“SHARE is Seattle Housing and Resource Effort (co-ed). WHEEL is the Women’s Housing, Equality and Enhancement League (women-only). They are partner organizations of homeless and formerly homeless men and women. All of the efforts are self-managed; run by the homeless members themselves. They are King County’s largest shelter network, with 15 indoor shelters and 2 Tent Cities. In addition to shelters and Tent Cities, we facilitate a Storage Locker Program and a Housing-For-Work Program called SHARE2. It is a self-help group.”
“SHARE was founded in 1990 and WHEEL was founded in 1993. Together, SHARE and WHEEL educate our community about the causes and effects of homelessness, build bridges with homed people to address those issues, and actively lobby to change policies that oppress homeless people.”
As of early 2012, SHARE/WHEEL supports two Tent Cities: Tent City 3 on the western side of Lake Washington and Tent City 4 on the east side. For more in-depth details on the valuable work SHARE/WHEEL does please visit their website.
Greater Seattle Cares
Greater Seattle Cares, a faith-based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was established in 2005 to provide a vehicle for local communities to connect with Tent City 3 for the provision of the residents’ daily needs and to facilitate their transition to independent living. Greater Seattle Cares works in partnership with the residents of Tent City 3. Over 150 community “partners”, individuals, faith communities, businesses, schools and organizations are committed to helping GSC enhance the quality of life for the residents.
How SHARE/WHEEL and Greater Seattle Cares compare
Scope of action
SHARE/WHEEL has a broad focus of helping all homeless people in King County, through the establishment of indoor and outdoor shelters, through advocacy and through direct action when necessary. Greater Seattle Cares is primarily focused on supplying the needs of people living in Tent City 3 and educating the public.
The leadership of SHARE/WHEEL is made up of homeless and formerly homeless individuals. The leadership of Greater Seattle Cares is made up people who have sufficient means that they have not and are unlikely to become homeless.
Both organizations seek to end homelessness for everyone in King County and to make sure the basic human needs of the Tent City 3 homeless are met until there is no more need. While they work toward these goals in different ways, their approaches are not incompatible.
Many advocates for the homeless suggest that the main cause of homelessness is the lack of affordable housing. They argue that most of the problems that homeless people struggle with are caused by, or exacerbated by the very fact that they are homeless. Or, put another way, if all people had the assurance of an affordable place to live, there would still be unemployment, underemployment, mental health problems, physical health problems, and addiction issues, but it would be easier for those afflicted to resolve their problems.
On the other hand, many professionals and non-professionals who work with the homeless argue that some homelessness is the result of bad choices and that individuals must take ownership of the consequences of their decisions before they can obtain and maintain housing. From that perspective, providing homeless people with “stuff” only allows them to continue being homeless without changing the behavior that led to them being homeless in the first place.
The complex reality is that people are homeless for different reasons. An effective response to homelessness, then, must be complex as well. There is room for generous communities, corporations, churches and individuals to reach out and help support homeless people while they get back on their feet and back into housing – to create a safe place for people to land when life becomes overwhelming. There is a need for government to reconsider public policies that lead to people ending up on the street, and sometimes there is a need for advocates to insist that government not ignore or oversimplify the problem that is homelessness. And there is a need for homeless people to consider the choices they make every day. When they are supported and encouraged to make good choices by their peers and those organizations who advocate for the homeless, then they can reasonable expect to end up homed.
Both SHARE/WHEEL and Greater Seattle Cares are committed to addressing all sides of this issue. Cultural, institutional and individual transformation are essential for the good and well-being of the entire community, those who are homeless and those who are not. We are all about partnering with each other to accomplish what we can not do alone.