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!>>>

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

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.

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.


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.
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.
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
2129 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98121
Web: 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: Email:
Homeless remembrance project http://www.homeless

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
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 Email:


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!

Lenten Reflections: Homelessness Has Changed My Life

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!

Lenten Reflections: The Frailty of Life – Remembering Beau


This Lenten season started off yesterday with Ash Wednesday, and for me with some very saddening news about a friend of mine.  It was confirmed to me last night, as I was driving to work, that my good friend from Nickelsville, Aaron “Beau” Beaucage, had died earlier in February.   Beau had left Nickelsville just after New Years Day in the hopes of pursuing a job opportunity in California.  He left unexpectedly, and there was not much information on exactly where he went or specifically what for.  While in CA, the work opportunity did not pan out and Beau continued to struggle with depression daily, as he hoped to be with his daughter and his girlfriend in Indonesia, but could not afford to get there.  He apparantly died in his sleep somewhere around the first of February.  The actual cause of his death is unknown at this time.  I can’t help but wonder, had he been here, around friends, would his death had even happened; had he had friends to walk through his depression and come along side of him through that hard time.  I am deeply saddened by this loss as I had developed a great relationship with Beau over the four months that I knew him.  We had numerous conversations about many different things and I believe we connected on many levels, especially in the ways we viewed people and the world around us.

Beau also was an incredible poet, writing numerous poems about life and the struggles it contains, and I had the privilege of experiencing many of them.  We had lots of conversations about the art of poetry and lyrics.  He challenged me to write songs from his poetry and so I did.  I quickly took two of his poems and wrote songs from them, which I still play frequently at Nickelsville, and they have become anthems.  We talked often about our ideas of the poetry book that Beau wanted to publish and the (quasi-fictional) story of Onus Lumins, (which was Beau’s pen name) who was a truck driver who would place his poetry books in the restrooms at truckstops to counter all the negative graffiti on the walls with positive, creative and inspiringly artistic poetry.  He wanted to write a book about that story and we even discussed a movie, where some traveling musicians find the poetry book and start writing music to the poems and the two combined cause the musicians to become highly successful, while all the while searching to find the artist that created such amazing lyrics.  

Beau was an amazing guy, who ended up homeless after the trucking industry became too expensive to survive because of rising gas prices and while trying to go out on a fishing boat, missed the opportunity because of a slowdown in the industry.  He had only been homeless for about 6 months when he ended up at Nickelsville and I met him.  We made an instant connection and he was on my heart often.  Maybe it was the convergence of two artists that drew us together, or maybe the deep conversations we had that intrigued us both, or maybe it was just God’s leading… for whatever reason, he had a huge affect on my life and I know I had an affect on his.  He was a huge catalyst in changing the way I viewed ‘the homeless’.  He was the one that challenged me to come and live in Nickelsville, and when I stayed there before New Years, I spent most of my time with him.  He introduced me to “Flight of the Conchords” (look it up :), and when I was staying there, each night we hung out in his tent until 3am, talking and watching episodes on the laptop, that he was given so that he could write and post and print all of his poetry.  

I remember sitting in Trabant coffee shop in U District, with Beau and Dustin and some others from the camp, having conversations about many things.  I remember him telling me ‘it’s never to late to do anything you want to… there is always a way to do what you really want to do and make things happen, regardless of how old you get… it’s never too late!”  That was one of the last conversations we had together.  His words were inspiring… our conversations were intriguing.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have known him and shared in his life, if even for a short time.  

His words will live on through his poetry, of which I have a small collection of.  I wish that I had access to his whole collection… I would make sure that they would be published somewhere for all to experience… that is exactly what he would have wanted to happen with his poetry.  It would be beautiful to be able to use his poetry to raise money to help support places like Nickelsville and efforts to advocate for the ‘homeless’.  I will pursue writing and completing a full album of his words with my songs and record it for everyone to hear.  His story and his advocacy for the homeless problem will continue to fuel me in my efforts to change ‘homelessness’ and change the way people think about my friends that live outside.

So as I reflect on the memories of Beau, I am reminded of the frailty of life… and how important it is to make the best of every opportunity… to love others as you love yourself and let others do the same for you.  This is the stuff that changes lives in this fragile world we live in.  I will miss Beau terribly, but his memory will live on… I know I will do my part to make that happen.  I will probably post more about Beau in the weeks to come, but for now I will close with this clip of the video he made of himself reciting one of my favorite poems of his “Nothing is Meaningless”, which is also one of the poems I put to music.  

Beau, you will be greatly missed!!

comfort and control

i have been spending a lot of time with my friends who live in a homeless tent community called Nickelsville. I know many of them, have heard their stories, and shared some of mine. In a most recent conversation I had with one friend, something he said stood out to me. It grabbed a hold of my heart and mind and has not let go. We were discussing the many people who come by the camp to bring donations and such, and he mentioned to me, being very honest, how it sometimes he gets a sick feeling about it. He began to elaborate a bit, informing me that he wasn’t ungrateful, but expressed his concern for the giver. He had observed that many of the people want to give for reasons that may not necessarily be the ‘right’ reasons to give… that many are giving to ‘do their duty’ or to feel good about themselves, as if they pat themselves on their generous backs as they leave, proud of their act of kindness that helped the poor guy.

My mind was racing. Many thoughts filled my head and my heart as I pondered our discussion. I know this person, so I know that they were not being mean-spirited or ungrateful for people’s generosity, but he is one that often time sees through the fog and/or between the lines and finds something that others may not necessarily see. I tend to relate to this, as I find myself seeing things often in the same way.

So, when leaving that day, driving away in my car I began to elaborate with my thoughts on the subject, out loud in my car by myself. I began to think about giving and generosity, then on to the idea of ‘charity’. I thought of how I was determined to be very clear that the people of Nickelsville are NOT my charity… but they are my friends. I have gotten to know them, and I consider them friends. I began to think of how the majority of the time when people do charitable things, such as donate clothes and such to the homeless, or bring them food, they do it out of their own excess and there is not much of a sacrifice involved in that giving. They are the ones with the power and continue in keeping that power in their own hands.

Two words stuck out to me in my private rambling that summed it all up for me: comfort and control. I began to see that when we give to others, we tend to do it while maintaining our comfort and our control and rarely do we ever give of ourselves in any way that may threaten either one of those things. We have created a bar… a level of sorts, that determines our state of comfort and control and we will do anything, as long as it does not embark on that level, thus affecting our comfort and sense of control. What we often don’t realize is that when those levels are affected, moved and even changed, simultaneously our lives are often changed in astounding ways that would never happen otherwise.

I continued my thinking out loud and began to wonder why we have set these certain standards for ourselves, as some sort of protection of becoming too vulnerable…. just how vulnerable are you really as long as you still are comfortable and have control over the situation? For example, I want to help the homeless… I don’t want my friends sleeping on the streets in the cold, so I give them my extra blankets to stay warm… but why don’t I invite them to come and live in my home, (or enter my world for that matter)? Because that would then mean that I no longer have control over my generosity and the bar that i have set for my comfort level, would then be threatened… so I don’t even consider it. It always seems to be on MY terms that I reach out to others. I am the one with privilege and power and I have no intention of giving that up for anything or anyone. I have set a standard for what I will allow, and the two things that govern that standard are my comfort and my control… and as long as I don’t have to lose either of those things I will be OK.

The challenging thing is that I began to realize that those are the two things that keep me from doing what God wants me to do… that he is calling me to lose myself… give up my control, give up my comfort, so that I can really have life and live the way I should be living. People have always said those words and believed them, but rarely do they ever live them out, especially in America where we can have anything we want and it’s OK. Controlling our lives and keeping ourselves comfortable is the big selling feature for the “American Dream”. This is why so much of us find it hard to break beyond the cycle that we find ourselves in of ‘giving to charity’, because it is ingrained into our culture. “Work hard, buy a home, get a car, live the good life, and give away some extra to help the little people” As long as my comfort and control are intact, I am free to give to help those in need and in turn I do my duty as a citizen and feel real good about myself and sit back happy and comfortable and still in control of ‘my little world’.

I think there is another level, beyond the level that most of us operate within, and that level requires us to give up our control, get a little uncomfortable, and think outside of the framework that our culture is founded on. Charity is glorified, but sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. Give your money to charity and your a saint, give your life to get to know those who are marginalized and not as many people get it, especially if you happen to stand in the way of others keeping control and being comfortable. You will know when you cross that line from charity to sacrifice, it will make others uncomfortable, and it will make you uncomfortable. But it is our calling, and our destiny… by ‘losing’ our lives we actually gain true life, and we can’t see it, taste it, know it, or have it until we do.

So there is another realm that is waiting for us to venture into it, to cross that line into its unknown regions, beckoning us to move into a place of freedom that cannot be explained, but only experienced. It will require us to leave behind our former sense of comfort… to drop the bar of our level of control… to give up our true selves and live differently. It beckons to me and I hear its call, and I am leaning in its direction, but it is a difficult tension and is a challenging call for sure. It will be interesting to see how this kind of thinking will affect the way I live in the future. I will continue pondering the way in which to live it out. (Of course, now that I have posted this… I’m kind of obligated myself to live this way too… which makes it even harder! 🙂

What does Christmas mean to you?

As we go through the Advent season and head towards Christmas, I begin to reflect on this whole holiday season and what it means to me and what it has meant. I remember as a kid growing up… Christmas meant really one thing… getting presents! that was really it… lights, a tree, a big dinner… but really it all came down to ‘what did you GET for Christmas!’. this is often times the extent of meaning for many who ‘celebrate’ this season.

I also think of another important meaning for many during this season… the time to get together with family. For some this is a glorious time… seeing family members that they may not have seen in a while… or spending some ‘quality time’ with family members that may have been lacking in other times of year. For others, unfortunately, this might be a nightmare, especially if they do not have the best relationship with members of the their family, or if they grew up in an abusive or unhealthy family situation.

Or maybe it’s the prospect of snow (depending on where you live) and the romantic idea of a ‘white christmas’ and seeing a nice cold white blanket covering everything, creating a picturesque, ‘Christmas card’ moment to remember… or a snowball fight with the neighborhood kids… or sledding down steep hills to flashback to childhood days.

For some, the holidays bring a well needed and well deserved vacation from their highly demanding occupations… a break from the stress of a job.

As I have been thinking about the meaning of Christmas, my perspective has been challenged quite a bit for me this year… especially since i have made friends with a community of homeless people known as Nickelsville, who live in tents in a parking lot near UW in Seattle. I think differently about so many things in my life because of knowing this group homeless people. What do they think about Christmas time? What does Christmas mean to them? Presents? probably not. Family? If they had good relationships with their family, or if they have any family at all, they most likely wouldn’t be living on the street. And snow? I cringe at the thought of the people of NIckelsville sleeping outside while their tent is covered in snow and they are huddled up inside trying to keep from freezing to death. No pretty lights, no family reunion, no trimmed tree, no pile of presents… just the reality that this season could not end soon enough and that the cold and wet days of winter in Seattle would be over. This really messes with my perspective on the season for sure.

I think of a little baby being born out in that cold… no family around, just some strangers who happened to wander by. No bed to give birth in, no bed for the baby. Just using whatever is available to make things work… to try to get by. There was no room in the shelter available so they ended up there… feeling alone and rejected. And the baby… what kind of world would that little child be born into. This is no place for a baby to be. But yet it was just good enough for a certain baby named Emmanuel to enter the world. This is the story of a Saviour… named Jesus. he entered the world in a place much like Nickelsville. It was the only place available for those who have no place else to go.

So as far as the meaning of Christmas, this story is it. It is because of this story that I have become so mindful of those who are without… those who find themselves in great need. I think of the world and its great need for someone to come and bring light into a world full of darkness… and i think of Emmanuel… ‘God with Us’, coming and bringing that light that changed the world forever… making all things new.

So in the midst of all the craziness and the busy-ness that this season brings, despite all the stuff that comes along with it all… i find the meaning of it all in a poor child in a barn surrounded by strangers and shit and the freezing cold night air… and i think of those who live in that reality day and night… and i know that despite all of that… joy is there… and peace is there… and hope is there… and this is where Emmanuel shows up… right there with them.

Maybe this season we can come up with a better question to ask besides ‘What did you GET for Christmas’.

Maybe the question we should ask is ‘Where do you see Light in the midst of the dark this Christmas’ For me, I see it in my homeless friends at Nickelsville.

Beau, Nickelsville’s resident poet

This is a video of my friend Beau, who is a resident at the homeless community called Nickelsville, where i spend every Monday night.  I have gotten to know Beau over the last two months and know a bit about his life and his story and also have read his amazing poetry.  I have taken two of his poems and written songs with them… in this video, he recites one of the poems that i wrote a song with… which i will post a video of me performing soon.  So here is a bit about Beau and one of his poems, “Nothing is Meaningless”.