Members of grassroots homeless organizations voiced opposition to the reasoning provided by City officials for slashing the groups’ funding during the public comments section of a Human Services & Public Health committee hearing last Wednesday.
SHARE/WHEEL members refuted claims made by Human Services Department (HSD) spokesperson Meg Olberding to Seattle Weekly, in which she stated that the groups were unsuccessful at transitioning clients.
The organizations were denied funding during the City’s recent redistribution of the $34 million slated for homeless service providers announced on November 27. City officials say they are prioritizing funding for homeless services and shelters that helped people transition into permanent housing.
After reading the City’s comments about SHARE/WHEEL’s alleged inability to move clients into permanent housing in last week’s article, SHARE/WHEEL organizer Anitra Freeman says she thought “that wasn’t true, but we don’t track statistics.”
She then contacted partner organization Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), an affordable housing developer that provides case managers for SHARE/WHEEL participants and which does track the numbers. Freeman said that according to LIHI, 25 of the 77 SHARE participants who worked with LIHI case managers were placed into permanent housing in the first 10 months of the year.
“The only reason that SHARE did not get credit for those 25 participants getting into permanent housing is because the Human Services Department didn’t connect that those people were with SHARE,” she added.
On Wednesday afternoon, Freeman joined WHEEL and Women in Black to stand in silent vigil for Dyan Stensrud, the 88th homeless person to die outside this year. Afterwards, the members delivered a letter to the Mayor’s office again to press for a reversal of shelter and service cuts.
Later that day, SHARE/WHEEL participants testified in favor of funding the groups at the City Council’s Human Services and Public Health Committee Hearing.
Dan Dietrich, 50, is a resident at Tent City 3 who shared testimony during the committee hearing on Wednesday. Dietrich sometimes works as a seasonal fisherman in Alaska and struggles to find housing when he’s not on a boat.
“We’re self managed and we’re just a group of homeless people trying to take care of each other the best we can until we get into housing,” Dietrich said about SHARE/WHEEL during a Friday phone interview with Seattle Weekly. He added that the groups’ emergency shelter beds provide a safe place for homeless people to live as they’re looking for more permanent housing.
“When someone says, ‘We’re leaving because we got an apartment,’ we just say, ‘Yay. Good for you. See you later and hopefully we never see you back at the shelter,’ ” Dietrich said. “We want you to succeed.” He added that SHARE/WHEEL doesn’t document every instance that someone announces a move into permanent shelter, because the organizations are mostly focused on ensuring that the homeless have temporary housing while they’re trying to get back on their feet.
On Thursday, the city announced that the city’s Human Services Department would offer $1 million in transition funding to homeless service providers that didn’t receive money.
“As we double the number of people moving into permanent housing and create more 24/7 enhanced shelter beds and services, we must ensure a compassionate transition for those who depend on current providers,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a Thursday press release. “Our City must work relentlessly to move people out of encampments and off our streets into permanent and affordable housing. I’m committed to creating additional short-term shelter, including micro-homes, to provide safer, healthier alternatives to living outside for those experiencing homelessness,” Durkan added.
The press release noted that 15 agencies that didn’t receive funding filed appeals, but none were upheld.
Freeman told Seattle Weekly on Friday that HSD never arranged a site visit or an interview with SHARE/WHEEL organizations to investigate whether they sufficiently transitioned people into permanent housing. She also said that the providers were left in the dark about the results of the appeal.
In response, HSD spokesperson Olberding told Seattle Weekly that site visits were not guaranteed as a part of the appeal process. Olberding added that HSD had notified Catholic Community Services (CCS) of the rejection, since CCS acts as the fiscal agent on behalf of SHARE/WHEEL.
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