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Call To Action: Sweep Trash, Not People

posted by: Alex Doolittle, August 31, 2016

SCLC is working with Danny (not his real name).  He is a middle aged man living in a local park.  He lives with severe anxiety and depression that results in symptoms of suicide ideation and suicide attempts, and he has physical disabilities that limit his physical mobility.  Our technical role in his life is to represent him before the Social Security Administration to help him qualify for disability benefits.  However, SCLC’s delivery model is holistic advocacy, which means that Danny’s attorney is one of the only people he trusts, and she is a primary organizer of Danny’s coordinated care and his support system.  Over the summer, Danny’s tent was swept by the City of Seattle.  Twice.  Collectively, Danny’s attorney and the coordinated group of providers, clinicians, and staff at the day center he showers at are all in search of Danny.  After the first sweep of the summer, Danny told his attorney that the sweeps make him feel stressed and anxious, like someone is out to get him.  It makes him feel worthless and suicidal.  The second time his home was swept, he received three days notice.  He had to cancel appointments with his doctor, his therapist, and his attorney to find a new place to call home, a new place to camp.  We haven’t heard from Danny since.

The Call To Action

Last week, we sent an open letter to Seattle City Council and Mayor Murray, together with our community partners: Real Change, Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness, CLS, ACLU, and the Public Defender Association (see below).  The letter is a call to action for City Council to pass legislation that will change the way the City handles encampments of people living outside, unsheltered. (click here to read the proposed-ordinance-for-unsheltered-residents-ordinance-0816).

The purpose of SCLC’s Disabled Homeless Advocacy Project (DHAP), is to work with people like Danny who are applying for disability benefits because of severe mental or physical disabilities.  Time and time again, our unsheltered clients are derailed from their focused attempts to obtain a stable source of income (ssi/ssdi) or stability in their medical treatment because their tent and belongings have been swept away.  These sweeps work against our community’s desire, goals, and efforts to help unsheltered people meet their basic needs.

What You Can Do

Call your City Councilperson.  Ask them to support the proposed unsheltered residents ordinance.  For draft language and to learn your councilperson’s contact information, click here.

Please join us on Tuesday Sept. 6 at 2:00 at the Seattle City Council meeting, or send another email and call .


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