Seattle U. and University of Washington co-sponsor event on homelessness

Seattle — A gathering focused tightly on the immediate needs of the homeless in the Seattle area will be co-sponsored by the student governments of Seattle University and the University of Washington Dec. 2, at Campion Ballroom on the SU campus.

Titled "Ending Homelessness in Seattle," the 5-6:30 p.m. event will feature Seattle Mayor Edward Murray and experts on homelessness, including the homeless themselves, states a joint press release.

Seattle U president Jesuit Fr. Stephen Sundborg will introduce the speakers and make comments himself.

Well-known for advocacy work on behalf of the homeless, Sundborg told NCR that homelessness in the Seattle metropolitan area is at a "crisis stage." While he is involved in groups working for long-term solutions to the issue, he said, "an immediate emergency exists."

The Jesuit campus leader said the homeless need immediate options to living in cars or tents.

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He lauded Mayor Murray for making the homelessness issue "a priority from day one."

Sundborg said Murray has said "that if you want to see the reality of it, come with me in a police car one evening and see for yourself" the realities of the homeless.

"It is not like this is something ignored or underplayed in our region," Sundborg said. "Seattle has made this a top priority, but it is challenging. Both King County executives and the mayor's office have been addressing this together, but it remains a state of emergency -- a shock and scandal that the problem is getting worse rather than better."

According to the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, more than 10,000 persons are homeless in the area on any given winter night -- in shelters, transitional housing and on the street. Nearly two in five are on the street, the group reports based on counts done last January.

A key issue, Sundborg said, is overcoming fear of the homeless. "Are they violent, mentally ill, harmful? What we find out is that they are in extraordinarily difficult straights."

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR's West Coast correspondent. His email is dmyoung@ncronline.org.]


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