Letter to the editor: Resources for learning about homelessness in Snohomish County

Dear Editor,

As you are aware, recently, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County (LWVSC) produced a radio program for KSER on a once-a-month radio program called Magazine on the Air. This program was a result of our three-year study on Homelessness of Families, Children and Youth in Snohomish.

Affordable housing has long been an issue in Edmonds. I encourage your readership to spend some time either watching the YouTube or listening to the podcast. The program is divided into five segments:

  • Segment 1: Results of the LWVSC study on homelessness of children, youth and families in Snohomish County.
  • Segment 2: An interview with Sarah Lunstrum, co-executive director of the anti-poverty non-profit “Take the Next Step” in Monroe, sharing what they do to serve families, children and youth experiencing few opportunities for affordable shelter in East Snohomish County.
  • Segment 3: A first-hand account from a guest speaker of their personal account experiencing homelessness in Snohomish County.
  • Segment 4: An interview with Housing Hope Chief Executive Officer Fred Safstrom.
  • Segment 5: Summary and call to action.

This is the link to Magazine on the Air. Magazine on the Air – League of Women Voters of Snohomish County (lwvsnoho.org). It will bring you to our Nov. 8, 2021, podcast. This is the link to the YouTube video: https://youtu.be/MXCBKxMk_Zc

You will find this time will be well spent becoming aware of the huge housing crisis in our community and how we can work together to make a difference for those experiencing housing insufficiency.

Phyllis Busch
Chairperson, Children’s Services Committee
League of Women Voters of Snohomish County

  1. “Housing insufficiency”? Is this the latest invented word that is somehow supposed to justify meth heads camping in green belts?

    1. Pretty amusing Jeff. Still when you look at the data, housing insufficiency is definitely a real and serious problem. This video was very good, and represented a lot of great research. At 3:50-7:00 in the video, they lay out some key facts.

      – The number of households exceeds the number of new housing units by 25%.

      – There is a current need for almost 30,000 housing units for significantly cost burdened households. Those 30,000 households pay over 50% over their income on housing, Sacrificing their health and food security. It would require an hourly wage of $35.65 to afford a 2 bedroom place in Snohomish County and have at least 50% of income left for food, transportation, and other critical expenses.

      With winter coming up, there are definitely going to be people on the street who will die. Those who will be affected are certainly not just drug addicts. You make a choice to be a drug addict, but the vast majority of people do not choose to be homeless. Especially the 2,500 children in Snohomish county schools who are listed as being homeless.

      We collectively choose how to structure society, and basically choose the amount of unnecessary poverty related death and suffering that is acceptable to us in our society. We can’t save everyone, and generally feel that it would be unjust to have ‘too much’ unnecessary death. Some take the tactic of trying to put the pain of homelessness out of sight and out of mind as much as possible, while some like those featured in the video dedicate their lives to try to alleviate it.

      I think the key is that we are WAY too lenient on those who chronically abuse drugs and commit crimes to support it. Which hurts everyone in the process. I think we should focus help on those like the grandma and her grandchild sleeping in their car, or the family that just needs a little hand up to make it back to being able to provide for themselves again.

      Universal income would solve most of our Nation’s problems.

  2. Jeff,
    Prior to commenting did you listen to the thorough study?

    Before leaving Edmonds due to my own housing crisis, I had recently met and interacted with many of the members on the league.

    Rather than complain about societal problems and theories, League Members I have known in multiple states, have demonstrated diligent work of integrity. It is my experience that they look into diverse angles and search for solutions from the uncovered resources.

    As a person who last year experienced a brief vulnerability of homeless, I, am not a meth heads and do not abuse any drugs or alcohol. I have fallen to a one income household and can no longer afford my own home and currently cannot afford a healthy rental property.

    I am not proud to say I have fallen a great deal from the lifestyle I knew. I am proud not to be judgmental of others individual background, and to not make sweeping allegations based on one variable.. We all have our thing, our stories, our pains. I have found, It is often when I am missing something in my own life, and, or hurting that I blame others. It is much easier to be kind and to help when I an healthy and more fortunate.

    With the high demand, there aren’t enough units for renters. I am currently living in an “efficiency” apartment with no kitchenette, not even a sink, no window that I can open. However, I do have gaps, and holes allowing space for critters, insects and drafts.

    The first month there was no heat and now there is no airflow with the temperature in the 175 sq ft “apartment” rising to 90 degrees, even with the electricity off and the curtains blocking the sunlight.

    Due to the rise in housing cost and demand, this unit, with no latch for the bathroom or closet, no consistent water temperature, no screen on the window, an entrance next to dumpsters through a back alley (quite dark at night) ,up metal stairs that are intermittently slippery (late January through March), – rent $800.

  3. I recommend taking some moments to listen (or watch) this impressive program. The various perspectives that your Children’s Committee provided were insightful. Appreciated the ways we can be thoughtful and helpful in your “call to action”.

  4. Thank you Lori for sharing.
    I hope that others can open their minds and hearts to the facts of housing insufficiency.

  5. I have to say that many times people fell on hard times. When I was young In the 70s, I had multiple room mates. That lowered my cost in rent dramatically. I also did not live in the most expensive city. I moved to Texas where there were many jobs and cheaper rents. Did I want to? No but I had to. I would like to live in Hawaii but most people I know have 2 full time jobs there and roommates.many are still working at my age. (They don’t mind because they want to live there.) give and take.
    Homeless fit in 3 categories. People who need a hand up and short term. Drug Addicts. Mentally Challenged.
    In most cities across the USA it’s the addicts that have a huge majority. Around 80%. The other 20% are the other groups. Until we get serious about the majority and set up in house rehabs..and start with tough love. We are throwing our money away. That means we need to build away from cities mandatory rehabs, or the dealers will just follow the addicts home if it is outpatient. The hand up people should be offered a hand up. Schooling (short term) and a payback system. Not housed in expensive cities. Medically challenged need a place safe for them. Yes it’s expensive but currently we are spending billions in every city and could easily afford rehabs. That way we would see actual rehabilitation of addicts. Or at least a percentage. Offers a real solution.

  6. Bill, Thank you. I find it can be a lack of knowledge for some, when complex issues are overly simplified, in this case, regarding adequate housing.

    In hindsight, in 2018 I sold my updated condominium in the Midwest. The condo is located in a good neighborhood. It has underground parking, floor to ceiling windows… At the time, that 2 bed 2 bath condo cost me $800 monthly, give or take $50, for everything (mortgage, taxes, utilities, HMO, insurance…) …

    Now in 2021 I am paying the same $800 to someone else for a room with a bathroom, in Downtown Prescott AZ. I have a window, I cannot use. There is no parking and there are no other rooms, not even public gathering ones.

    This Dickinson-like learning experience is enlightening. Many people including me are challenged by their own dwelling. It takes longer and more energy to be hygienic and accomplish tasks. With no cooking area, one’s money for eating is not as easily economized as in a non-efficiency apartments. Consider downsizing your necessary items into a space 200 sq ft or less and doing all of your non laundry cleaning in a small bathroom. You do not have any notice when or for how long water will be shut off. Remember, your toilet is next to your faucets.

    With today’s prices, for people who do not already own, and who are low income, it is near impossible to have enough money to purchase a decent starter home in a like neighborhood. The market has dramatically changed while wages have not. Lower wage workers exist similarly to indentured servants, in that they are stuck.

    Yesterday, a neighbor shared with me about the resignation revolution, providing a piece of the explanation of why companies are understaffed.

    How can people afford housing when, for example, they pay thousands, out of pocket, for one root canal (I had one completed last week)?

    We have pitted against each other. When are we going to begin to work on solutions, as the League is inviting us to do?

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