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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 04
The Dusty 45s Billy Joe Huels talks frankly about homelessness
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The Dusty 45s Billy Joe Huels talks frankly about homelessness

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

From those crouched under the I-5 bridge in the International District to those curled up in blankets near the Ferry Terminal, life is undoubtedly rough for the hundreds of homeless people living throughout Seattle. But help is available, in the form of emergency shelters and rehabilitative centers, to name just two methods in which our local community assists in getting these unfortunate folks back into a stable place in society. 'Gimme Shelter: A Benefit Concert to End Homelessness' is an event hosted by Billy Joe Huels, lead vocalist of local rockabilly act The Dusty 45s who experienced the pain of this problem on a personal level when his own brother went from successful Wall Street broker to homeless man in a short matter of time.

The concert, scheduled for February 3 at The Showbox Market, features a headlining performance by The Dusty 45s and additional sets by The Maldives, Lazy Susan, The Young Evils, Betsey Olson, Davidson Hart Kingsberry, and The Purrs. Visit www.showboxonline.com for ticket information.

Huels' band is also participating in the Sea-Tac Airport music initiative, Experience the City of Music that launches January 28 with an afternoon of live performances at the airport.

I got in touch with Huels on a very busy week via email, and he provided more insight to the 'Gimme Shelter' event, benefiting local agency DESC (www.desc.org).

Albert Rodriguez: In your perception, how bad is the Seattle homelessness problem?

Billy Joel Huels: Look around and you can see that there are far too many people on our streets, living under our bridges, struggling to find food, warmth, shelter, and safety. The good news is that Seattle has some great organizations that reach out to these folks and try to get them back on their feet and in a stable situation.

Rodriguez: Your brother was homeless, but got help and support. How crucial is having well-funded local shelters for the homeless?

Huels: No one wants to be living outdoors during a Seattle winter. Providing temporary food and shelter is great, but that's simply not enough to make a real change in these people's lives. My brother struggles with mental illness and was homeless for nearly a decade. It's the approach that the DESC uses - placing the most vulnerable homeless people in supported housing units - that really makes the difference. Without funding for organizations like DESC, the most vulnerable can't make it off the streets. They cycle through mental hospitals, jail, and the streets year after year. So I would say funding is crucial. And it's proven to save taxpayers money in the long run.

Rodriguez: Will most or all of the proceeds from 'Gimme Shelter' go to the DESC agency, and do you know exactly what the money will be used for specifically?

Huels: All proceeds from ticket sales and any money raised the night of the concert will go directly to fund DESC programs, which are all focused on the most vulnerable, helpless individuals on our streets.

Rodriguez: For anyone that can't make it to the show, how can they help end homelessness here in Seattle?

Huels: 'Gimme Shelter' isn't just about raising funds, it's about creating a community of compassion and awareness for the homeless. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that you can find on the DESC's website (www.desc.org). And making a donation couldn't be easier. Just text DESC to 50555 to donate $10. You can donate up to three times. Or you can make donations to the DESC via their website.

Rodriguez: The Dusty 45s are also playing in Sea-Tac Airport's music initiative, Experience the City of Music, with a performance at the airport on Saturday afternoon. Can you tell us a bit more about the project and/or performance?

Huels: I was actually not familiar with the project until we were asked to play the kickoff event this Saturday. It's a great idea to showcase the musically creative talent in Seattle. I hope it will encompass the diversity of our arts scene. Seattle has one of the most vibrant theater cultures in the country.

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