Homelessness Touches UUC
Homelessness impacts members of our congregation personally. Members may have been homeless themselves, fear becoming homeless, have family or friends who are homeless, or have worked with folks who are. As shared in previous articles, representatives of three UUC social justice groups – the Social Justice Steering Committee, Teen Feed, and our collaboration with Lake City Partners – are exploring the possibility of UUC hosting SHARE’s Tent City 3 in the next year. We invite you into this exploration.
Opportunities to Learn More
Sunday, October 16, and Sunday, November 6, after each service in the Knatvold room (in person options), and on Wednesday, October 19, and Monday, November 7, from 7:30–8:30 p.m. via Zoom (find the links in the UUC calendar).
For background on the discernment effort, check out the TC3 webpage.
Members of Our Congregation Personally Experience Homelessness
Our church is located in a middle-class neighborhood and some congregants may view our members as all financially comfortable and not including folks who have themselves experienced homelessness.
Our Senior Minister, Rev. Jon Luopa shares:
I know of several members of our congregation who have experienced homelessness, and can share two instances, both involving mental illness. Some of the other situations involve financial hardship, not mental illness or addiction, but I would violate confidentiality to share the details.
When I arrived here, we had a member who had been homeless off and on. When he was homeless he lived in his car. He was chronically unemployable due to his mental illness. When he had housing, we’d help pay the rent on occasion. He died of a heart attack when living in his car. He was only 50 years old.
A second situation: a bright, handsome UW freshman began showing signs of mental illness when he was 20. This situation got progressively worse and he ended up being homeless, in and out of shelters. When sheltered he often lost all of his meager possessions due to theft. I visited him when he was hospitalized and in prison due to drug charges. A very sad story. He stopped taking his meds. No contact lately but I have seen him downtown on the street.
Members of Our Congregation May Teeter on the Brink of Homelessness
Long-time UUC member Nick Barnard says:
In 2015, my rent almost doubled. I had recently gone through a series of temporary jobs and was just starting to get myself on a more solid financial footing. I did not have the financial ability to pay such a steep increase, so I made the decision to move out. But the rental housing market was tight and I couldn’t find a place right away.
When the move-out date approached, I had not yet found a new apartment. I asked members of the UUC Handbell Choir for boxes I could use for moving out. UUC member Alison Giesy asked me where my new place was. When I told Alison I didn’t have anywhere lined up, without missing a beat she offered me a spare bedroom in her home. I stayed there for a couple weeks until I had a new place. Without my community to lean on, I very easily might have ended up without a roof over my head.
Members of Our Congregation Have Loved Ones & Friends Who Are Homeless
Laurie Mann, daughter of long-time, now deceased member Pat Mann, recently started attending UUC. Her brother on the east coast has long been homeless. She shares:
My younger brother has lived unhoused for 25 years—he sleeps in a Philadelphia park near the Art Museum. Hunched like a question mark, he avoids shelters because of their sobriety rules, even in the winter. He started drinking after he became homeless, and has been beaten so many times that his once keen mind is now dull. His children and I suspect that trauma and mental illness have contributed to his paralysis, but we will never know.
My brother is not functional enough to be housed in a place like Tent City 3 that does not permit residents to use alcohol (or drugs) on site. But if he were ever in recovery I would hope he could find transitional housing like Tent City 3. When I see the unhoused here in Seattle, I find myself wondering if they are safe, and if their families know where they are.
Nick Barnard also offers:
I have a friend who was sleeping on couches at friends’ homes in 2013 and 2014 for economic reasons. (That means she was not homeless under the official US Government definition). She stayed with me in my single bedroom apartment, but after three or four months, I had to ask her to leave, even though she was a good guest. I knew that she would be unhoused and relying on the emergency shelter system: sleeping in church basements, where she would check in around 9 p.m., fall asleep by 10 or 11 p.m., and be required to leave the shelter at 6 a.m. A few nights when things were messed up with the shelter I welcomed her back at my apartment. She is now out of the shelter system, living with friends.