State of Emergency – Homelessness in Puget Sound

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Downtown Seattle

In 2015, 45 people anonymously drifted into the ether, losing their lives while living out on the streets of Seattle and its surrounding communities.  Most will simply be recorded as an unfortunate statistic, quickly fading, just as they were forgotten in life.  The 2015 One Night Count tallied 3,772 people living outside and unsheltered in Seattle and King County.  This is 21% greater than the number of homeless tallied in 2014. A simple drive down Interstate 5 south of downtown Seattle shows dozens of tents setup by freeway on-ramps, under viaducts, and in the medians of the road.  In response to the increasing homeless population, the City of Seattle has declared a State of Emergency and allocated $5,000,000 to respond to the immediate problem, with a goal of creating an additional 100 beds at local shelters, and other interventions to try and address the many issues involved with homelessness.

I would like to do a journalistic project that looks at the realities of homelessness in King County, and compare the recent efforts of Salt Lake County, and other municipalities across the US, to address the issues of homelessness.  According to a headline by the Salt Lake Tribune, “Utah’s chronic homeless numbers drop from 1,932 to 178 in 10 years,” a 91% reduction.  This is not to say that Utah has no homeless problem, there is quite a concern about the blight created in the area surrounding an outdoor mall, and the increase in crime and drug use due to the consolidation of homeless services into a central location.  This being a multi-media course, I plan on interviewing local officials, non-profit agency workers, members of the homeless community, documenting the issue, both in still photography, audio, and video, and ultimately producing a journalistic documentary outlining the issue.

Being newly returned to the Seattle area, having moved away in 2000, I was surprised to see the expansion of homelessness in the area, and the conditions of the newly established tent cities, and homeless encampments.  I would like to see what is being done, what projects are delivering success, and what plans are being made to permanently address the homeless issue.

Sources:

http://www.sltrib.com/news/2448407-155/utah-hails-drop-in-chronic-homeless

http://murray.seattle.gov/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/11.2.15-Homelessness-FAQ.pdf

http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Salt-Lake-City-a-model-for-S-F-on-homeless-5587357.php

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