Homeless group’s tough tactics draw criticism
by Emily Heffter, Seattle Times, June 2, 2013 (excerpts)
...Almost 100 homeless people packed into City Hall for a meeting of the King County Committee to End Homelessness in April. They were a powerful lobby — the faces of homelessness, each with a story to tell.
They stayed for an hour before crossing the street and lining up to write their names on Scott Morrow’s yellow legal pad.
Anyone who doesn’t sign in with Morrow to show they were there risks being kicked out of their encampment for a week, explained Valerie Siegfried, who has been homeless for a year and a half and lives in a North King County tent encampment.
“If we want to be in a shelter, if we want to stay alive, then we are required to do this,” she said.
This is an unseen cost of staying in shelters operated by SHARE, the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, which provides more taxpayer-funded beds for homeless people than anyone in King County....
Allegations the group has been misusing public money, illegally withholding bus tickets, and forcing the homeless into activism has caught the attention of the Seattle Police Department and FBI. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said his office gave to police emails, financial documents, meeting notes and other records that show possible criminal conduct....
Authorities started investigating this winter after about 60 residents of Tent City 4, in Kirkland, splintered off to form their own camp and were open about their concerns. Now a group of Eastside churches is reconsidering its support of SHARE, said the Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, director of the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness....
The people whom SHARE serves say they are under constant threat of losing shelter or transportation. The obligations that come with living in a SHARE camp or indoor shelter can make it difficult to find and keep jobs, residents say.
In the fall of 2012, SHARE said it needed more bus tickets to get through the winter, but the city and county refused. So SHARE closed down its shelters and set up a camp at the King County Administration Building. Residents said in letters to City Council members that they were told they would be denied shelter after the camp-out if they didn’t participate.
SHARE residents “were told if we didn’t go, we would be barred from all SHARE shelters,” wrote one former camper, Mike Ankerstjerne. “I was looking for a job with fervor, and missed four interviews.”
Another man, Mike Messer, wrote that Morrow “blackmailed us into doing his forced advocacy by threatening us with loss of bus tickets if we didn’t ‘volunteer’ to sleep at the courthouse.”
About two weeks later, SHARE got the bus tickets and reopened its shelters....
Morrow also wields tremendous political power. He has access to hundreds of homeless people who say they are required to show up and sometimes speak at public meetings and are forbidden from talking about SHARE with members of the churches that host them.
To pressure political decision-makers for more resources, SHARE has hosted mandatory camp-outs on council members’ lawns, at the mayor’s home and at the King County Administration Building....
“SHARE is a politically-charged program that provides services and also is a program that expects its participants to stand up for themselves and stand up for issues,” he said....
The organization notes on its monthly reports to the city which of its shelters were closed for a night or two as punishment, which the organization calls “accountability.”
read ... Homeless group’s tough tactics draw criticism
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