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Coming June 28: A media blitz on homelessness

Seattle media organizations will focus on homelessness on June 28. (Matt M. McKnight/Cascade Public Media)

Last June, more than 30 Seattle-area media outlets joined forces to shine a spotlight on the crisis of homelessness in our community. The project was inspired by an initiative in San Francisco.

“We are all frustrated,” Jon Steinberg, the editor-in-chief of San Francisco magazine, told the New York Times then. “We are all fed up. We want the full force of the Fourth Estate to bear down on this problem.”

The Seattle project grew out of the same sense of needing to push the issue forward. It produced three dozen original stories and a range of other creative responses. Seattle Weekly orchestrated an online question-and-answer session with a man who has struggled with homelessness for many years. KUOW created a Facebook group “where anyone may ask a question about homelessness. But only people who have experienced it may answer.”

And it spread well beyond the region’s newsrooms. Real Change organized a rally at City Hall. Dozens of local nonprofits, foundations and other community partners pitched in to spread the word.

Together, we blew up the Twittersphere. During the day of the project and the few days that followed, there were 5,367 tweets from 1,948 accounts using the hashtag #SeaHomeless. Thanks to some heavy hitters, as well as thousands of retweets, the hashtag had more than 50 million potential impressions.

Homeless advocates told us the project lifted the spirits of people living on the streets. Elected officials said it helped drive the issue to the top of the local political agenda.

But look at the numbers that came out this week regarding the number of people living in the streets in King County — or your local street corner or scrap of green space — and you’ll see that this is still an issue that needs to be at the front of people’s minds.

So we’re planning Round 2.

On Wednesday, June 28, Seattle-area media will again team up to put homelessness under the magnifying glass. No doubt some of the coverage that day will focus on the problem itself — a problem that we are learning more about with each passing year. But our our intent is also to put the focus squarely on solutions.

And we hope you’ll join us — in the comment sections, on social media, and at public forums where we can all encourage elected officials to sit up and pay attention.

As one observer tweeted last year, “you can’t build shelters out of hashtags.” Duly noted. But we can, at the very least, push the issue into the light, where everyone can see it. It’s another necessary step toward the ultimate goal of solving it.

This series made possible with support from Northwest Harvest. The views and opinions expressed in the media, articles, or comments on this article are those of the authors and do not reflect or represent the views and opinions held by Northwest Harvest.

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