Should living in your car = tickets & fines?

By United Way of King County, on August 29, 2017 | In Fighting Homelessness

We don’t think so. No one wants to call their car their home. But for some it is a last resort.

How do we help people living in vehicles exit homelessness? It’s an important question given that an estimated 4o% of unsheltered people in Seattle are living in cars. People like Richard who we met in January during the annual Point In Time Count and is waiting for housing.

Heated discussions rippled through the city this month because of news reports about draft legislation to aid people living in vehicles from Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien.  Comments on social media became divisive and ugly even before the legislation was released. This is not what Seattle is about.

Homelessness is a crisis in our community. And as All Home Director Mark Putnam recently wrote “Changing the way we think about homelessness, which is deeply embedded in our internal and cultural biases, is critical to our ability to meaningfully address the crisis we are faced with today”

Ending homelessness requires us to be united in our values and approach.

  • People experiencing homelessness are our friends, neighbors and loved ones. They should be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable home. Tents and cars are not sufficient.
  • Exiting homelessness is hard, It’s even harder if you face fines and penalties – for parking, trespassing, or similar incidents. We need smart policies to help people move out of homelessness not head deeper into poverty.
  • Our community has a plan to make homelessness rare, brief and one-time. We need to stay focused, move quicker, and be bolder about how we move forward.
  • Policy matters – Seattle/King County can’t end homelessness alone. We need strong funding for affordable housing, mental health services, and basic needs from the state and federal government.

We don’t believe living in cars is the answer, but for many it’s the best they can do and we support them in trying to improve their situation. At United Way we’re investing in helping people experiencing homelessness access housing and jobs.  Housing is hard to find in our community but not impossible when we are creative about engaging property owners, offering options for shared housing, and reducing housing barriers. For people who are able to work, employment can be a path to financial and housing stability.  That’s why we are scaling up our Streets To Home and Jobs Connect programs. Thanks to our donors we are investing over $3 million to help people access housing and jobs this year. That’s what happens when we are all united for homes.

We all have a role to play in ending homelessness. Let’s blend the compassion and smarts of this region to make homelessness rare, brief, and one-time.


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