Driving around Seattle, it’s hard not to notice how much the homelessness crisis is deepening. To most of us, it’s something we confront every day on our way to work. But for the city’s Uber driver-partners, the effects of homelessness on the city are a constant presence.
This year, Wellspring has received a $10,000 grant from Uber, offering our staff and clients free rides to and from our offices. We decided to talk to some of our own Uber driver partners about the effects of homelessness they’ve seen in Seattle.
James said he’d noticed how much things have changed. “It’s worse now than it was a few years ago. Any freeway you get on you’re going to see a tent somewhere.” He described how new visitors to Seattle were shocked by the homelessness situation but that locally “I think most people just ignore it.” He empathized with many of the families experiencing homelessness, saying, “A lot of them have jobs, they just can’t afford to live here.” He summed up his feelings of the homelessness crisis, “There’s a lot of Band-Aids, but no fixes.”
Jafer had similar feelings. He spoke about some of the barriers that many of our clients face when it comes to finding housing. “With landlords the requirements are very high…. I know some people are working, but they’re homeless. They just go in a shelter. They just don’t make enough money, you know? Every year you see more and more homeless.”
Mercedes was our biggest surprise. When we asked her to speak about her experiences, she revealed that at one point she had been homeless. After her husband lost his job, the setback brought on a period of mental illness for him that he found it hard to come back from. Mercedes worked alone to raise her children, and put them through university. But later after becoming ill with diabetes, she lost her own job and home. At that point she found herself bouncing between friends, sleeping on their couches, trying to manage her health, while finding a job and a place to live.
Eventually, she found part-time work and a home, but without full-time hours she wasn’t making enough income. Her job as an office manager was only for 5 hours per day, so she decided to drive with Uber for the other three. She loves to drive, because in her own words, “I love people.” She was thankful for Uber for the opportunity to supplement her income. Wellspring Family Services is just as thankful for Uber’s generosity, as we use their grant to support our families.