What Will it Take to Solve Homelessness in Seattle?

It Will Take a Lot More than Another Free Meal or a Night Shelter

Look at this trend:

(This doesn’t even include the rest of King, Pierce, and Snohomish County)

Year in Seattle

One Night Count1 of Homeless*

2012

8830

2013

9062

2014

9294

2015

10,047

*These figures combine three categories:
homeless people on the street, in shelters,
and in transitional housing.

 

Homelessness isn’t getting better in Seattle. Men, women, youth, children. Families. Veterans. All ethnic groups. The streets are getting more crowded each year.

And there are a lot of great nonprofits and government agencies trying to help solve homelessness. But while those efforts have certainly made a difference, the overall problem is getting worse.
We need a new strategy. A new approach. A different way to engage with homeless people on a more personal level.
We’ve been giving them free food and clothes for years. Some in the homeless community even call Seattle “Free-attle.”
Does giving free stuff work? Is it an effective way to truly change the lives of the homeless? If it were, then the above table should be trending the opposite of what you see.
I started Babysteps Ministry for this reason.

 

Meeting Their Greatest Need

Babysteps uses a relational approach to solve homelessness. Our first step is not usually to meet physical needs. It’s to be friends. To understand. To just be.
Homeless men and women are people, just like you. Isolation and feeling ignored are two of the worst things for anyone to experience. They crush the spirit. Demoralize the soul. Harden the heart.
And homeless people live with them every day. This is their single greatest need, and no amount of free food will meet it.
So —
We are not counselors.
We are not case managers.
We do not provide services.
There are many great Seattle nonprofits and government organizations already meeting these needs. But often, another intake and another free meal are not what’s needed most.
The first and most important need is friendship. Using a relational approach, we build trust and develop genuine relationships with our homeless neighbors. We spend time sitting, talking, and eating. We call each other on the phone.
We’re out here with them, on the front lines.

 

Trust → Value → Confidence → Action

As we create a community, it’s from that strength and trust that we empower them take ownership of their lives, with confidence. The value and care we provide ignites a new hope that they still have a chance to achieve their dreams.
As they grow in their own sense of self-worth, and start to realize they want more out of life, we help them take the steps (baby steps!) to push forward toward a new future.
Babysteps succeeds when our homeless friends become just our friends. Off the streets, no longer without a place to live. Starting to build new lives.
And when you join us as a volunteer or financial supporter, you are joining us in committing to walk alongside homeless men and women in Seattle and King County.
You are helping them take baby steps toward a complete life transformation. That’s how we solve homelessness. One new relationship — one new friend — at a time.

1. Data from One Night Count