Keep up the momentum to end homelessness

David Bley

April 9th, 2018

“We’re Pearl Jam and we’re from Seattle, Washington. So I guess that must mean we’re home,” hollered Eddie Vedder from the stage at Safeco Field.

For generations, the Gates family has also made the Seattle region their home, and when the foundation started in 2000, one of the first issues that the co-chairs decided to address was family homelessness and housing instability in King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties. Since then, we’ve helped build nearly 1,500 units of transitional housing, improved data systems that track who is homeless and for how long, catalyzed a coordinated system to access shelter and homeless services, and supported the region’s shift to a housing first orientation that quickly gets homeless families into permanent housing and then leverages that stability to help them get back on their feet.

But hard facts remain. For many, despite having a job, income isn’t keeping up with increasing rent. We haven’t built or preserved enough affordable housing to go around. Systems that address root causes — mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, workforce training — have fallen short. Despite the gains we’ve made to move more families out of homelessness, we haven’t kept up with the inflow.

Since 2016, as our region’s homeless crisis continued to get worse, we’ve invested an additional $18 million in housing, shelters, human services, food banks, and job training.

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

To draw attention to these issues and give people an opportunity to be part of the solution, legendary rockers Pearl Jam dedicated their August 8th and 10th concerts — their first in Seattle in five years — to an effort called The Home Shows: Banding Together to End Homelessness.

The Home Shows brought together a broad coalition of stakeholders — including our PNW team — to unite behind the cause of ending homelessness in King County. From eating out at restaurants who donate part of the proceeds, to volunteering with the United Way, Pearl Jam’s Home Shows offered a range of opportunities to take action, and raised over $12 million along the way.

“We’re Pearl Jam and we’re from Seattle, Washington. So I guess that must mean we’re home.”

Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam

The shows may be over, but the momentum continues. You can still give to the Home Shows Fund, or search the Giving Compass for a social service organization that fits your passion. Now that it’s Back to School time — and, in Washington, there are enough students experiencing homelessness to fill 600 school busses — consider checking for classroom projects posted by local teachers to support those students in need.

We’re also working with the city, county, and other local philanthropies to develop better systems for a regional approach to ending homelessness, and we’re integrating our homelessness and education work in a cross-systems effort to improve educational outcomes for homeless students in Washington State.

The Home Shows opened doors to new partners and new community connections and gave everyone the power to do something to address one of our region’s most pressing problems. As our work on homelessness moves forward, we’ll continue to build on the opportunities that Pearl Jam put in front of us, and we are grateful to the band and their fans for spotlighting the ideals of optimism, generosity, and caring for our neighbors here at home.

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