On February 27, 2016, residents of Camp Dearborn, a homeless encampment in Seattle, spoke to the People’s Assembly about the struggles of being homeless, how the city has failed their community in the past, and what we need to demand to win the fight against homelessness here in Seattle.
Thank you, everybody. It’s great to be here. On behalf of the citizens of the independent free state of Camp Dearborn, and especially in honor of a member of our family who recently passed away, Christian Gall, our kitchen coordinator and a culinary wizard – this one’s for you, girl.
We’re not just homeless. We’re activists. We’re fighters. We’re survivors. We are here to speak for Camp Dearborn, and to the needs of all of our friends and neighbors who are living without a safe, reliable home tonight.
The trauma, exhaustion, and fear that come with being homeless is hard to convey. It’s a struggle that no person should be forced to experience. People need safe, reliable shelter. We live in a rich nation. What does it say about our society that people are left on the street alone, to die?
The sweeps are only making life worse. They are inhumane, and frightening. Some of those who are well off are using them as an excuse to harass all of us. Meanwhile, Seattle’s shelters are full and can be alienating. The tent cities aren’t getting the support that was promised. People have nowhere to go but where they are.
When the sweep comes, everything that a “swept” person owns is thrown out. Then they are still left on the street with nothing. Tell me how is a swept person going to survive?
At Camp Dearborn, we’re struggling to even get the support that was promised. Last year, Councilmember Sawant set aside funding for the city to pick up our trash. It’s there, but the city won’t pick it up. When will the Mayor instruct Seattle Public Utilities to act? We want to keep our living space clean, but we need the old trash removed. We need bins for trash, recycling, and compost. We need more support for basic facilities and toilets. These services will help all of us, but only if the city allocates funds and acts on its promises!
We need to help families stay together. Families, couples, and pet owners have very few opportunities when it comes to shelter space. These relationships are not trivial. They give people strength in their darkest times. They should be supported.
We appreciate every dollar that is dedicated to the fight against homelessness, but let’s be clear – current funding is not enough. We strongly support Councilmember Sawant and all of our allies in our call for $10 million in immediate emergency funding. As Kshama and the Seattle King/County Coalition on Homelessness have argued, this is the bare minimum that we need to slow the crisis.
We need more space, accessible space, for tent cities, we need more beds, and we need subsidized, publicly-owned housing.
We may not have homes, but we are human beings, and, as such, we deserve to be treated like human beings. And we are going to continue to organize until we win this fight.
Thank you for organizing yourselves and fighting with us.