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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

February 1, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Seattle homeless

An unsettling trend

Surely in this period of spiraling economic distress it is worthwhile to plumb the recollections of those who endured the rigors of the Great Depression. A time of unprecedented hardship and destitution for many, the pain of scarcity and insecurity left an indelible mark on all who suffered through the traumatic ordeal.

However, it should be noted that for decades an increasing number of Americans have been living in conditions that could perhaps rival the hardships of long ago.

Over the past 30 years, millions of our fellow citizens have experienced profound impoverishment and homelessness for long stretches of time. The current crisis is certain to increase the ranks of those so marginalized. A rapidly changing economy and work environment, a shrinking supply of housing affordable to poor and working-class people and myriad other factors contribute to this unsettling trend.

Although the systemic meltdown now occurring is throwing many individuals and families into a state of shock, there was already a whole segment of American society mired in poverty and completely untouched by the wild prosperity of the so-called boom years.

The adage of a rising tide lifting all boats no longer applies. And a receding tide is already sinking whole sectors of our polity; the damage is probably not yet complete.

This is all the more troubling, given our city government’s unwillingness to cooperate with SHARE/WHEEL, which operates the most cost-effective system of shelters in our area. The city has denied SHARE/WHEEL the money desperately needed to maintain their critical services in this period of mounting economic turmoil.

Seattle must provide this admirable organization with the financial support it requires to do its important work and do it now. A civilized society has a duty to mitigate the worst ravages of deprivation and homelessness. SHARE/WHEEL is in the front lines of doing just that, and they do it every day of the year.

— Joe Martin, Seattle

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