“Everyone thinks homeless people are moving to their city for free stuff”: Busting Myths on Facebook Live

By United Way of King County, on April 11, 2019 | In News

People are still talking about KOMO’s Seattle is Dying piece: the fallout from it, what it got wrong (everything, if you ask some people), why it elicited such a big reaction.

It also raised the problem of equating homelessness with crime and addiction, which we’ve pushed back against ourselves. The wrong-headed idea that everyone experiencing homelessness is addicted to drugs (that would include 1,000 children, by the way). That people move to Seattle because there’s lots of free stuff. That stricter policing on our streets would solve this crisis. These myths persist even when there’s so much evidence to the contrary.

Last week, United Way Board Member, Chairman of GeekWire and Chairman of PicMonkey Jonathan Sposato, plus Lauren McGowan, our Senior Director of Ending Homelessness and Poverty, took to Facebook Live to answer the public’s questions directly. The result was a discussion based on data instead of wide generalizations.

For example, A McKinsey report found 81% of people experiencing homelessness have been in Seattle have been here for a year or more, with more than half of them being here for at least five years or more, even living their entire lives here. In other words, no, people aren’t just moving here for stuff.

Or that having a smartphone is imperative to getting health services and job interviews, not a symbol of someone is bad with money, choosing tech over paying their rent.

Or that, yep, there is drug use problem in the homeless community, but it’s not exclusive to that community. 38% of people struggling with homelessness have an addiction. And just 1 in 5 of that 38% cite it as the reason for their homelessness.     

Or that the tech industry can be a little less inert infighting this crisis. Instead of creating another new app that’s supposed to help homeless people, invest in solutions that are already proven to work! The industry already as has a role model in Microsoft, which pledged $5 million to fight evictions and keep people in their homes, thanks to our Home Base program.

Jonathan and fellow board member Karen Marcotte-Solimano also responded to the piece in a Seattle Times op ed a day later. They urge the state legislature and Governor Inslee to pursue four objectives, including funding mental health services and investing in affordable housing. If you want to push elected officials to do more, voicing your support for these initiates is a good place to start.

Watch the archived Facebook Live discussion below. Next time a friend has a misinformed opinion about the crisis, you’ll be able to set them straight.


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