Homelessness in the U-District and Seattle at large is an obvious and unavoidable issue. The U-District Conversation on Homelessness held a meeting and guest panel Wednesday afternoon, focusing on the topic of eviction and its contributing role to homelessness.

The group hosts monthly events of this nature, inviting the public to interact with various guest speakers in a collaborative effort to formulate solutions for homelessness.

A panel of four speakers gathered to provide insight into the specifics of this conversation, covering a variety of topics, including affordable housing, social service agencies, and landlord cooperation with agencies and clients.

As the panel opened to the public for questions and discussion, one major issue brought to the table was the lack of support from service agencies for single adults. Understandably, most of the conversation is focused toward veterans and those with families or children, making it challenging for those not included in one of these categories to obtain rental and rehousing services.

After acknowledging this issue, Maureen Roat, senior staff attorney at the Legal Action Center, proceeded to delve further into issues of social service agencies, and certain requirements that some uphold, making it difficult for clients to obtain the housing services they need. One requirement is the need for the client to be homeless.

“The big problem for a lot of clients who are being evicted is that in order to get services, they need to be homeless first,” Roat said. “So why do I have to put a client on the street for a single night to get them rental assistance?”

Roat then transitioned into the issue of landlord cooperation, and how agencies such as Solid Ground require landlords to sign a memorandum when providing housing services. With the memorandum containing the agreement that the landlord cannot evict the client for the next 30 days, many attorneys advise against the signing, leading to further obstacles. Roat proposed forming an agreement with the landlord that mutually benefits both parties.

“Reaching out to the landlords, saying ‘what language would you want to see that you would be willing to sign,’ that would still satisfy requirements tied to funding,” Roat said.

Larry Todd of the Landlord Liaison Project, proposed working one-on-one with the landlord in order to provide reassurance, moving toward the indiscriminative goal of providing housing for tenants from a variety of backgrounds.

“The landlord is taking a huge risk when they’re handing over a set of keys,” Todd said. “We want to work with landlords and explore one-on-one. Let’s try one tenant, let’s see how this works out.”

As the conversation shifted, an audience member noted how crucial it is for service agencies to work together in effectively providing personalized patronage for clients.

“One of the major issues, is we’re using private entities to cobble together what should be public services, and that’s the fundamental issue,” said Yurij Rudensky, of the Economic Justice Project of Columbia Legal Services. “It does require putting pressure on the city, the state, the federal government, to make sure these public services are provided for everyone.”

Formed in 2009 by Nathalie Gehrke, along with a team of co-conveners, the U-District Conversation on Homelessness has since worked with people from a variety of professions, including social and health agencies, housing agencies, church congregations, and university faculty and students.

“These connections are often quite informal, but it makes for a much better surface to those who are homeless here and for the possibility of much bigger actions to happen,” Gehrke said.

The organization looks to continuously seek ways to spread awareness and provide help, slowly inching toward the ultimate goal of ending homelessness and poverty.


Reach reporter Nathan Lim at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @natejaelim