Letters to the Editor: Why Karen Bass and Rick Caruso both give reason to hope on homelessness
It is an absolute disgrace that Karen Bass and Rick Caruso both give reason to hope on the issue of homelessness. With their recent op-eds, both are giving a much-needed voice to the homeless, while at the same time promoting the benefits of government-funded, privately-owned and operated shelters. It is also a reminder that in order to keep our local homeless shelters well-funded, affordable and safe, we should not be limiting support for shelter-related programs to tax dollars.
I don’t believe that government-funded shelters provide anyone with an “easy out” out of homelessness. On the contrary, they often exacerbate and compound poverty, especially for single people. This is particularly true for women, who are more likely to be homeless under the age of 30. Single women also disproportionately fall on the receiving end of a series of “get-out-of-jail-free” cards that are routinely given out to them by government shelters, who then use the false assumption of this card to justify their ever-increasing costs.
To my mind, as a person who believes that we should have a social safety net as well as affordable housing, shelters are the greatest resource we have for ending homelessness. I realize that many people disagree with me on this, but I sincerely believe that if we do not build up our shelters in such a way that everyone is safe there, we are not living up to our core principles.
To address this issue, you see, the government should stop “free-riding” on private funding efforts by funding the safety of everyone in our communities-and instead using that private funding to build capacity to serve as much more than just the homeless community. As a case in point, I would first like to share my experience as an employee in one of the state’s premier shelters in Seattle, which I have worked in over 20 years.
You might wonder why I am so proud of our (and in fact, the county’s) great effort to serve the homeless, especially single people, who have fallen through the cracks of our system as a result of our unwillingness to accept them. Here is why: Seattle’s shelters have a long history of success and have been recognized by HUD and the Department of Labor as a model for success in the shelter field. Over the