Once again, we end the year with 70 homeless or transitionally housed students at Leschi Elementary School. This is one of the highest homeless populations in all the city schools. The staff and PTA at Leschi School does a remarkable job of gathering resources for these families and their technique is a Giving Garland with gift wishes for kids and families in need. You might collect a gift wish from the school and fulfill that or if you are pressed for time, consider a grocery gift card as the students will be on a two week break and not receiving their two free meals each week-day. Grocery cards may be purchased in any amount and do consider cards to local stores as many of these families may also be in need of transportation. At the November LCC Board meeting, Board members voted to use $200 to purchase eight $25 gift cards at Grocery Outlet, which is convenient and your funds do go further there. (And thank you to all those members who included a donation with their dues renewal! Your gift is being put to good use!)
Another of my favorite places to give money to is LIHI, the Low Income Housing Institute. This is the group that conceived of and built tiny houses to be transitional housing for the homeless and there are now seven sites across the city. Our closest is on 22nd Ave on property belonging to the Good Shepard Lutheran Church. Tenants of the Tiny Villages receive services and the goal is to move them into more permanent housing at an affordable rate. The Director, Sharon Lee, received much deserved recognition from Seattle Magazine when she was chosen one of Seattle’s most influential citizens. I would say that Sharon is more than influential; she is creative, implements her ideas, and has made more progress in getting folks out of tents in risky sites than anyone else in the city. Mayors may have more money at their disposal, but one does not see the results as quickly as one does with LIHI projects.
Tiny houses cost about $2200 each and come as a DIY project providing an 8x12 foot space that is insulated, has a roof, heat and can be locked. Hygiene and kitchen facilities are communal. “Last year, 157 tiny-house village dwellers moved into permanent housing, and 103 found employment. We have a model that people across the country are trying to follow,” says Lee, who believes this quick, relatively easy solution is urgent. “We have more people dying from homelessness than from homicide. It’s an outrage.” We featured Sharon in an article several months ago as one of our local heroes. We need more Sharon Lees to solve this homeless mess.
There are numerous opportunities to help within our neighborhood: consider the Seattle Music Program, the after-school music instruction at Leschi Elementary or the Central Area Senior Center where seniors are able to eat a well-balanced meal for a modest fee and access services through the social worker. With less money going to Meals on Wheels, we can only hope that the congregate meals at the Senior Center thrive. Keeping seniors in their own homes and out of nursing homes saves the state an enormous amount of Medicaid money; our state is one of the nation’s leaders in achieving this goal. With cutbacks at the federal level, it will be hard to maintain this success. Those of us who can afford to give can help keep these services in place.