No Child Sleeps Outside, a crowdfunding campaign started by the family that owns Dick’s Drive-In, benefits Mary’s Place shelter and helps keep families with children off the streets.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the homeless people that we all have become so used to seeing. I confessed that I barely notice them anymore.
There are others who hide in plain sight, who live among us without our knowing their secret: homeless families. With kids.
On any given night, there are over 550 families sleeping outside in Seattle, according to the annual One Night Count. Tents, abandoned buildings, bus stations.
One father made a home for himself and his young son in a public bathroom in a park across from the boy’s school. A girl lived with her family in a cluster of bushes for months.
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All this, while the city can’t build apartment buildings fast enough. Where people flood real-estate open houses with checks in hand.
All this money, and yet. And yet.
These are anxious times. Mass shootings, police shootings. Congressional threats against Planned Parenthood. The presidential race.
But in the case of homeless families, well, here we can do something. We can take action and see change, right on the streets where we live.
No Child Sleeps Outside is a crowdfunding campaign that benefits Mary’s Place, a shelter focused on tending to parents with children.
The campaign was started last year by the mother-and-son team of Fawn and Saul Spady, part of the family that owns the Dick’s Drive-In chain. They have homes, security and all the burgers they can eat.
But they don’t have any tolerance for kids without a place to rest and feel safe.
“Every child deserves to be inside,” Fawn Spady told me the other day, “regardless of what you think of the choices that their parents have made or regardless of their situation or where they came from. Every child deserves to be inside.”
The Spadys are impassioned to the point where they have to take turns talking. Fawn talks with an open laptop, looking up stats, while 26-year-old Saul (who is on the Mary’s Place board) fights tears telling stories of the clients he has come to know.
Last year’s campaign raised more than $335,000 — enough to open The Jackson Street Emergency Family Shelter and fund it for the winter, providing 9,320 shelter nights. It moved 23 families into housing and helped over 100 families into shelters, and stability.
Instead of telling you why you should give to their campaign, though, I’m going to pose a question: Why shouldn’t you?
The city has been flooded with new residents who make an estimated $100,000 a year. The rap on the tech people is that they haven’t found their philanthropic foothold; their money hasn’t been felt in the nonprofit world.
This is the chance to change that, and do it with the same ease with which we order lunch, find tickets and buy clothes: with a couple of swipes on our smartphones.
In no time, you could change the status of someone you’ve never met with what the Spadys are calling a “virtual raise-the-paddle.”
If the campaign meets its $500,000 goal, the Spadys said, the Chinatown International District shelter will stay open for a year.
“These are people in emergency situations,” Fawn Spady told me. “They got sick. They lost their job. They lost their health insurance. They lost their home. And they have children.”
Better people give a little, Fawn Spady said, than waiting for a wealthy donor to try to single-handedly wipe the problem away, a gesture fresh on our minds after Mark Zuckerberg — celebrating the birth of his first child — committed to donating 99 percent of his Facebook fortune to charity.
“I’m less concerned about Zuckerberg than I am about the Level 6s at Amazon,” Fawn Spady said. “These people can’t go to the galas, but they sure can give $100 to the cause.”
And isn’t it more meaningful this way? Each person contributing one stitch in the safety net, rather than leaving it to one person to pay for the whole?
“Our city is growing and changing and we need to improve our ability to give back,” Saul Spady said. “These are our families. These are our neighbors. It’s unacceptable that we leave them outside.
“And it’s better that we do this together,” he said. “It’s better that Seattle comes together to solve this problem.”
Count me in. I have gone from not seeing the homeless to seeing enough.