In his daily travels, Moe Brown sees a cityscape dotted with reminders of the disconnect between society’s haves and have-nots.
Maurice “Moe” Brown spends about 30 hours a week behind the wheel of his silver Hyundai Elantra, partnering with Uber to drive riders all over Seattle and King County.
Perhaps more than the average motorist, Moe sees those among us with no place to call home. According to a January homeless count, there are about 4,500 people living unsheltered in the streets of Seattle, with a great many more living in shelters.
In his daily travels, Moe sees a cityscape dotted with tents, cardboard shelters and other reminders of the disconnect between society’s haves and have-nots.
All those things strike a personal chord with 60-something Moe, because he knows how it feels to fall through the cracks. Before he partnered with Uber two years ago, Moe worked for 25 years in the nonprofit sector, pitching in at homeless shelters and grassroots programs designed to help the have-nots in California, Tennessee, and Washington.
In his bleakest days, not so long ago, he and his wife moved from town to town looking for work, essentially “camping out” in the living rooms of family members who themselves were barely scraping by.
Here are a few simple things people who are struggling wish you knew about them, from Maurice “Moe” Brown – someone who’s been in their shoes:
“We are not all lazy.”
“We as a society have a stereotype about people who are homeless, especially those who have been on the streets for a while,” he said. “Personal appearance is one of the things that goes, and people start making judgments.”
“We are not all drug addicts or alcoholics.”
Moe noted that, while the prevalence of addiction among the homeless is a problem, it’s not so far removed from the addicted population in society at large, contrary to common perception. If more drug and alcohol rehab hospitals accepted the homeless as patients seeking treatment, things would begin to change, he says.
“We are not all looking for handouts.”
“A lot of people think that they’re giving the homeless a ‘hand up’ by giving them a place to sleep. While shelters are much needed, it’s critical that we find a way to help educate the homeless and give them life skills and training so they can be productive in society,” he says.
Moe, who lives with his wife in a Kent apartment, said he’d long watched how one “closed door” leads to another and another, and when he started encountering obstacle after obstacle himself, it was difficult not to give up.
“Things can happen in life that are really unexpected, and then it’s like, ‘Now what are you gonna do?’ ”
Moe’s story took a turn for the better two years ago when he became an Uber driver-partner. The latest potential setback for Moe is the proposed collective bargaining ordinance that the Seattle City Council is expected to implement in January.
That measure, already signed into law, would give contract drivers the chance to unionize, and then the union would have bargaining power with the city. The problem: A contract with the city could mean changes in the flexible and fluid work hours of Uber partners. Worse still: Not all partners get a vote on whether to unionize, and any future contract under consideration can be approved with just a 51 percent vote of the members.
Moe says he’s hoping for the best, even though it seems like his Uber gig could become “just another thing that’s getting pulled out from under me.”
Drive Forward is a nonprofit organization created by Uber and Eastside for Hire to empower riders, drivers, and community members to raise their voice about issues affecting rideshare, for-hire, and taxi drivers, and the communities they serve.