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Race: Are we so different

A blog looking at the changing face of race around our region, created in cooperation with Pacific Science Center, the University of Washington Department of Communication and the City of Seattle Race and Justice Initiative

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November 19, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Race project | Homelessness in King County: Blacks suffering the most

Homelessness is more than a poverty problem. It is also a color crisis.

According to the United Way of King County, blacks occupy nearly 30 percent of shelter beds  but comprise about seven percent of King County’s general population.

Because homelessness is primarily an economic issue, it is no wonder that more than a third of African Americans are living in poverty and they make the lowest median household income.

The statistics are daunting. But, numbers only tell part of the story.

Meet Nick Maxwell. At 54, Maxwell spends most of his days selling Real Change newspapers, a street publication sold by many homeless vendors.

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“This gives me my job, my friends and my family,” says Nick Maxwell as he holds the newspaper on the corner of 4th and Madison. (Photo by Marika Price)

The 6-foot, 5-inch self-proclaimed “gentle giant” greets me with a warm smile and firm handshake. In person Maxwell exudes heartfelt commitment and infectious energy. But on paper Maxwell is nothing more than a black and Hispanic ex-felon.

Maxwell grew up in the Bronx before moving to Hollywood to pursue acting. With no steady income and no home, he roamed many urban areas and was sucked into a cycle of drug abuse that led him to jail.

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