Seattle City Council Members Investigate How Lockers Could Help Homeless

Feb 19, 2014

"I would say 9 out of 10 people, when they see someone carrying two, three bags with them, they instantly peg them as homeless," Isaac Pace told Marcie Sillman on The Record.

Pace is a volunteer for SHARE, a homeless advocacy group in Seattle. He has also been without a permanent home for about 15 years.

Pace uses a locker at a homeless shelter to store his belongings. He said that having more locker spaces available for the homeless would allow them to go to job interviews or doctor’s appointments without the fear that their possessions will be stolen or discarded.

I would say 9 out of 10 people, when they see someone carrying two, three bags with them, they instantly peg them as homeless.

“I would have a harder time going to job interviews because I would walk in with the bags and they would instantly see me as homeless and not want anything to do with me,” Pace said. He had a similar experience going back to school; teachers were doubtful that he could show up on time or be a good fit in the classroom.

Seattle City Council members Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell recently posted a guest piece on The Stranger arguing for making more lockers available to the homeless by drawing from the example of other cities such as Lisbon, Berkeley, Madison and Sacramento. Pace said that Bagshaw’s office has reached out to SHARE for information on how the organization’s current model works.

Pace said that absolutely, Seattle needs more lockers. Many shelters don’t allow storage, others only have small bins – just enough space for a few articles of clothing, according to Pace.

"Some people, they want to be homeless, they don’t want to change. They’re perfectly happy carrying their bags around,” Pace said. “But most of the homeless people in the city – and not just the city of Seattle but King County – say that not having that locker space available is making it harder for them to be able to get their life back on track."

Pace said he’s one of the people trying to get his life on track. He wants to get back to school to study “anything and everything to do with computers.”

Lockers can have a big impact on the lives of the homeless, but Pace said there are other ways to serve the homeless community in the city.

“More services as far as job retraining – not just to the point where they train you and say, ‘OK, you have a skill, now go look for work,’ but more to the point where they train you in a certain trade or skill and then help you get a job after you get done with that work training,” he said. “And also, more free services – not stuff that is low cost to homeless people, but more free services.”

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.