In the News
“Against CDC Guidance, Some Cities Sweep Homeless Encampments”
by Teresa Wiltz, Stateline – Article link
April 28, 2020
“But to conduct sweeps during a pandemic ‘is one of the stupidest, most cruel and counter to public health practices that anyone can imagine,’ said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. ‘It’s not only misguided, it’s dangerous.'”
“Homelessness amid coronavirus: Drastic times call for radical solutions”
by Naomi Ishisaka, The Seattle Times – Article link
April 27, 2020
Ishisaka speaks with member organization Executive Director, Colleen Ecohawk, Chief Seattle Club, and Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger about radical solutions needed to address COVID-19
“Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, said our failure to provide for the most basic needs for sanitation, shelter and safety indicates how “desperately inadequate” our response to homelessness was before the pandemic.
To address both what is transformational and what’s necessary, in the short term, she estimated we need 7,000 to 10,000 individual rooms — hotels, motels, dormitories, etc. San Francisco, for example, recently voted to rent 7,000 hotel rooms to shelter unhoused people. Eisinger said civic institutions like universities, schools and transit agencies should be enlisted to convert empty facilities at their disposal to provide shelter and sanitation.
Longer term, Eisinger said, we need to start rapidly purchasing buildings for housing and investing in the wraparound support needed to dramatically scale up the number of beds available that are individual spaces, with doors and sanitation connected to the sewer system — from a couple of hundred new units of permanent supportive housing a year to more like thousands, and fast.
To pay for this investment, Eisinger said we need to overhaul our upside-down state tax system, which has the terrible distinction of being the most regressive in the country. With no income tax, poor and lower income residents carry a heavier burden through sales taxes. There has never been political will for the changes needed before, but maybe this pandemic will finally cause us to rethink our priorities.
“[Homelessness] is something that we have normalized and it is not normal. It cannot be normal. And in a pandemic, I hope that it becomes abundantly clear that everybody’s health is related to everybody else’s health,” Eisinger said.
Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club, said she’s been reminded of lessons she learned from a Lakota elder and teacher, who taught her that we belong to one another. We are all related. How must we care for our siblings? What responsibility do we have to each other?”
“Cities Cut Back Homeless Sweeps During Crisis. Activists Hope They’ll Stop For Good.”
by Erica C. Barnett, HuffPost – Article link
April 21, 2020
“It shouldn’t take a pandemic for people to understand how extremely damaging it is to uproot people, discard their personal possessions and survival gear, and not give them a solution to their homelessness,” said Alison Eisinger, head of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness and a vocal opponent of encampment sweeps.
…Eisinger, from the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, hopes that cities will go further and end encampment sweeps for good.
“I have to believe that one day not too far away, we will look back on sweeps as a practice that was just as misguided as stop-and-frisk and other practices that turned out to be not only deeply inequitable and rooted in racism or hatred of poor people, but also completely counterproductive,” she said.
“Seattle will reopen 5 library bathrooms during coronavirus pandemic”
by Sydney Brownstone and Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times – Article link
April 21, 2020
“The CDC guidelines are clear: People need access to running water, soap and toilets,” Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness executive director Alison Eisinger told The Seattle Times on April 10. “Porta Potties and handwashing stations are a part, but only a part, of what any municipality needs to do to respond in general as well as in a crisis.”
…The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness recommends “everybody in the city be within a half a mile or less of a working toilet and a way to wash their hands,” Eisinger said.
“COVID-19 spurs reckoning in crowded homeless shelter”
by David Kroman, Crosscut – Article link
April 11, 2020
Kroman writes about the process of DESC relocating their shelter to the Red Lion in Renton, speaking with member organization Executive Director Daniel Malone, DESC, and Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger.
“For a long time we’ve made that difficult choice of prioritizing quantity over quality because it’s better to have someone indoors than it is to be outdoors,” said Daniel Malone, executive director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center. “I don’t think that’s really an acceptable stance for us to have anymore.”
He added, “I hope that we as a society do not go back to the status quo from February and instead we’ll say, ‘that way of doing things is a relic of the past and we’re going to choose to do things differently.’”
Alison Eisinger, director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, was cheered by the move, but said it highlights the need for a systemwide shift beyond the coronavirus. “Right now there is an opportunity to say we are never going back to the way it was before,” she said.
…“In a post-COVID world, is it ever appropriate to bring people back to a congregate setting?” she said. “Right now, we’re feeling like it will never be appropriate to bring them back.”
“Here’s what the Seattle area has – and hasn’t – done to protect its homeless population from coronavirus”
by Sydney Brownstone and Anna Patrick, The Seattle Times – Article link
April 11, 2020
“What we are seeing unfold in our city is a truly shocking experience,” Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness executive director Alison Eisinger told the Seattle City Council this week.
“King County faces 2 outbreaks at once, as hepatitis A spreads amid coronavirus pandemic”
by Sydney Brownstone and Scott Greenstone, The Seattle Times – Article link
April 8, 2020
Read this article about a Seattle City Council meeting for which the Coalition helped organize a panel of service providers to speak about their experiences in the field and the need for a deep investment in access to hygiene. “What we are seeing unfold in our city is a truly shocking experience,” Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, told council members.
“Limited bathroom access, business closures leave Seattle’s homeless population vulnerable amid Covid-19 pandemic”
by Kate Walters, KUOW – Article link
April 8, 2020
“There are thousands of people who do not have the privilege or luxury of being able to meet their own bodily needs on a regular, dignified basis and that is contributing to their serious health vulnerabilities,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.
Eisinger and others are urging the city to reopen bathroom access in public buildings and use National Guard members to staff them, while taking a trauma-informed approach.
“How the Coronavirus is Affecting Washington’s Homeless Population”
by The Takeaway, WNYC Studios – Listen here
March 23, 2020
“We are starting from a deficit that’s so deep, because as everybody knows, nationally we have not done the necessary things that you would do if you were serious about intervening.” Alison Eisinger spoke with host Duarte Geraldino on NPR program The Takeaway about the situation on the ground for people experiencing homelessness in our community, and the people and organizations trying to help. We need more competent people to staff programs, keep doors and vital services open. We need more financial resources. We need PPE for front line workers. We need a financial pool to raise their wages and cover PTO. We know that people at King County and Public Health are working hard and fast to set up isolation and quarantine sites with skilled staff – we need more, and we need them now. We are starting from behind.
“Most encampment removals in Seattle put on ‘pause’ to prioritize coronavirus outreach, city says”
by Sydney Brownstone and Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times – Article link
March 17, 2020
“The city’s practices have caused hardship, damage and harm, and the new plan is long overdue,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.
“Fears mount about impact of coronavirus on homeless”
by Jeff Stein and Tracy Jan, The Washington Post – Article here
March 15, 2020
In Seattle, homeless outreach workers are adopting “practical” emergency solutions such as passing out homemade hand sanitizers along with other emergency supplies to help people “shelter in place” while government officials build modular “isolation units” to quarantine people who have fallen ill, said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. Officials anticipate the need for several thousand such units. Eisinger said the National Guard should be mobilized to help support the response.
“How the Coronavirus is Affecting Washington’s Homeless Population”
by The Takeaway, WNYC Studios – Listen here.
March 12, 2020
Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger was on The Takeaway. She explained that people who are homeless are not more likely to have COVID-19, but they are more susceptible to getting it and have severe health consequences.
“Homeless amid the coronavirus outbreak”
by Ian Morse, Al Jazeera – Article Link
March 11, 2020
“It’s really clear we’ve been in a public health crisis,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director at the Seattle-King County Coalition on Homelessness.
“Honestly the most pressing need is housing, but that was also the most important need before a pandemic hit,” Eisinger told Al Jazeera. “The immediate need is for dollars.”
“Homeless outreach program REACH asks to change its relationship with the city’s Navigation Team”
by Ashley Archibald, Real Change
July 24, 2019
A must-read investigation about what let REACH staff to decide they would no longer follow the city of Seattle’s deeply flawed Navigation Team response to people who are homeless, without shelter, and forced to live in public spaces. “We do not see a movement in the Navigation Team operations toward more trauma-informed, person-centered outreach, as was discussed last year,” [wrote Chloe Gale, Co-Director of REACH.] Even after the team of outreach workers discovered the body of someone who had been part of the group they were working with, and asked to postpone a Navigation Team sweep, the Navigation Team manager refused a delay. “Trauma informed care is more than just a title — it is a nationally recognized best practice that the city says that it follows, said Alison Eisinger, executive director of Seattle King County Coalition on Homelessness. “Honestly, when one of the most skilled outreach teams with decades of experience tells the city of Seattle that the mandate that they are insisting on for service delivery is counterproductive to effective care and treatment, we should listen,” Eisinger said. “That says a lot.” Read the full article here.
“Poster Encourages Seattleites to Narc on Homeless People by Using the “Find It, Fix It” App”
by Rich Smith, The Stranger
July 22, 2019
Many people in our community are appalled at the idea that people should use a city repair app to report the existence of people who are homeless. There’s a lot of attention to the poster urging people to do that with Seattle’s “Find It, Fix It” app, but we’re focusing on what the city is doing to with millions of public dollars other than pushing people around and pretending that this will improve health and safety or satisfy anyone.
“Alison Eisinger, executive director at the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, couldn’t disagree with this use of the app more. “People who print or follow instructions from that sign ought to have their heads and hearts examined—along with their understanding of the word ‘inhumane,'” she wrote in an email. “There is a fundamental difference between reporting a broken sidewalk, pothole, or other city infrastructure in need of repair and asking for a municipal response to human beings who don’t have the most basic of basics—a home.” Eisinger called on Seattle to do more to meet people’s needs for housing, and in the meantime implored city officials to “reject simplistic and cynical efforts to treat this social and economic storm as something to be addressed by an app.” Read the full article here.
“A winning equation: donations, volunteers”
by The Seattle Times Editorial Board
July 21, 2019
The Seattle Times Editorial Board writes about a visit to Project Cool backpack filling days. Solid Ground Children’s Advocacte Danthanh Trinh shares about how students at Broadview Emergency Shelter feel about the supplies: “They’re really excited,” Trinh said of the responses to the backpacks. “A lot of times, the kids come and they don’t have anything with them.” Read the full article here.
“Seattle City Council votes to adjust human-services contracts as cost of living rises”
by Brian Contreras, The Seattle Times
July 15, 2019
Brian Contreras covers the unanimous Seattle City Council vote to pass Council Bill 119542 to ensure that human=services contracts keep up with inflation. The Coalition worked on this with partners and were glad to see this final vote. Alison Eisinger, Executive Director, was quoted saying “City contracts do not keep up with the increasing cost of doing business in this rapidly growing, increasingly expensive city,” she said. “And there have been some years in which the human services organizations which provide a whole range of vital services for people in our city get no inflation adjustment.” Read the full article here.
“Housing the homeless: The case for an employee hours tax”
Op-ed by Lisa Daugaard and Alison Eisinger
April 1, 2018
Lisa Daugaard and Alison Eisinger discuss advocates’ support of an employee hours tax and reasons that current spending is not enough. “Contrary to the business groups’ rhetoric, we are getting value from Seattle’s current spending. Thousands of people are being sheltered and housed every night and thousands more have homes thanks to past investments and the current resourcefulness of homeless service providers. Seattle innovation is proving that housing people who heavily utilize crisis, health and criminal justice systems reduces burdens on those systems and costs to the public. People are “exiting” homelessness in higher-than-ever numbers, but the overall hot economy is making the housing affordability crisis ever worse.” Read the full article here.
“Critics say draft plan from county task force on homelessness underwhelms”
by Josh Kelety, Federal Way Mirror
March 8, 2018
Josh Kelety discusses the draft recommendations from the One Table task force convened by King County, the City of Seattle, and the City of Auburn. He quotes Alison Eisinger, One Table member, as saying that the draft “does not reflect an accurate response to the scale of the crisis.” Eisinger, who is a member of the affordable housing “workgroup” within the task force, said that the draft’s call for 5,000 additional affordable homes is woefully inadequate.
“When I think about being bold, when I think about being strategic, when I think about being realistic about what this region needs, 5,000 falls short,” Eisinger said. “Good thing that it is only a draft.” Read the full article here.
“Seattle Proposes New Tax on Businesses to Fund Affordable Housing”
by Josh Cohen, Next City
March 8, 2018
Josh Cohen discusses the proposal of Seattle’s Progressive Revenue Task Force for the city to implement an Employee Hours Tax, providing background on Seattle’s regressive tax system and interviewing Alison Eisinger. Read the full article here.
“Should the City Expand its Homeless Outreach?”
by Josh Kelety, Seattle Weekly
January 15, 2018
Josh Kelety discusses the City Council’s November 2017 decision to cut funding for an additional Navigation Team, quoting Alison Eisinger: “I think it was a wise decision to hold off,” she said, arguing that without an abundance of investments in affordable housing and emergency shelter, there is only so much that outreach workers can do to get people off the streets permanently. “In the absence of housing, indoor shelter, and additional shelter alternatives, the tiny houses, and tent cities, it is extremely limited in how effective an outreach team will be.” Read the full article here.
“Funding Cliff: City’s grand funding process boosts some, cuts others”
by Ashley Archibald, Real Change
November 29, 2017
Ashley Archibald provides a high level summary of the 2017 Seattle Human Services Department RFP for Homeless Services spending results and quotes Alison Eisinger, who addresses the fact that we are not going to be able to make progress without additional resources. Read the full article here.
“Will Seattle see more homeless when spending changes hit?”
by David Kroman, Crosscut
November 15, 2017
David Kroman discusses the upcoming Seattle Human Services Department RFP results announcement and the impacts that Alison Eisinger, Coalition director, and Daniel Malone, Director of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) think the results may have on people who are experiencing homelessness. Read the full article here.
“Helping homeless students with backpacks, a federal law and advocacy”
by Hillary Coleman, the Coalition’s Community Projects Manager
August 30, 2017
Hillary Coleman discusses the crisis of student homelessness in King County, the federal McKinney-Vento law, and the Coalition’s work providing support. She offers three ways people can support thousands of students experiencing homelessness – supporting students and teachers with supplies, paying attention to policies that pose barriers and speaking up, and joining the Coalition’s advocacy efforts. Read the full article here.
“Help Homeless Students Get Ready for School”
by Seattle Times Editorial Board
August 16, 2017
The Seattle Times Editorial Board highlights Project Cool and the Coalition on Homelessness’ work to support homeless students through an interview with Coalition Executive Director, Alison Eisinger, who states that “We want to make sure kids who are experiencing homelessness get to have the same education, as well as the same experiences, as their housed peers.” Read the full article here.
“Join tech workers in helping homeless youth”
by Seattle Times Editorial Board
July 23, 2017
The Seattle Times Editorial Board, which runs a summer fundraiser benefitting Project Cool, shares the experience of Brian Retford, a member of Seatech4housing, a group that donated 1,000 four-gigabit flash drives to Project Cool in 2017 and has been doing other important advocacy around homelessness and housing in the area. Read the full article here.
“August 2017 Charity of the Month: Project Cool”
by My Northwest
August 1, 2017
Project Cool is named the Bonneville Seattle Charity of the Month for August 2017 for their support for students who are experiencing homelessness. Read the full announcement here.
“Homelessness Advocates in Budget Fight with Mayor Murray”
by Josh Feit, Seattle Met
Josh Feit discusses the urgency of emergency funding for Seattle to get people off of the streets and into beds. Alison Eisinger, Coalition Director, talks about the present state of emergency and the need to put available funds into shelters now. Read the full article here.
“Why Goverments Declare a Homeless State of Emergency”
by J.B. Wogan, Governing
J.B. Wogan compares the recent declarations of states of emergency in L.A., Portland/Multnomah County, Hawaii, and Seattle/King County. Alison Eisinger, Executive Director at the Coalition, discusses the implications of the declarations in Seattle and King County, and the need for a strong emergency response. Read more here.
“Seattle Homeless Crisis: NAACP Says Plan Must Look at Race”
by Jamala Henderson, KUOW
Jamala Henderson discusses racial disparities in the population of people in emergency shelters in Seattle, and how Mayor Murray’s declaration of a state of emergency must recognize these disparities in the community. Alison Eisinger, Coalition Director, shares her thoughts on how resources can be marshaled now to bring people indoors. Listen here.
“Project Cool helps homeless students head back to school”
by Margaret Santjer, Seattle’s Child
Margaret Santjer gives an overview of Project Cool for Back-to-School and how it works to provide students with the basic supplies necessary for attending school. Rebecca Roy, Community Projects Manager at the Coalition, talks about the growing need for this program in our community. Read the article here.
“What the Numbers Show”
by Aaron Burkhalter, Real Change
Aaron Burkhalter breaks down the 2015 One Night Count figure and mentions notable changes in patterns of homelessness in King County. Coalition Director, Alison Eisinger, talks about why investing in homeless intervention programs really works. Read more here.
“No Shelter: Counting the Homeless in Seattle“
by Mary Anne Mercer, Huffington Post
Mary Anne Mercer offers a candid, first-hand account of her experience participating in the 2015 One Night Count. Read the full piece here.
“Homeless Coalition Fighting For Right To Use Federal Building”
by Marcie Sillman & Amina Al-Sadi, KUOW
Marcie Sillman talks to Alison Eisinger, director of the Coalition on Homelessness, about why local homeless advocacy groups are protesting the rejection of their application to convert the Old Federal Reserve building into a comprehensive homeless service center in downtown Seattle. Listen here.
“Homeless advocates say they should get former Fed building”
by Casey Jaywork, Publicola – SeattleMet
Homeless groups call foul on fast-track rejection of proposed service center
Read the full piece here.
“Sleeping with Strangers: The Overnight Shift at a Homeless Shelter”
by Rebecca Brown, the Stranger
Local author, Rebecca Brown, poignantly describes a shift working overnight at her church’s homeless shelter while also explaining the larger crisis of homelessness in our region through citing numbers from the 2013 One Night Count. “This past January, the One Night Count conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness found almost 9,000 people needed beds. Around 2,736 people were sleeping on the streets, in doorways or cars or tents or under trees or on the sidewalks. These numbers, of course, do not include everyone who doesn’t have a bed; some people hide from people who want to count them.” Read the full piece here.
Project Cool in the news:
Readers of The Seattle Times, through the paper’s Fund for the Needy, donate to three worthy organizations helping homeless students – including Project Cool for Back-to-School!
Read what the editors have written about Project Cool:
Many helping hands (August 16, 2012)
The tools of learning are a powerful gift (July 19, 2012)
Stability in a Backpack (August 1, 2011)
“King County One Night Count: A different form of advocacy bridging the gap”
by Michael Blumson
Dedicated volunteer Counter Michael Blumson wrote about the 2012 One Night Count on the Firesteel blog: “The One Night Count is our best source of data describing our society’s homelessness status on the macro-scale, and it directly ties to the amount of public funds sent to our counties and cities. But also I think the count represents advocacy that is fundamentally different than the other forms of service in the community. This isn’t to say it’s more valuable. Volunteering labor, donating money, writing letters, and speaking to legislators are the legs on which we stand or fall in this fight against homelessness. But the count for me bridges the gap between direct service and the behind-the-scenes work. It’s the thing that keeps the images and faces of homelessness fresh in our minds when we speak to legislators and tell them that solving this problem really matters.”
Read the full piece here
“One Night Count illuminates King County’s unsheltered homeless population”
The Neighborhood House newspaper, The Voice, ran a piece highlighting the involvement of public housing authority staff as volunteers in the 2012 One Night Count.
“Annual One Night Count finds 73 living without shelter in Renton”
by Dean Radord, Renton Reporter
“The One Night Count was an incredible and humbling experience”
In 2011, Alan Golston with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shared his thoughts about the One Night Count on the Foundation’s blog.
“The New Untouchables: Down and Out and Abandoned”
by Eric Pianin, originally published on-line November 2, 2011 at The Fiscal Times.com
This well-written article explains the national trend away from states providing basic assistance to people who do not qualify for federal benefits. Coalition Executive Director Alison Eisinger is quoted explaining what cuts to general assistance mean for people in Washington. See an excerpt below:
“For years, hundreds of thousands of people in dire straits – mentally or physically disabled, homeless and unemployed, ineligible for federal welfare, disability, or food subsidies – could generally count on state or local government largesse for modest handouts of cash to help scrape by. Under the rubric of “General Assistance,” these down-and-out Americans received modest payments – often no more than a few hundred dollars a month – to help defray the cost of necessities including rent, food, clothing, toilet paper, aspirin, phone cards, and bus tickets.
But in the midst of the worst recession of modern times and changing attitudes about the poor, many states have been gradually chipping away at general assistance programs or eliminating them altogether. Only 30 of 50 states currently offer any form of general assistance – down from 38 in 1989. And just this week, Washington State formally ended its “Disability Lifeline” program for an estimated 18,000 to 22,000 economically desperate residents.”
In December 3, 2010, the Coalition was one of 34 community organizations that signed on to a letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington to the U.S. Department of Justice, requesting an investigation into patterns or practices of misconduct by the Seattle Police Department. Read the original letter here.
In October, the Coalition and community partners hosted a county-wide Summit: “Supporting Students who are Homeless in King County: McKinney-Vento 201” which was the first large-scale undertaking to bring school personnel together with service providers to learn about helping homeless students.
In October 2010, Coalition and community partners planned and hosted a lively county-wide summit on McKinney-Vento educational rights for homeless students, and fostering collaboration across systems to support students and their families. More than 175 people – staff from the ten largest school districts in King County, and from area social service agencies and housing providers, as well as other community stakeholders – took part. This event built on our annual workshop covering the basics of the federal law (“McKinney-Vento 101”), which takes place each year before the beginning of school.
The Coalition Engages in Successful Campaign to Open the Red Doors for Winter Shelter at Seattle City Hall
In the fall of 2010, the Coalition re-activated its “Open the Red Doors” campaign to convince the Seattle City Council to open the basement of City Hall as nightly shelter for all six months of winter. Prior to this, Seattle had operated the shelter on a ‘severe weather only” basis on especially cold and wet nights, opening at 9.00 p.m. and requiring people to leave by 6.00 a.m. Thanks to strong public presence at budget hearings, many supportive calls and e-mails from Coalition members, friends, and allies, and the leadership of several city council members, the campaign was a success. Beginning in January 2011 there will be nightly access to shelter with better hours and services, and greater consistency for 75 women and men during six winter months (October – March).
Following the August 30, 2010 shooting death of Seattle resident John T. Williams by a Seattle Police Officer, the Coalition released this statement.
In May, the Coalition was honored for “visionary support of affordable housing in Washington State” with the 2010 Leadership in Advocacy Award from the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. We are proud to have received this public acknowledgment of our members’ readiness to speak up, write, call, and e-mail elected officials at every level about homelessness and affordable housing!
“Yearly count finds fewer homeless in King County”
By Brian Rosenthal, The Seattle Times. Originally published January 29, 2010