In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, as the nation confronts racial injustice in policing and other public systems, how does Seattle’s homelessness crisis play a role in this reckoning?

Communities of color are disproportionately impacted by homelessness in Seattle and King County.

Black people make up less than 7% of King County’s population, but among the county’s homeless are grossly overrepresented at 32%, according to the county’s 2019 point-in-time count. Native people make up less than 1% of King County’s population but represent 10% of the homeless population, according to the same report.

These significant disparities beg the question: Can you solve homelessness without addressing racism?

(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless team held a virtual panel discussion Tuesday to unpack this issue with four area experts: 

  • LaMont Green is the co-chair of the Lived Experience Coalition, a local advisory group of people who have experienced homelessness. 
  • Michelle Merriweather is the president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, which works to support and empower Black communities in Seattle and King County through educational and economic opportunities. 
  • Derrick Belgarde is the deputy director of Chief Seattle Club, a Native-led organization dedicated to supporting American Indian and Alaska Native people in Seattle, many of whom are experiencing homelessness. 
  • Marc Dones is the executive director of National Innovation Service, a public systems consultancy that focuses on racial equity. Dones is also one of the architects of King County’s new Regional Homelessness Authority.
The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless is funded by BECU, The Bernier McCaw Foundation, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Campion Foundation, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation, Seattle Foundation, Starbucks and the University of Washington. The Seattle Times maintains editorial control over Project Homeless content.