite ready to jump in headfirst. Dorrell suggested a safe, first step.

“I feel the most safe step is serving at the soup kitchen or working in the homeless shelter or helping with after school programs,” Dorrell says. “Through those, you begin to take the next steps. With each step you get more and more comfortable, and you realize all your presumptions were wrong.”

Once all our social barriers are gone, all our presumptions have been shed, we begin to realize the strange upside-down quality of God’s Kingdom. That He tends to use those who we least expect. That He might use someone other than the rich to spread the good news. Maybe heaven is a little like Church Under the Bridge, where there is no rich, no poor, just a bunch of redeemed trolls under a bridge gathering to worship God

Abolition Rally-End Modern Day Slavery

This coming Wednesday, March 25th, 7-9pm @ Mill Creek Foursquare Church, there is a human trafficking rally. I will be attending, helping with some info and also playing my song about sex slavery. The more the better, so come if you can and bring some friends. This is an issue that still so few people know anything about… and it happens in our own backyards. We need to raise more awareness about the fact that there are more slaves in the world right now than any other time in history… about 27 million… and over half are children. Let’s make a difference and become a new abolitionist!! Here is a link to the event: abolition-rally-seattle. Also check out www.onevoicetoendslavery.com
onevoice2009version2copy

Lenten Reflections: Homelessness Has Changed My Life

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this past week in the Lenten season, numerous people have been reflecting on the issue of homelessness and poverty. Most of my life, my experience with these issues has been greatly limited, as i have mostly lived in a suburban society, where these issues are not frequently seen therefore they are rarely taken notice of. In our suburban societies where we have our nice neighborhoods in close proximity to our nicely fashioned, planned ‘communities’ where we shop, eat and get our necessities for our mold-made lifestyles, it’s sometimes hard to see anything other.

The problem with the setting of suburban life is that it often develops because of people’s desire to escape the close community life that exists in an urban-type setting. In doing this, it becomes much easier for the suburban populous to escape from the parts of urban-type culture that they dislike, which often consists of mainly issues of poverty, homelessness and street-life. Under the framework of having ‘our own space’ much of the suburban populous can exist without ever having to face any of these issues. Often times life goes on in suburban culture without ever having to look outside of that culture to see any part of the world but suburban life.

Unfortunately, ignoring these issues doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it is the indifference to such issues that actually can cause the problems to intensify.

In the last 3 years, moving closer to a major city, and therefore to more urban-type culture has made me so much more aware of many more pressing issues, both locally and globally. The utter importance of these issues has in turn moved to the forefront of my heart and thoughts, and shaken my mindset and challenged me in so many ways.

Last year, I began to meet some non-housed individuals who lived outdoors in a tent community… a place called Nickelsville. My experiences with them began to grow me, challenge me, mess with my heart and mind, and also make me come alive in ways I hadn’t yet experienced.

After I started to make relationships with my friends in Nickelsville, I began to see more fully the Kingdom of God and how ‘the last will be the first’ and how ‘the first will become the last’. I became so aware of this when I spent time with my outdoor friends, as they have shown me the tangible Kingdom of God. They have ‘nothing’ yet they have given me so much more than I could ever give to them. I have learned more about community from my friends living in pink tents than I have from what I have experienced within most church settings. This messed with me since I thought these settings were supposed to be representative models for ‘true’ community. My perspective was beginning to be dramatically altered . My heart was beginning to be infectiously changed. My mindset was beginning to completely shift. My life was beginning to be eternally affected.

I started to realize that it is all too easy for us to go about our ‘busy’ lives, filled with all of our stuff and busy-ness, and simply ignore, not only the issues, but how crucial our involvement in those issues really is.

This is why I say that homelessness has changed my life. Before I began to interact and make friends with those who lived on the streets, I didn’t think too much about my privilege. Before I saw how little my friends on the streets had, I didn’t think too much about how much I had and how and where I spent my money. Before I saw my friends on the streets wondering what their next meal was going to be, I didn’t think too much about how easy it was for me to get simple things like food, water and life’s necessities. Before I saw my friends on the streets living in tents out in the cold, I didn’t think too much about the comforts of my warm house. Before I chose to spend a few days sleeping on the streets with my friends I didn’t think too much about my soft, warm, comfortable bed. Before I spent the time to hear the stories of hardship and struggle from my friends on the streets, I didn’t realize how much I related to them and how much they are just like me. Before I had the opportunity to share my struggles with my friends on the streets, I didn’t realize how much they actually cared about me and how much they offered love, encouragement and comfort to me. Before I was humbled enough to realize that my friends on the streets have so much to offer to me, I never thought about how much I needed their friendship in my life.

Now I live my life in a tension. That tension exists on a constant level and it is not easily resolved. Nor, do I feel that i needs to be resolved, or ever will. When I leave my time with my friends on the streets and go back to my warm home with my stuff, that tension does not go away. It constantly provokes my perspective in how I view my life and my privilege. It is not an easy thing to deal with, but it is constantly in the forefront of my mind and heart. The Scriptures come alive to me when I spend time with my outdoor friends, but they also in turn threaten my lifestyle and the daily decisions I make on how I live my life. I am also made so much more aware of my own brokenness and it’s impact on how I live. It is also this brokenness that connects me to my friends on the streets because it makes us equal. It makes us one; the fact that we can share in our brokenness. It is a beautiful thing, and it is the thing that unites us as people. So the incredible contrast of beauty and brokenness once again rises to the surface and I see how so much of the journey and the times of learning and growth in that journey come from brokenness and our awareness of that brokenness. No text book, no classroom, no teacher can give you the lessons that the experiences of life itself can give you.

So my life is changed, and in a continual process of growth and change, and I am thankful for my friends who live outdoors for being an integral part of that change.

So the challenge remains to anyone, just as it remains to me… if you desire to serve others, take that step and go feed the hungry non-housed and donate some of your possessions to help the poor and needy. These are great things and they need to be done. If you want to experience incredible life change, and have your minds and hearts rearranged, I also challenge you to take it a step further and take some time to build relationships and become friends with those on the streets… and then let them feed you. They may have ‘nothing’ from certain perspectives, but in reality they have so much to give and so much to offer our lives. We just need to be willing, available and open enough to let it happen.

Get ready though… because you will never be the same again…
and that is a wonderful thing!