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How to help people in the Pacific Northwest experiencing houselessness

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Jae C. Hong / AP
Jae C. Hong / AP

As spring approaches, there is usually a sigh of relief from many, as it means they have officially braved the winter. Warmth and sunshine will be here soon enough, meaning one can forget about the cold of the previous season.

For many in the city though, this promise of a warmer spring is not enough to get them through the chilly, wet conditions of a late Pacific Northwest winter. People who are unhoused need shelter, supplies, and volunteers, among other things, to help them stay warm and survive the season.

This article should serve as a beginner's guide to using your economic privilege to help these people, whom the city (and state) often ignores and harms. This is a reminder that we keep each other safe.

Jae C. Hong / AP  

Care packages
One way to help people experiencing houselessness is to create care packages ready to pass to someone. These are a great way to directly give necessities to those you come across in need. Popular items in such a care package could include essentials like food/snacks, medical and personal care supplies (such as bandages, feminine products, condoms, toothbrush/paste, etc.), and warm clothing, blankets, tarps, or tents. Being prepared with these items guarantees you have something of use for a person in need.

In addition to having items ready to give to someone in person when needed, another great way to help is to donate to organizations that directly house, protect, and feed those populations. Donating shelf-stable food to pantries and shelters is essential to those operations staying successful in their mission.

Gift cards are another good thing to donate, allowing the recipient to buy a wide spectrum of products and necessities.

In addition to food and products, donating warm clothes and blankets is also paramount to keeping a shelter successful.

Follow Salish Sea Mutual Aid on Instagram and click the link in the bio (then click Mutual Aid Seattle), which is chock-full of amazing food pantries, shelters, and mutual aid organizations to donate to.

Stephen Lam / Reuters  

Beyond donations
Giving your time can be just as valuable to these projects as giving money. Whether a shelter, food pantry, or mutual aid organization, they all are run entirely by people volunteering their time for the cause.

Contacting these organizations through proper channels and asking what you could do to serve them is the best way to start actively contributing to these causes and being involved in what's happening in your community.

Pressuring lawmakers
Another essential component of combatting this issue is to contact lawmakers and policymakers and let them know the needs of the community, through advocating and campaigning for increased affordable housing, more shelters and food pantries, giving community-led programs the resources they need to make the biggest difference, etc.

When these demands are not met, it is important that the people let those in charge know that they are not representing the needs of the community. This can be done by calling them, or by protesting these realities in the street. Showing up with your body/voice/dollars to support these movements is one of the best ways to get change made.

A better future
All these actions directly support people experiencing houselessness, who daily face a world of cruelty and neglect. Many who are not might find it uncomfortable and sad to think about these realities, and worse, some hold contempt toward those vying for survival on the streets of Seattle.

This turning away magnifies the effects of poor funding for community resources for those in need, which has dire consequences. In King County, the number of deaths of people living without shelter increases every year, with a record-breaking 415 last year, according to the county's medical examiner's office. If everyone met their discomfort with action and routinely contributed to our ever-growing aid networks, it would drastically improve the ability of mutual aid organizations to help those in need and make a material difference in the lives of our unhoused neighbors.

Visit Salish Sea Mutual Aid at https://www.instagram.com/salish_sea_mutual_aid