Talking about homelessness with a kid? Here's how our reporter did it | KUOW News and Information

Talking about homelessness with a kid? Here's how our reporter did it

Apr 19, 2018

Eleven-year-old Nina Parry noticed a man sitting outside her neighborhood QFC. She and her mom brought him food. But there were others.

“Ever since I can remember, I've been seeing homeless people asking for money or just sitting in the streets being cold,” she said.


To learn more, she decided to report on homelessness for her fifth-grade class at Hazel Wolf K-8 STEM School in North Seattle. She reached out to KUOW using our question submission form. Reporter Kate Walters followed up.

This is their conversation, edited for length.

Nina: What causes homelessness in Seattle?

Kate: First, let’s recap how big this story is. We know there are nearly 4,000 people sleeping on the street in Seattle. About 4,500 more people are sleeping in things like shelters. County-wide it balloons out to more than 11,000 people.

There are as many causes for homelessness as there are homeless people. But a few root causes can be true for a lot of different people.

One is that rents have skyrocketed in recent years. Some people just can't afford to live in their homes anymore.

Another cause is a lack of treatment options for mental health and addiction.

Linda Johnson, 33, lived with her two children in an apartment. She had a job, but her income was not enough after her third child was born. Her landlord did some repairs and raised her rent to $1,000 from $750, plus utilities. Johnson and her family were out on a few weeks’ notice with no place to go. Shelters were full. She had an infant, so agencies found the money to put her in a hotel. The money ran out, and shelters were still full. So the family went back to sleeping in the car.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Tiffany Hick's family was able to get an apartment in Kent in August of 2015. They stayed there until the next July, when their rent was raised from $1,275 a month to $1,875 a month. 'They gave us a week to pay for it,' Tiffany said. 'We didn't have that, so we had to leave.'
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
Kevin Boggs in his tent in the former homeless camp known as the Jungle, which was shut down by the City of Seattle. Boggs moved into the Jungle on Dec. 1, 2016. He discovered it after leaving a methadone clinic where he was receiving treatment for a heroin addiction. 'You need a community to survive in a hostile environment, you cannot do it alone,' Boggs said of his living situation at that time. 'This is my not alone.'
Credit KUOW Photo/Mike Kane

Nina: Does racism play a role in being homeless in our area?

Kate: Yes. Black people in Seattle and King County are five times more likely to be homeless than their white neighbors; Native Americans in the community are seven times more likely to be homeless than their white neighbors.

It comes with systemic racism. The black population is overrepresented in the criminal justice system.

When people leave jail, they can face real barriers trying to find employment and housing. Housing discrimination has also been a problem with people of color for a long time.

Credit KUOW Graphic/Kara McDermott

Stephanie Macklin Jones lives at the Everspring Inn on Aurora with her husband and 10-year-old twins. The YWCA put them up in the motel while they looked for housing in Tacoma. 'When you're so used to having your own for so long, and then you have to be in a place like this, it's hard,' she said. 'I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm happy because we've got a roof over our head.'
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Nina: How does a lack of a place to live affect people's personal lives and health?

Kate: A woman that I’ve met up with multiple times over the last few years has been homeless on and off, living on the streets or in shelters. She told me that she misses being able to do laundry or cook a meal or have a shower or go to the bathroom. Living outside she was stressed, because she was afraid to go to sleep.

Hear more: I lived in my car in Ballard for three years

Another woman told me that, especially in winter, when people are living outside and they get wet, they can't get dry very easily. They are constantly damp for a period of time which can be really bad; it's difficult to keep sores or wounds clean.

It can also be difficult to take some regular medications if you don't know when you're going to eat next.

Rene Reynoso makes pancakes on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, in her tiny home at the Licton Springs Tiny House Village on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle. Licton is the only low-barrier city-sanctioned site in Seattle, meaning residents don't have to be sober to live in one of the tiny homes.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Kate: I don't know if I would have been thinking about this topic when I was your age. I'm curious why you decided to do a report about homelessness in the city.

Nina: I just kind of thought about what would happen if people thought about it more. It would be better if people knew what impact it had on our city. It's not just one person's problem. It affects all of us.

Volunteers count people experiencing homelessness during the annual King County Point-In-Time count on Friday, January 25, 2018. Results from this count are expected to be released in May.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
A sign hangs on a fence outside of the Licton Springs Tiny House Village on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, on Aurora Avenue North in Seattle.
Credit KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Produced for the web by Bond Huberman.

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