Global Goals X Hope for Home Homelessness Webinar
On November 30, Pathway’s Global Goals project partnered up with Hope for Home to hold a webinar discussing homelessness, specifically in the Seattle area. Hope for Home is a student-led non-profit that focuses on bringing awareness to homelessness.
To begin the webinar, attendees were introduced to numerous leaders of various homelessness shelters in the surrounding Seattle area. Many of the shelters supported specific types of people experiencing homelessness. The first shelter we were introduced to was one called Mary’s Place. Mary’s Place is run by a woman named Marty; she helps a multitude of families, especially those with children, seek shelter and basic necessities. The next shelter was Catholic Community Services. Two women, called Gillian Parke and Cynthia McGee, shelter families and single adult women experiencing homelessness. Lisa Leitner is the overseer of a shelter that helps men specifically who experience homelessness, and she helps them get back on their feet. And finally, Jordan Beaudry runs a shelter in the University District of Seattle that aids young adults experiencing homelessness, specifically 18-25-year-olds. All of these individuals shared with the attendees their triumphs, their struggles, and their purposes for aiding those experiencing homelessness.
After being introduced to the speakers, Evelyn, the founder of Hope for Home, asked a number of questions that were submitted by the webinar guests. Some questions included curiosities around the shelters and COVID-19, how homelessness affects different races and ethnicities, and much more. The first question that was asked was surrounding the novel coronavirus, and what shelters are doing to ensure that everyone is staying safe and healthy. “What are the major differences that COVID-19 has caused for shelters in the surrounding Seattle area?” The speakers had a wide variety of answers, but they all had the same theme. Because shelters rely heavily on volunteer work, many of the shelters have been short-staffed in order to keep contact minimal and to keep the attendees of the shelters safe. There are now also mandatory masks, screenings, and temperature checks at every homeless shelter in Seattle. Another large setback for the shelters was that the number of beds that are allowed has shrunk greatly, due to social distancing measures. Overall, COVID-19 has put a large strain on these shelters and their resources, but because of their wonderful community and their grit, they are able to persevere and work even harder to help those in need.
Another important question that was asked of the speakers was about the importance of being invested in their profession, and especially at a time like this. “What is the importance of engaging in your job, during COVID-19 especially?” All of the speakers had amazing answers, and are all very in tune with their job and know what to do to help homeless individuals thrive. Many discussed the simple aspect of just showing up and being there for those in need. That act alone is greater than any other they could do for those who are struggling. The speakers do not always come into the shelter in an amazing mood, but working with those who need help and committing to them helps them stay on track. Another topic discussed was treating the homeless with validation and respect. When the speakers are there to listen to their struggles and provide them the resources they need, those who need help feel seen, heard, and appreciated.
One of the final major topics was about how race and ethnicity affect homelessness, as well as how well how good a job the city of Seattle has done with those living on the streets. “Are there demographics that are more prone to homelessness? Has Seattle done a good job at dealing with the homeless population?” The first point, that was made very clear, was that POC, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ individuals experience a higher rate of homelessness than any other demographic. For example, 78% of those who stay at Mary’s Place are POC. The reason for this large inequality is due to systemic racism and the burden it has put on POC as they try to navigate homelessness. There is also a multitude of inequalities regarding wealth, education, healthcare, and much more. The purpose of these shelters is to lift up the voices that often go unheard. With hard work, dedication, and community, they are able to do just that.