Sally Clark On Homelessness: It’s Striking What ‘Continues to Blend In’

Last week the annual One Night Count was conducted, identifying a staggering 3,117 men, women and children living without shelter in King County. All that counting took over 800 volunteers, and Seattle City Councilmember Sally Clark was one of them.

On her blog today, Clark writes about the experience, saying: “What was striking for me this year was not what stood out, but instead what continues to blend in – the campers, vans, and tents under Spokane Street or on the edge of the industrial area parking lots that we drive or bus by every day.”

“We counted half a dozen campers likely occupied,” Clark continues. “One had two children’s bikes leaned against each other.”

As the new chair of the City Council’s Committee on Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency, the experience apparently made clear to Clark just how much work is needed to help get people off the street in Seattle. While this wasn’t her first time volunteering for the One Night Count - in fact, Clark was part of the team last year that found the body of Kathryn Ann Blair near an I-90 off ramp - judging by her blog, what she saw this year won’t soon be forgotten.

“I grumbled a bit to myself about staying up all night and then scheduling myself for a half-day planning session on our office workplan the next morning, but, really, participating in the One Night Count and then getting down to work is exactly what we must do,” Clark writes. “This year we’ll be looking at boosting the city’s affordable housing strategies, preventing and mitigating foreclosure, strengthening job opportunities, connecting people with mental health services, crisis housing and a building a city-wide housing strategy. That’s in addition to the likely bump in Seattle’s minimum wage.”

“It’s not the answer to eradicating poverty,” the council member concludes, “but it will help.”

Clark’s reaction is certainly applaudable, but it’s also worth mentioning that she was president of a City Council that last year voted unanimously to close the Nickelsville homeless encampment. Of course, Clark and others, like Councilmember Tim Burgess, did so with the stated goal of helping people find permanent housing instead of encampment existence. But with a 16-percent increase in the number of people identified as living without shelter this year, it’s clear that goal - however worthy - is still far from being met.

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