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

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.

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

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”.