The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) has confirmed that they have a contract with SHARE and its sister organization WHEEL this year in the amount of $610,932 for indoor shelter services. Deputy Director Jason Johnson says HSD just learned of the impending shelter closure yesterday (Tuesday). Since then, he says, he’s talked to representatives of SHARE over the phone and via email to communicate the city’s opposition to SHARE closing most of its shelters.
“We do not support the closure of their city shelters,” says Johnson. “The city is working very hard to do just the opposite, to get more people indoors. Any action to close shelter programs that we fund, especially for political or advocacy purposes only puts the most vulnerable back onto the streets and takes away the opportunity for them to have a safe, warm indoor space with a roof over their head.”
Do you think this is for political or advocacy purposes?
“I do,” he says. “It’s directly connected to a request they’re making to the county [for money].”
Operators of the homeless advocacy and service group SHARE say that they’ll be forced to close down 15 shelters holding about 450 people Thursday morning, because they’re out of money.
“We are [cut] as close to the bone as is possible, and there is nothing that can be cut without toppling our whole network,” the group said in a Facebook post. Seattle Housing And Resource Effort (SHARE) members say that after two years of defunding from county government, they’ve reached their wallet’s end.
“On March 31st we will be rallying at 1 PM at Courthouse Park (3rd/Yesler),” the group wrote in a Facebook post, “then marching to the King County Administration Building Plaza and staying there until such a time that we can negotiate the needed funding in order to reopen our shelters.”
“We were always broke,” says Jarvis Capucion, a SHARE organizer, “but at $70,000 in debt we can’t keep going.” He says that staff members have been working without pay due to the organization’s insolvency.
If the shelters close as planned, Capucion says, “we will stay safe together as a community, and not just scatter in the wind.” In practice, that will mean a rally at 1pm in Courthouse Park downtown, and then a visit to the King County Administration Building across the street to confront the elected officials SHARE says are responsible for their funding shortfall. They hope to set up an encampment at the KCA building “if they let us,” Capucion says.
Capucion and other SHARE members say the cause for this fiscal crisis is de-funding from King County. They say the county cut their funding from about $60,000 in 2014 to about $20,000 last year, then cut all funding this year. SHARE members say this contradicts the county’s official homelessness plan, which says in part that the county should “Ensure sufficient shelter capacity, including the preservation of existing shelter.”
Adrienne Quinn, director of the county’s Department of Community and Human Services, says it’s true that the county has reduced its funding to SHARE. But she called SHARE’s claim that it’s broke “confusing” because “the City of Seattle has awarded them $630,000 for this year.” At least some of that money hasn’t been spent yet, she says. (We have a call in to the city to confirm this.) Quinn similarly called SHARE’s claim that they’re running out of subsidized bus tickets “…perplexing, because we awarded SHARE/WHEEL $383,000 worth of bus tickets, and they’ve only utilized a quarter of that allotment so far.”
“We’re trying to figure out what is going on,” says Quinn, “but some of the information that is being put out there is not resonating with the information that we have in terms of the unused resources available that have already been allocated to them.”
In addition to their shelters, SHARE runs three tent cities which are not facing imminent closure. SHARE is a distinct entity from Nickelsville, although organizer Scott Morrow is involved with both groups.