House People Living Outside in Seattle Now

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April 13, 2020

Dear Governor Inslee and to Whom it May Concern:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community is joining with the many faith communities in Seattle to ask that our lawmakers find sufficient commercial properties to house every single homeless resident of our state. Caring for this vulnerable and often over-looked community is a broadly held value for many of our churches and community members; we're sharing this letter with you, as well as asking members of the Seattle community and your constituents to sign and share their thoughts with you as well.

Our concern is that in a state with over 10,000 homeless residents, issuing a "stay-at-home" order without ensuring the means of universal shelter to all Washingtonians is grossly inadequate, and could even exacerbate the global health crisis that we are weathering.

Following the example of California (which by Executive Order began commandeering hotels for COVID-19 patients this month), as well the UK (who pledged to house all unsheltered people within a week), we are asking that Washington State follow suit - particularly with a priority on commandeering commercial properties such as hotels for the immediate sheltering of homeless Washingtonians. While our existing shelters, supportive housing facilities, and faith communities must all contribute to this effort, we know that the safest options for our collective public health are shelter spaces that permit for adequate social distancing and quarantine per the guidelines of the WHO and the CDC. This means a large number of individual and family-sized units - with individual cooking and bathroom facilities - must be made immediately available to all who need them, rather than warehousing large numbers of people in one facility and increasing the risk of exposure to entire crowds.

Washington State has the legal authority to exercise this Executive Order in the face of a public health crisis - and we would assert also has the moral, political, and economic obligation to do so in order to save countless lives. Mass homelessness was already at critical levels in our state prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are now being forced to confront the reality that the life-and-death problems faced by homeless Washingtonians are not only theirs to bear, but epidemiologically impact our shared fate.

As long as this virus spreads, the public health realities for all Washingtonians - the unhoused and the housed - will be made worse if thousands of our State's residents cannot access healthy and safe shelter. We urge you to enact this executive order to save lives immediately.

Sincerely –
Rev. Dr. Liz Mosbo VerHage, Associate Pastor; Quest Church (Seattle)

Director of the Bridge Care Center, Jen Manlief; Quest Church (Seattle)


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