In Seattle County, Blacks Make Up 7% of Population But 40% of Homeless


Black News, Black Politics, featured,

Race disparities have always existed in this country, but in Seattle’s King County, one economic statistic stands out above the rest. Although blacks comprise only 7 percent of the county’s population, they make up 40 percent of the homeless shelter beds. Of course, this number doesn’t even include homeless people who live on the street and can’t be counted in shelters.

The United Way of King County provided the troubling statistic, according to The Seattle Times . This particular piece of data helps us to understand the plight of many African-Americans as they endure the Great Recession.

The Times interviewed one homeless black man named Maxwell, affectionately known as the “gentle giant”, who says he became homeless after attempting to embark on an acting career. He takes responsibility for his life, and the role going to prison has played in his potential for success, but says you can’t discount race as a factor.

“I’ve always been bothered by stereotypes that blacks are drug dealers, and it hurts because I lived up to it,” Maxwell says.

More affordable housing would help to alleviate homelessness, but the Times reports that “barriers like housing discrimination, less access to health care, over-representation in the criminal-justice system and higher unemployment rates make it more complex.”

The majority of the homeless in King County are young adult black men. This is also the demographic most represented in the criminal justice system.

Asked what is needed to stem homelessness, Maxwell answers, “what we need is more people who care.”