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‘WE HAVE EACH OTHER – WE NEED EACH OTHER’ — A Will and A Way uplifts unhoused community on Capitol Hill through mutual aid

Seattle’s homelessness crisis continues and government efforts come and go — here is one very small example of a different approach that moves outside City Hall’s response to the crisis. Forming in small community efforts nationwide during Black Lives Matter and anti-police protests of recent years, mutual aid organizations use donations to provide marginalized groups with resources such as food and medical care. One busy here is A Will and A Way, a Capitol Hill-based organization that seeks to uplift and support the local unhoused community.

A Will and A Way formed from a group of local protest medics who provided care to participants in a number of local demonstrations, that has since branched out and began to offer support services over the year and a half it has been on the Hill, a member of A Will and A Way tells CHS.

“We started to see how much the police brutality was also affecting the unhoused community, and so as the protests started to die down, we shifted into providing medical aid to the unhoused community,” the member said.

The member CHS spoke with chose to remain anonymous in order to avoid putting themselves in the spotlight above other members in the group — reflecting the horizontal organization of A Will and A Way.

The group considers harm reduction to be its chief priority, achieved through means such as educating members of the community on using Narcan as well as by providing clean needles. Some other volunteer tasks include providing people with hot meals and informing the public about the unique ways in which they can uplift their unhoused neighbors.

A Will and A Way volunteers perform a number of different tasks across the organization. The ingredients for hot meals, for example, are collected by some volunteers, and are then cooked and prepared by volunteers with food handling certifications, and then distributed by members of the group.

In the weeks and months that followed the police raid and clearance of CHOP and Cal Anderson Park, the city fostered discussions about how best to “memorialize” the energy and effort behind the unrest including how to support and fund mutual aid efforts like A Will and A Way. Most of that focus has since shifted to planning resources for Cal Anderson around public safety — not funding for mutual aid. Meanwhile, Mayor Bruce Harrell has championed philanthropy and charitable giving from the region’s wealthiest residents and companies to help with the ongoing crisis. Early this year, the Partnership for Zero launched to coordinate some $10 million in funding from “major businesses and philanthropies in King County that have formed the We Are In homelessness charity effort led by the Ballmer Group to power “peer navigators, flexible funding, a command center and data” in an effort to to “dramatically reduce unsheltered homelessness in downtown Seattle.”

Meanwhile, groups like A Will and A Way’s volunteers aim to provide the unhoused community with basic human necessities and sustenance while building trust with them and being sensitive to their trauma. This takes a large amount of emotional labor, which members of the group must also consider and actively manage, A Will and A Way tells CHS.

A Will and a Way took part in a mutual aid spring fair at Cal Anderson earlier this year

“It takes a lot of work to coordinate everything, because we all are doing it for free, we aren’t paid. So we set really healthy boundaries around the work we can and can’t do,” the member said.

The group also said that communication from the city about encampment sweeps needs improvement. A Will and A Way hopes for members of the community to communicate with the city themselves.

“We really want to encourage people with the education privilege to start attending city council meetings, and talk about why we need more resources allocated to the unhoused community and not to the police budget,” the member said.

As the organization continues to grow, A Will and A Way invites new volunteers to reach them at [email protected]. The group has a vetting process in place to ensure a safe space is maintained for both its volunteers as well as the unhoused neighbors it serves.

Weekly meetings are hosted Wednesdays in Cal Anderson Park, though the group prefers that new members consult the group by email before attending. Clothing and donation drives are also held in the park on a monthly basis.

Updates on A Will and A Way can be found by following their Twitter and Instagram pages, and donations are accepted through their Venmo @AWillAndAwayMA.

 

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Below Broadway
Below Broadway
6 months ago

As a Capitol Hill resident, I’ve observed first hand how, in the name of so-called “harm reduction,” fent addicts get provisioned with tents and propane tanks by the well-meaning yet completely deluded folks at @SeattleMutualAid. There was a group dealing and using Fent in Tashkent park for months – their used needles were on the ground, their uneaten – stolen QFC packs of Entemanns and melted ice cream remains attracted rats, and they had a walk-up and drive-up drug sale station facing Belmont Ave E. Their camp site included stolen ID, stolen passports, multiple pill bottles, and clothes with store tags still attached. Finally, Seattle Parks arrived about a month ago to sweep the park. What did Mutual Aid do? Helped them move a block away to an empty open row of garages in an alleyway nearby. The drug dealing and using then continued, along with the stolen property – brand-new golf clubs, brand new luggage, rolled up rugs. It took the building owner about a month to get SPD motivated enough to come move them along this time. Mutual Aid was there every step of the way, enabling these drug addicted kids (and they were all kids, nobody was over 30) to continue on their drug addiction path. The plan called “harm reduction” encourages these kids stay addicts in alleyways and parks self-medicating, Seattle Mutual Aid helping them every step. Thankfully Harrell’s City seems finally committed to getting these guys on a better path – but Mutual Aid’s Marxists continue to try to relive the “Summer of Love” and build “community” around drug addiction and protest violence. Mutual Aid is enabling young drug addicts to keep destroying their lives with this poison Fent that’s everywhere. I hold Mutual Aid responsible for the ongoing bad choices made by dozens of Fent users living in parks on Capitol Hill – without you, these guys would be more likely to get more constructive choices in their lives. You are a reason they remain park-camping addicts. You are making the problem worse.

Caphiller
Caphiller
6 months ago

Just what this neighborhood needs, people enabling drug addicts to live here on the streets.

Reality
Reality
6 months ago

This is part of the problem. Clueless, ideological nonsense that creates more harm. They should be shut down and fined by the city.

Reality
Reality
6 months ago

The origin of “mutual aid” is the anarchist movement.

SoDone
SoDone
6 months ago

Will this group kindly post their contact information when semi-immediate help may be needed? When I had a group smoking fent under my window one morning for 3+ hours, I thought two had perhaps ODed ‘cus they were slumped and still for a long while. When calling Seattle 911, receiving an “all lines busy, please stay on the call” type of message to report a possible overdose in progress, I was told to go rouse them to see if they were still alive. Thankfully, one twitched, so they both twitched so they were at least semi alive. Medics didn’t need to be dispatched. This self-described medic group could have been a good resource to at least check if this group was going to make it another day. Maybe some fettuccini with tomatoes would really help. Ya’all are making a serious problem worse. 

Mikena
Mikena
6 months ago
Reply to  SoDone

I am sorry that you had to go through that. You are more brave/caring than most. I wish the opiate epidemic would just OD on it’sself (and yeah, let people just–basically get on with life), but unfortunately, at least, IMO the war on drugs, essentially, is created and fought by the same “team.”—-I at least personally, have had the observatory opinion, —or rather assumption, that it’s population control. like Covid was intended to be (probably not a messy)..Except they’ve got a much further grip on the creation, spread/results of opiate.

PS— Fettuccini? YUM!

Martin
Martin
6 months ago

These groups are no different than the religious groups helping themselves by enlisting the latest naïve victims to join and serve their cause. In other words, just another cult with a battle cry to fight evil or corruption. They are anarchist antifa. Anarchist movements like these are the woke version of the insurrectionists. They both want to overthrow what they see as an illegitimate government and replace it with one holding their own ideological views. At the end of the day, they are virtually the same self-serving demagogues. They obtain power by creating a vacuum in the current authority structure through chaos. History is inundated with such event cycles.

Mikena
Mikena
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Well said

Hows does it work?
Hows does it work?
6 months ago

I thought mutual aid was reciprocal? What are the “houseless” giving in return?

Or is it just charity, renamed “mutual aid” to give it an anarcho-commie/leftist patina?

Guesty
Guesty
6 months ago

Crime, drug use and trash are the top three I think.

Glenn
Glenn
6 months ago

This isn’t a news article, it is a public service announcement. A news article would feature the reporter asking questions about the premise of mutual aid, how it’s supporters would address opposition to their mission, etc. This is clearly a political organization, and they should not be afforded a platform such as this without some scrutiny. Just a disappointing puff piece.

kermit
kermit
6 months ago

The spokesperson for “A Will and a Way” says: “We really want to encourage people with the education privilege to start attending city council meetings,”

Yet more far-left BS. Education is not a “privilege,” it is a right which anyone can access if they want to better themselves and prepare themselves for a good job. SCCC is free for many!

IJOHNSON
IJOHNSON
6 months ago

Thankyou Below Broadway, I agree completely. I would add that the Mutual Aid folks are working hand in hand to further the interests of the Cartel, supplying their customers with just enough support to enable them to keep consuming drugs indefinitely, while putting Seattle on the map as Drugstore to the Masses.

No thanks
No thanks
6 months ago

“Protest medics”? LOL. Stop enabling these open air drug markets in neighborhoods. Your a big part of this problem

Downtowngirl
Downtowngirl
6 months ago

There is no homeless crisis. There is a drug addiction epidemic . Homelessness is a symptom.
Helping people to live on the street and poison themselves isn’t kind or humane.

Let's talk
Let's talk
6 months ago
Reply to  Downtowngirl

I wish more people understood this. Enabling addiction is prolonging suffering and ultimately long term mental and physical illness or death. The cycle needs to be interrupted in order for an addict to gain clear thoughts and make positive decisions.

Matt
Matt
6 months ago

I’m curious to all of the negative commenters, what is your solution? What are you doing to help address the problem? Do you support safe injection sites, an evidenced-based method to help address the underlying drug addiction?

I’m all for constructive criticism, but at least these folks are actually trying to do something for our neighbors in distress. It’s going to take a collective effort and I applaud people with the humanity to see our neighbors as people in need of help rather than a problem that needs fixing.

kermit
kermit
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt

The solution is to require addicts to accept effective treatment for their self-induced problem. Everything else is just enabling.

CH Resident
CH Resident
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt

What I take issue with is that this has the appearance to me of something that will interfere with official, sanctioned city and county efforts to get people into shelters and diversion programs by giving the the unhoused, the addicted, and the mentally ill the resources to say no to those programs as this organization needs a enabling to keep doing whatever they like, pretty much wherever they like. In essence, I feel like they are hurtling more than they are helping.

Crow
Crow
6 months ago
Reply to  CH Resident

Agree. If Mutual Aid ceased to exist, it would force tough but grown-up decisions on the drug-addicted / mentally ill homeless folks. That would be a good thing.

Conrad
Conrad
6 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Hi Matt – in my view, any solution lifts people living on the streets up through connections to treatment, shelter, and jobs. I volunteer with We Heart Seattle, a group that refers people living in our shared spaces to shelter, provides basic needs stipends in exchange for community service like picking up litter in parks, assists people living on the streets in getting things like ID, and connects people to jobs through places like Uplift Northwest. This is what I’m doing to address the problem, because to me it seems like part of a true solution. I support safe injection sites as they exist in Portugal, in which drug use in public spaces results in referrals to safe injection sites and often mandatory treatment.

It seems like mutual aid is trying to do something positive because they groups claim to have the same goals as what I outlined above, but, in my view, they do much more harm than good in practice. The collective effort you mention is indeed needed, and mutual aid is taking away from seeing humanity in people. To me, individualized solutions (ie bus tickets home if desired, employment referrals, etc) are a result of getting to know people living on the streets and treating them like adults; mutual aid often does the opposite, like delivering a pallet of frozen meals to people without access to a microwave and leaving without engaging conversation. People living on the streets are desperately in need of help, and the reason you’re seeing so many negative comments here is at least in part because mutual aid groups often only see people they can permanently enable to live in shared spaces, rather than people to engage and lift out of their current circumstances.

Moving Soon
Moving Soon
6 months ago

Massive piles of shame to all the whiney baby nimbys in these comments. It should be you moving to the suburbs because you hate the city and instead it is me moving from the city to escape the disgusting rich people that just want everything to be clean and shiny and all for themselves.

I am surrounded by warm, housed and fed, narcissists that want to see other people wiped off the face of the earth because they weren’t born into a working family or couldn’t keep up with their medical bills or didn’t have the luxury of being ushered through college and off to their lucrative careers.. Instead they’re impoverished in the United States and there they languish while rich people throw wet garbage at them.

Kiddo
Kiddo
6 months ago
Reply to  Moving Soon

Nimby implies one has a backyard. Poor people don’t have backyards. Poor people have parks.

Ralph Macdonald
Ralph Macdonald
6 months ago

I saw the Mutual Aid Fair in Cal Anderson Park. I saw anarchy flags and symbols everywhere. How does the belief of tearing down society, abolishing government, police and prisons build the community. I saw first hand anarchists marching through the streets of Capitol Hill destroying and vandalizing everything in their path including schools, churches, private property, bus stops, grocery stores, restaurants, cars, everything. If this is their idea of building the community who needs enemies.

Mikena
Mikena
6 months ago

Ooookay I hate to break it to y’alll, but helping the “kids” in the park with tents, [propane? really? yeah right), encouraging communtity, and even a little dignity, is really, so NOT even close tot he meaning of anarchy.

I don;t know ’em and I sure as heck do not approve of those blues, or of heroin….the real evidence of anarchy is in your self-entitled, and addled sense of hypocrisy.

What is truly, sick messed up, and wrong, dangerous and just plain UGLY, even more of an eyesore, a bit of paraphanalia, and mess of “clearly STOLEN” QFC wrappers, or whatever, is really nothing, compared to

let’s say, finding one of those “kids” in a poo of his own blood behind Rite Aid, having been brutally beaten to death, God only knows where, and just dumped off like it was nothing……..on a Thursday night —yet somehow, nobody really seemed to noticed, and if someone did, they likely assumed he OD’, rather than been brutally effing MURDERED and dumped in a pool of his own blood behind RITE AID or another, hangin from a noose in a tree oh the night of his baby-momma’s birthday, or mysteriously found floating, corroded and very much deceased in a large vat-of acid right accross the street from Cal Anderson, in a so-called church.

My point? all three of those “kids” were my friends. All three were victims the real true meaning of ANARCHY….which is the mentality, really, of “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME” get out of my doorway, go find sowmehere else to stay. Ohhh…and dare I neglect to mention…”This is a public park and it
s closed. You’re gonna have to go somewhere else…city ordinance.

Anarchy is that neither one of them OD’d. Sick and messed up is, that literally all three of those three guys, at at least one point or another, stepped up in one of your precious public parks, or doorways to make me laugh when I was sad. & even sat with me, to keep me safe if I was scared, or cold, or just not feeling right. a smile on my face, Each one of them,

Travis (Traveltron), Ocean, and Brent was kind, confused, artistic, musical, funny, brilliant, confused, and had their lives taken away from them here on Capitol Hill by somebody else There was another young man too recently though I still just can’t remember if I’d known him, Again. Killed. What for? Who knows?

So, yeah. I am quite thankfully, not a streetkid anymore, and I’m safe, thank God, And do not approve of opiates at all, but I’d just be GOSH-DARNED if I didnt step up and say something…brutal too, and true. Sure a couple o tents aint that pretty….oh waaaah. ….But the real eyesore that at least I at least, bore witness to, ws the bitter childish, entitled full of ignorance and BS that I read in some responses to this article. To each their own. ….ne more thing… don t know tof this not for profit that everypne’s slamming and hating on…and long story short all I have to ssay, maybe i’m splitting harirs….Total Anarchists!!!! don’t act in love. –> just hate.