Metro’s Low-Income Programs

While interviewing Metro GM Kevin Desmond for last week’s Metro budget crisis series, I had an opportunity to ask him for details about the low-income fare assistance program that I’d always heard hints about.

For many years, Metro has sold ticketbooks to over 100 human services agencies for 20% of their face value.  Metro depends on these agencies to get them in the hands of the needy.

The other 80% is budgeted as “lost revenue” for Metro, though of course there’s no telling how many of those would have turned into fare-paying rides.  In 2008 this “subsidy” amounted to $1.3m, or $1.6m in total ticket value.  According to Desmond, this funded 79,000 ticket books containing 1.2m tickets of mixed denominations.

A full list of those receiving human services agencies is below the jump, copied directly from a Metro-provided spreadsheet.

45TH ST. CLINIC – HOMELESS PROGRAMS
ARCHDIOCESAN HOUSING AUTHORITY-NOEL HOUSE
ARCHDIOCESEAN HOUSING AUTHORITY
ASIAN COUNSELING AND REFERRAL SERVICE
BALLARD ECUMENICAL MINISTRY
BOYS AND GIRLS CLUBS OF KING COUNTY
BREAD OF LIFE MISSION
CASA LATINA
CASCADE PEOPLE’S CENTER
CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES
CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES OF KING COUNTY-ALDERCREST
CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES OF KING COUNTY-U DIST YOUTH CTR
CENTER FOR CAREER ALTERNATIVES
CENTER FOR HUMAN SERVICES
CENTRAL HOUSE
CHIEF SEATTLE CLUB
CHILD CARE RESOURCES
CHILDRENS HOME SOCIETY OF WA
CHURCH COUNCIL OF GREATER SEATTLE
CITY OF KENT – HOUSING AND HUMAN SERVICES
CITY OF KENT CORRECTIONS – CITY JAIL
CITY OF SEATAC – EMERGENCY
CITY OF SEATTLE’s HSD/EMERGENCY RESERVES/SEVERE WEATHER
COMPASS CENTER + FAMILY/ADULT SERVICES/ROY ST
CONSEJO
COUNTRY DOCTOR – FREE TEEN CLINIC
DEPARTMENT OF ADULT AND JUVENILE DETENTION – COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS DIVISION
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES – VETERANS PROGRAM
DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES – WORK TRAINING PROGRAM
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS – SEATTLE DAY REPORTING
DOMESTIC ABUSE WOMEN’S NETWORK
DOWNTOWN EMERGENCY SERVICE CENTER
EASTSIDE ACADEMY
EASTSIDE INTERFAITH SOCIAL CONCERNS COUNCIL
EL CENTRO DE LA RAZA
EMPOWERING YOUTH AND FAMILIES OUTREACH
EVERGREEN CLUB KOREAN SENIORS
EVERGREEN TREATMENT SERVICES
FAMILY PROMISE
FAMILY SERVICES OF KING COUNTY
FAMILY WORKS
FARESTART
FEDERAL WAY COMMUNITY CAREGIVING NETWORK
FIRST CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH OF BELLEVUE
FIRST PLACE
FRIENDS OF YOUTH
GETHSEMANE EMPLOYMENT AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
GOD’S HELPING HANDS
GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH
HARBORVIEW MEDICAL CENTER/PIONEER SQUARE CLINIC
HIGHLINE SCHOOL DISTRICT
HOLY FAMILY ST. VINCENT DEPAUL
HOPELINK
INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT HOUSING ALLIANCE
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE
ISSAQUAH CHURCH AND COMMUNITY SERVICES
JESUS CHRIST SALT AND LIGHT
JEWISH FAMILY SERVICES
JUBILEE CHRISTIAN CENTER
KENT SCHOOL DISTRICT – REFUGEE TRANSITION CENTER
KENT YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
KING COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION
KIRKLAND INTERFAITH TRANSITION HOUSE
LAMBERT HOUSE
LIFELONG AIDS ALLIANCE
MAPLE VALLEY FOOD BANK AND EMERGENCY SERVICES
MARY’S PLACE
MAYOR’S OFFICE FOR SENIOR CITIZENS
MILLIONAIR CLUB CHARITY
MULTI-SERVICE CENTER
NAVOS
NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE
NEW BEGINNINGS
NEW CONNECTIONS OF SOUTH KING COUNTY
NEW HORIZONS MINISTRIES
NORTH HELPLINE
OPERATION NIGHTWATCH – SEATTLE
PEACE FOR THE STREETS BY KIDS FROM THE STREETS
PERINATAL TREATMENT SERVICES
PLYMOUTH HOUSING GROUP
PREGNANCY AID OF KENT
PROVIDENCE HOSPITALITY HOUSE
QUEEN ANNE HELP LINE
R.O.A.R. OF WASHINGTON
RECOVERY CAFÉ
RECOVERY CENTERS OF KING COUNTY
REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT OFFICE- DIOCESE OF OLYMPIA
REFUGEE WOMEN’S ALLIANCE
RENTON AREA YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
RUTH DYKEMAN CHILDREN’S CENTER
SALVATION ARMY
SEA MAR COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS
SEADRUNAR
SEATTLE CONSERVATION CORPS
SEATTLE EDUCATION ACCESS – COLLEGE SUCCESS PROGRAM
SEATTLE FIRST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH SHELTER MINISTRY
SEATTLE INDIAN HEALTH BOARD
SEATTLE MENNONITE CHURCH
SEATTLE MUNICIPAL COURT
SEATTLE URBAN ACADEMY
SENIOR SERVICES
SHALOM ZONE NONPROFIT ASSOC./RISING OUT OF THE SHADOWS (ROOTS)
SHARE (SEATTLE HOUSING AND RESOURCE EFFORT)
SHORELINE COMMUNITY COLLEGE – CEO PROGRAM
SHORELINE POLICE DEPARTMENT – EMERGENCY SHELTER
SOCIETY OF ST. VINCENT DEPAUL
SOLID GROUND
SOUTH KING COUNTY ST. VINCENT DE PAUL
SOUTHWEST YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
ST. JAMES OUTREACH – NEW LIFE FUND
ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST CONFERENCE OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL SOCIETY
ST. LUKE’S PARISH – HELPING HANDS
ST. STEPHEN HOUSING ASSOCIATION
TEEN PARENT-GOODWILL
THE DEFENDER ASSOCIATION
THE FOOD BANK AT ST. MARY’S
TREEHOUSE
UNION GOSPEL MISSION
UNIVERSITY CHURCHES EMERGENCY FUND
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON PARENT-CHILD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
UNIVERSITY STREET MINISTRY
VA PUGET SOUND HEALTH CARE SYSTEM
VALLEY CITIES COUNSELING AND CONSULTATION
VASHON YOUTH AND FAMILY SERVICES
VETERAN’S ADMINISTRATION HOMELESS CARE LINE
VIETNAMESE FRIENDSHIP ASSOCIATION
VIRGINIA MILLER HOUSE
WASHINGTON WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT AND EDUCATION
WAY BACK INN
WELCOME HOME SOCIETY
WEST SEATTLE HELPLINE
WORLD RELIEF SEATTLE
YMCA OF GREATER SEATTLE
YOUTH AND OUTREACH SERVICES
YOUTHCARE
YWCA OF SEATTLE- KING COUNTY/SNOHOMISH COUNTY

Comments

  1. says

    Can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen folks at bus stops downtown – mainly 3rd 3rd and Bell where there are two such agencies located – where there’s been a guy selling those same ticket books for 50-75% of face value.

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I am HAPPY to see a few ticketbooks sold when it means other folks who really need them can get them.

    • Christopher Stefan says

      I wonder if switching the low-income programs to ORCA might cut down on the ticketbook sales.

      • gwen c. says

        Also, it makes paying with food stamps a whole heck of a lot easier, and i don’t get the same disapproving glares out in suburbia that i got back when they were in books. More places take food stamps now because of the electronic system; from 7-11 to Whole Paycheck, they’ve all moved to take food stamps because EBT is much easier for the merchant.

        First state to develop this system? You got it, Washington.

    • Marty says

      Gee, I wonder what those guys selling bus tickets spend the money on.

      How wonderful: public subsidies to help people kill themselves with booze and crack.

      And now we know why there are so many homeless people messing up our buses – and driving away middle class riders who always say the same thing “I tried it once, and I’m not going to try it again.”

      By turning buses into rolling homeless shelters, and by excusing/ignoring disgusting & anti-social behavior, we basically give transit critics all the ammo they need – and we get more people back in their cars.

      At some point, public transit needs to be returned to the Seattle public. Especially the in-city routes. Buses and trains should serve people who use them for productive and life-enhancing purposes. Helping people who have given up on life, or who are he’ll-bent on self-destruction doesn’t achieve anything useful. I understand there are legitimate reasons to be on public assistance. And there are legitimate clients of those services who need mobility buses afford them. But, what I’m saying is that Seattle has become a gathering point for homeless people from across the nation, thanks to all the fine services we dole out.

      If the buses are half full with homeless people who can’t take care of basic hygene, drunks who can’t contain their bodily fluids, or drug dealers who take bus tickets as payment – we really aren’t going to get people out of their cars and on to public transit.

      Gas anybody ever considered the fact it may not be such a great idea for many of these homeless people to have mobility?

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        This is the most ridiculous anti-homeless, really anti-human, rant I’ve read on the blog in a long time. I’m usually not offended by comments here, but this one takes the cake.

      • Under The Clouds says

        Ben, I don’t agree with the commenter’s closing sentiment, but I do think the anti-social behavior and fare evasion has been a common frustration with commuters, me included. It’s disheartening to see 1/3rd fare evasion during the evening commute on the 10 or 49, or to routinely see rude or anti-social behavior on buses encounter indifference from passengers and drivers (again, myself included).

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Wait until we have ORCA rolled out and more off-board payment (like on rapidride), and you’ll see a lot less fare evasion. This stuff doesn’t get fixed overnight, but the agencies have already implemented plans that will improve it.

      • says

        Buses and trains should serve people who use them for productive and life-enhancing purposes.

        Uh – relative subjective definitions of “productive” and “life-enhancing” aside (not sure what the litmus test for this would look like – what would you propose?

        I’m generally frustrated by the abuses of the system that goes on – from fare evasion to outright fraud – by a minority of riders. I also understand how some folks that live in the margins make more ‘mainstream’ riders uncomfortable. I’m doubly frustrated by those who outright break the rules and generally scare the crap out of people trapped in a claustrophobic moving aluminum can.

        Still – your visceral vent notwithstanding – what would you propose be done?

  2. says

    Does Metro publish official fare evasion numbers? We’re all trained to enter it into the fare box. Even many grizzled veterans who don’t care about the farebox will actually use the “3” key to record fare evasion. ORCA also has such a button but it’s harder to get at through that asinine ORCA menu system and there’s no beep or other feedback to let you know it’s been recorded. I suspect that data gathering mechanism will be less accurate going forward.

    • says

      Does Metro publish official fare evasion numbers?

      Estimates run to about 3% system-wide.

      And a lot of vet drivers don’t bother with the farebox buttons – even to record “flash pass” users. Personally I think this is a mistake as that’s an important way to measure ridership data. I’ve qualified with many a veteran driver who never pushed a button on the fare box once they set it up, unfortunately.

      The Orca system does record “Insufficient Fund” passes, however as it often takes 24-48 hours for funds to post to a card when a customer adds funds online or through a kiosk, that’s not real reliable info at this point. Also there’s no way to tell if someone pays cash when their Orca e-purse comes up short since there’s no communication between the fare box and the Orca system.

      • Zed says

        When I used to ride the University routes frequently, the 7X series, I noticed that a lot of drivers never entered fare box info for U-Pass holders. Sometimes I’d see like 50 students board on the Ave and the driver would hit the button 5 times. It seems like this could really screw up statistics on those routes. Hopefully when the U-Pass is migrated to ORCA the fare box statistics will be a little more accurate.

      • says

        Drivers are supposed to hit the “8” key anytime someone decides to show a pass rather than running it through the reader. This means U-passes and monthly passes as well as disabled passes with stickers, etc.

        I don’t think that most do, which is too bad – again, this is (or should be) an important way to count riders, as well as to monitor validity of passes (some people will flash their passes instead of sliding out of simple laziness, some have fraudulent passes and are counting on the driver not looking too close).

        Metro has not emphasized the importance of registering fares on a regular basis. The only time I’ve seen them emphasize fare box use is when they’re doing a “bicycle count”, and want drivers to hit a certain key to record how many bikes got on during their run.

        So yeah – unfortunately, I don’t see data from the fare box that depends on drivers hitting a key to be too reliable.

        FWIW, I’m pretty religious about it myself. Somebody somewhere must be paying attention to that stuff.

      • says

        Personally, I flash my FlexPass now because the card readers don’t read it properly a lot of the time. I could be due to both dirty readers and a worn-down card. I keep it facing out on the back of my work’s ID badge lanyard. All drivers seem satisfied with that.

        Then there’s my regular drivers who don’t care if I flash my pass or not.

      • says

        When a pass doesn’t scan properly (you get the funny “vibrating beep” the driver is supposed to hit the “8” key.

        Unless your pass is swiped or the driver hits a key on the farebox pad – you aren’t being counted as a fare-paying (or non-paying for that matter) passenger.

      • says

        Was ridership ever measured with the farebox? I would think that they used manual surveys/counts to collect a sample of ridership before automatic systems like pressure pads and infrared counters came about.

  3. Matt the Engineer says

    I didn’t know we had so many charity and service organizations. How does Seattle have any homeless?

      • Matt the Engineer says

        Not really. It’s always amazed me how many homeless we have here. If I were homeless in a cold, rainy city I think I’d save up money for a long distance bus and move to L.A. Finding out we have this many organizations to help out the homeless or low income, each surely with dozens of people and community financing to help them out – I would think anyone homeless in this city would have a good chance to get help on their feet.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Matt, the same thing that makes you reason that maybe you would go to LA – that’s one of the skills that keeps you from being homeless in the first place. A lot of the people on the street today have voices telling them to do things, are incapable of remembering what happened an hour ago, or sometimes DO just buy a ticket to LA, leaving their support network behind, and then end up in worse shape because they don’t know where to get food or medical care.

        While there are people who are just temporarily homeless for any number of reasons, a lot of the permanently homeless folks you see downtown have serious mental illnesses. It’s important to understand that most of these folks can’t help themselves at all, they can’t make decisions like the one you just suggested, and that even if they could, if they’re receiving support from a group here in the city, going to LA might lose them what little they have!

      • Christopher Stefan says

        In addition to problems with mental illness many homeless face other issues like substance abuse problems, learning disabilities, or language barriers. Even for someone who is sane and sober, leaving behind your support network, friends, and the familiar is rather daunting, especially when you’ve lost everything else.

        For those with severe substance abuse problems I think the program King County and Seattle started for chronic street alcoholics is a good model. While the neighbors may not be entirely happy with Eighteen-Eleven Eastlake it does save money and it gets people off the street.

        Overall I’m not really sure what the solution is. There are a lot of people smarter than I who’ve been trying to find one for years.

      • Erik G. says

        Please! No sending homeless people to L.A.

        There are enough already; especially in “The Home of the Homeless™”, Santa Monica.

      • lazarus says

        Actually, while it might seem that this is a “cold, rainy city”, in reality it is comparatively moderate compared to most cities to the north and east. Personally I couldn’t imagine how tough it would be being homeless in winter in a place like Chicago or the Twin Cities.

        Of course So-Cal would be even more moderate than Seattle, but Seattle also has a history of being fairly tolerant and giving (sometimes misguided) when it comes to this, so Seattle probably isn’t a horrible place to be homeless, not that it’s easy being homeless anywhere of course….

        And unfortunately, some homeless also have mental health issues and will stay on the streets even when given other opportunities. I’m not sure what the percentage is, but I’m sure it is significant.

      • AndrewN says

        That’s interesting that you mention the Twin Cities. Most homeless try to leave to a warmer climate, and the few that remain are able to be supported by cities and organizations; the issue is small relative to Seattle’s (and, therefore, more manageable), so Minneapolis is funding a program with the goal of elimating homelessness in that metro region by the middle of the next decade. For example, there are several 24-hour shelters for both men and women, and no one is ever turned away during the winter.

      • Mickymse says

        Actually, I have anecdotally heard a number of folks — particularly homeless youth — say just that. They make their way up to Seattle because we’re “known” for being very supportive of folks in need of a little support.

      • justin says

        don’t people drive around and hand out blankets when it’s below freezing to the homeless? If I was homeless Seattle is a pretty nice place to be. The other day I saw a homeless person surfing the web on his laptop..

      • says

        justin,

        The other day I saw a homeless person surfing the web on his laptop..

        And you knew this person was homeless – how?

        You do know that Amazon.com has no dress code and they have offices at Columbia Center and Union Station, right?

      • justin says

        it’s our resident bellevue homeless guy, the one that has a fro and talks on pay phones to himself all the time. I just saw him tonight at the DT Safeway on his laptop.

      • Zed says

        Payphone guy! That guy’s been around forever, I’m glad I’m not the only one that’s noticed.

        I occasionally see him twirling signs for various stores around the Eastside, he’s pretty good at it too.

      • justin says

        Jeff you are just going to have to trust me. When you see someone who is obviously crazy with permanent sun burn carrying around all his belongings sleeping outside for the past 4 years yeah I think he’s homeless. Maybe you consider all of DT Bellevue his home?

      • Stacey W says

        Matt,

        I work for one of those non-profits on the list.

        There are many, many reasons why people end up homeless. Anyone can end up homeless. If it was only as easy as having bus tickets to give out and a little bit of money.

        Here’s some more info: http://www.endhomelessness.org/

      • rob says

        anyone can end up homeless????

        –anyone that live beyond their means
        –anyone that doesn’t save money for normal life calamities
        –anyone that has burned bridges and aleinated friends and family that can help in a pinch
        –anyone too proud to ask for help
        –anyone that . . .

        homeless is a choice people made by the many little choices of not being responsible. The only exception may be the mentally ill, that can’t choose for themselves.

      • Finish Tag says

        I think you mean WHO can’t choose for themselves, not “that” can’t choose.
        Or maybe not.

      • Christopher Stefan says

        Rob,
        That is all good and well for you to say right now, but until you’ve gone down that path yourself you have no idea how easy it is to slip into homelessness and how hard it is to get back out. Most Americans live beyond their means, don’t have enough savings, and are living paycheck to paycheck. There is also a downward spiral aspect where worsening circumstances lead people to depression, drug and alcohol addiction, anti-social behavior, etc.

      • says

        As some one who’s been homeless, and in Seattle at that even though Minnesota’s my home state, I think Seattle attracts the homeless for several reasons:

        1) Weather. If you’ve lived there all your life, you think that 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit plus rain is terrible. If you come from back East, it’s heavenly. Cool rain vs. a freezing blizzard when you’re homeless? It’s all relative….

        2) Social tolerance. Seattle is a city that is better at minding its own business than a lot of other places. Even the police largely don’t mess with the homeless unless they’re actually causing trouble, though some of this tolerance has definitely eroded since 1989 (my first time out there) it’s still better than a lot of other cities.

        3) Services. You won’t starve in Seattle. If you go to all the food lines available you will *gain* weight. A place to sleep is a bit harder. Until the early 1990s, DESC (the infamous “Morrison”) was the place to go. In the mid-1990s it was pretty slim pickin’s with the UGM being your best best. When I was last there in 2002-3, SHARE was one of the best deals in the USA for a homeless person….

        As to L.A., no thanks. Yes it’s warmer, sunnier, but the streets are a lot meaner. Not as much help, and more violent sickos….

        Most homeless people have some income, few are totally destitute. Usually it’s lack of financial discipline that keeps people (including myself) homeless. I had to borrow money and move to a small Midwestern town with *very* low rents to get off the street the last time…. Drugs and alcohol aren’t the only addicitions that cost money. Some of us are addicted to a “normal” lifestyle even though we can’t afford it and a place to live at the same time….

        Most “help” you are talking about involves someone taking control of your life and shoving you into a slot where you may not be suited. That is why most of the homeless resist such “help” and prefer to look for our own solutions. Some never do. I was one of the lucky ones.

      • Melissa says

        John,

        I really appreciate your perspective and how concisely you communicate.

        I’d add a few issues to the list of ways to get in financial trouble serious enough to end up homeless.

        **Go to jail/prison and not notify the local child support collection folks. You’ll get out with a debt you’ll NEVER be able to pay. The only way to work above the table ever again is to deal directly with child support and make payments.

        **Child support in general–many guys choose to sleep outside so they can make their payments OR choose to take under the table jobs so their checks won’t be docked. Not a great solution, and there are alternatives, but most of the guys (more than 80%) I work with owe back child support. It can be negotiated, but once you’re license has been yanked & you’re homeless there’s much less to lose and much less reason to work with “the system”.

        **Run up large medical bills. Uninsured & need hospital care? Thousands or tens of thousands of dollars of debt that is sent to collections faster than you can imagine.

        Non-financial reasons people are homeless:

        **Felony convictions. It’s hard to find a market-rate landlord who’ll accept a felon. Even harder for someone to find subsidized housing.

        **Intimate partners: most shelters/transitional housing programs only allow one gender and almost none house partners together. Leave your lover on the street or sleep together outside? Tough choice.

      • Matt says

        Also, a number of homeless folks were given one-way bus tickets to Seattle from Salt Lake City in 2002 before the Olympics. I think this was documented in Welcome to the Terrordome by Dave Zirin, but I’m not sure.

    • says

      In short, we’re much better at providing the sort of short-term help that keeps a homeless person alive than actually getting them housing, jobs and the kind of long-term drug, alcohol and mental health support that would actually solve their problems.

      • Melissa says

        Yes, yes, YES! Exactly–we provide just enough services to keep multiple large bureaucracies in business and keep most of the homeless community from dying. We’re not even close to providing permanent housing or creating public spaces that welcome poor people.

        This is the key issue many comments address: homeless people on buses make commuters uncomfortable. Homeless people in parks make residents nervous. “Regular” people don’t like having to see, smell, or hear poor people. News flash: lots of folks who look homeless (poor hygiene, substance/mental/physical health issues) have some kind of housing. They’re still poor, and they still crave community, and they’re still unstable/smelly/rude.

        We could house everyone who looked/smelled/behaved “homeless” and THEY WOULD STILL RIDE THE BUS (and probably the train, someday). They would still sit in the park, they would still go to the library. We can address safety (real safety, not simply a sense of discomfort), but the reality is that public spaces are and will hopefully remain public.

        As a community, we need to provide better (and more mandatory/accountable) mental health and substance abuse treatment and followup. There are a lot of possible solutions, but kicking people off buses and out of parks is not a solution–it’s wrong and it doesn’t work.

  4. Good Grief says

    110 Million Metro boardings in 2007, so potentially MORE than 1 in 10 trips was subsidized with these deep discounts? That seems crazy….

    • Andreas says

      Uh… “1.2m tickets of mixed denominations” out of 110m boardings comes to 1%, not 10%.

      But even these fares accounted for over 10% of boardings, approximately 10% of King County residents live below the federal poverty line, so it seems perfectly reasonable that at least that percentage of bus trips would be subsidized through the low-income program.

      In fact, since the percentage of Metro users below the poverty line is almost certainly much greater than the percentage of the general population below the poverty line (less money generally = more reliance on public transit), it seems like subsidized low-income fares should actually account for a larger percentage of Metro fares if the program were really doing its job.

  5. Melissa says

    I also work for one of the nonprofits on the list. Most of the people we serve have been chronically homeless–without a permanent address or stable place to sleep–for years. They are a close community, sharing information about where to go for meals, clothes, a place to hang out, etc. Bus tickets are useful for the rare occasions they leave the neighborhood. They’re also resold.

    Seattle has lots of support services that focus on “harm reduction”. We haven’t found the right mix of services to actually get chronically homeless people off the streets. We’re not trying to “end homelessness”, we’re trying to fix people we perceive as broken and/or shuffle homeless and poor people away from where others have to see them. Even when housed, people crave community–we will gather in public places. Seattle encourages that if you have money to pay for the privilege (happy hour, movies, soccer leagues, dinner out). Poor folks are expected to hole up out of sight–stay out of the parks, the libraries, the streets, the community centers, and the trains/buses.

    • says

      Hi, Melissa!

      As someone formerly homeless who spent time in Seattle, glad to hear from you! I am 42 years old, currenly “homeful” but spent about 8 years of my life homeless, not all at once but in chunks of 1, 4, and 3 years, and some small bits of time here and there.

      Much of what you say is true, and I support the harm reduction approach. Because I always had an income and a different mentality than most homeless people, I usually bought a bus pass, and stayed “out of sight” by keeping moving during the day. (I am a transit fanatic an love riding buses anyway.) I got very little harassment from the cops/society becuase I knew how to avoid it. The only thing that tripped me up from time to time was not being very hygenic (part of my personality even when I’m “homeful”).

      To be honest, what I think would get the most people off the streets is more residential hotels, not more Section 8-style public housing. In a residential hotel there’s no lease, no credit check, no background check, no damage deposit, at most you might have to show an ID and pay a minor key deposit. Homeless people don’t often like committing to anything. Being able to rent by the day, week, or month, and move out at will is crucial. Unfortunately, many of the old residential hotels are either being torn down or renovated into Section 8. I don’t know if the residential hotel is a viable business model for new construction but it should be looked into, or maybe considered as an alternate model for a subsidised program if necessary.

      • Melissa says

        Hi John,

        Fantastic idea and awesome perspective! I completely agree that we need to look at ways to reduce instead of create access to housing. Section 8 has a role, but simply creating/preserving existing affordable shelter/housing options is important. Not everyone is ready (or will ever be ready) to commit to a long-term lease arrangement. Residential hotels can be a great solution.

        So glad you chimed in.
        –Melissa

        PS. I am so stealing “homeful” as a term.

  6. Kyle says

    It should also be noted that a large number of the organizations on this list are not directly related to homelessness support or prevention.

  7. Melissa says

    True–lots of subsidized tickets are targeted towards vocational and/or educational programs. I don’t see as many health care services as I’d expect.

    This isn’t the only subsidy Metro offers. Do we have information about the number of senior & disabled passes Metro sells? How far below market value are the passes offered to businesses?

    • Jessics says

      I can just vouch for my own ORCA:

      Since it’s an RRFP ORCA and I use Sounder, I loaded it with a $2.25 pass (a regular fare between Seattle and Tacoma would be $4.75)

    • Ben Schiendelman says

      I would LOVE it if you’d submit a public records request for that information from Metro. The more they hear from people like you, the more likely they are to actually put things like that on the website.

      • says

        Anyone can submit a public-records request. You might have to pay a duplicating fee, which can’t be more than 10c/page if I recall correctly. If you ask nicely, they’ll probably mail you a CD instead. :)

  8. Ron says

    I couldn’t help but notice that the Asian Counselling and Referral Service is on the list.

    So…..in addition to having basically bullied metro into maintaining route 42 almost solely for its own use it gets a heavy subsidy on tickets. Wow.

    • Andreas says

      You know, what you call “bullying”, some might call “being an advocate for those who might otherwise have none”.

      • Christopher Stefan says

        ACRS wasn’t going to loose bus service entirely, just a single-seat ride to downtown. The 48 is going to continue to service their offices on Walden and MLK and the 8 will start running all the way to Rainier Beach. Those who need to get further up Rainier or to downtown there are transfers to the frequently running 7 an Link.

        However for some reason ACRS seems to think a once-an-hour single-seat ride is better than every 10-15 minute service with a transfer.

      • MarkS says

        “However for some reason ACRS seems to think a once-an-hour single-seat ride is better than every 10-15 minute service with a transfer.”

        Pretty typical approach – especially coming from self-styled activists with free parking who have never used public transit in their lives…

        Another good reason legislative bodies should not do transit planning!

      • Ron says

        Did you not catch some of the rhetoric that ARCs aimed at the county council? True, this is very subjective, but I think many would agree that it took on more of a tone of bullying than advocacy.

      • Ben Schiendelman says

        Andreas, the ACRC really doesn’t have a leg to stand on here. They’re wasting service hours when they would still have been served.

  9. Mickymse says

    I’m troubled by Desmond’s list… because I feel like this is used as a justification for raising fares. Like, don’t worry, poor folks will still be able to get bus tickets through our low-income fare assistance program.

    The trouble is I know folks who work at a few of those agencies where rules are set up for how many tickets they are actually allowed to give out to any one client over a certain period of time.

    I’m not arguing that we should increase the program. I’m just saying that I fear it’s a convenient excuse for dodging the question of impacts from fare increases on low income people.

    Because we’re such a commuter-focused system right now, I think we tend to focus on the high number of riders that are being subsidized by their employers; and I am not sure that’s the best thing to be doing.

    I’m wondering if we don’t need to call for some more study of how much money would be raised by the addition of a third fare zone, before we raise fares more than the additional $.25 in February.

    • Andreas says

      Back in 2001(?) when Metro wanted to raise youth & senior fares to $1, they said the revenue was going to offset the creation of a new low-income fare. Whether the current program was instituted after that fare hike wasn’t approved or if it existed before, I take that proposal as a sign that Metro knew then (and presumably still knows) that the current program is simply a (poor) substitute for what is actually needed.

      It doesn’t seem to me like Metro’s trying to say they’re already doing enough for those in poverty, it seems like they’re saying they’re doing all they can given the modicum of funding and political will they have to work with.

      • alexjonlin says

        Um… Many youth my age (teenagers) can’t even get together 75c for the bus. Not only is it even harder to get a job in this economic climate as a teenager, but also most of the year we have school to worry about so we can only have jobs in the summer. Also, low-income people tend to have a lot more children than rich people so doubling or tripling youth fares would hurt the poor quite a bit.

      • says

        The short answer is yes. The long answer:

        Minneapolis used to have an “under 17″ fare that changed to “under 13″ about 10 years ago to cut down on the number of rowdy teens causing trouble on buses.

        Appleton, WI has no youth discount, except for a special summer pass, school field trips, and free trips one day a week in the summer.

        Chicago and Milwaukee have “under 12″ fares. Teenagers can only get a discount on school-related trips.

        Sioux Falls, SD and Des Moines, IA have “under 10″ fares. No, that’s not a misprint. 10.

        NYC Transit doesn’t have a youth discount though some students get free or reduced passes through the school system.

        Though I understand the plight of individuals, I oppose youth discounts, especially for teenagers, on the ground that special favours undermine any case for equal rights, which I am an advocate for. An affiliation pass throuht the schools similar to the deal many transit systems have made with colleges is a better, non-discriminatory solution IMHO.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      To be clear, my question to Triplett and Desmond on this subject was entirely unsolicited. No one brought it up as a justification for anything,

    • Melissa says

      Can someone please explain employer subsidies? I don’t understand how these work–are employers offered reduced-fare passes or ??

      Also–most agencies are extremely limited in how many tickets we give each participant. In our case, we offered four tickets per calendar month. That’s $7.00 per month per participant.

      • Martin H. Duke says

        My impression talking with Metro is that they basically sold these tickets to the agencies with no strings attached. So if there’s a restriction it probably comes from the agency.

  10. Erik G. says

    How is it that King County is allowed to subsidize all of these church groups with tax money?

    Anyone know why that is allowed, because it seems that King County is funding the establishment of a County religion.

    • Zed says

      They’re not subsidizing church groups, they’re subsidizing bus riders, just to a greater extent than they subsidize other bus riders.

    • Melissa says

      Taking the question at face value: many churches form independent 501(c)3 nonprofits that provide services regardless of faith/religion. Every group on this list provides services to the general public; no one discriminates.

      There is no establishment of a County religion. Since there’s at least 4 faiths represented on the list, it’s hard to see which would win as official King County religion.

      • Erik G. says

        But if you are a member of a religion that has historically been in conflict with one or all of the 4 faiths you list, are you going to feel comfortable trying to get bus tickets from them?

        No, there isn’t ONE religion being established, but it would appear that the four churches who are getting free bus-fare are getting a nod from the County that they are legit while other religions are not.

        Doesn’t this open up the County to be required to give bus-tickets (and other funding) to other groups who claim to be “churches”? Could Narcanaon get some free tickets? (Bonus points to you if you know who they are a front for).

        Isn’t a bit concerning that one of the places listed above has the name “Center of THE Race” (emphasis and translation from the Spanish mine)? Should the “Good Government League” have also been able to hand out these tickets to their unemployed

        And are we sure that in order to get the free bus-tickets, recipiants are not required to attend religious ceremonies or recite text from a book by this or that self-proclaimed prophet?

        Why not limit the ticket give-away to the non-denominational groups or even to Metro itself? Keeps alot of worms in the can.

      • says

        Though I can only speak for myself, I am not of any mainstream religion, certainly none of the ones mentioned. I have been in need of charity from mainstream religions in the past. Some are decent and some shove their POV on you. This isn’t even consistent within a particular religion — some Salvation Army branches are tolerant of all, others force their POV pretty heavy. Almost anything called a “mission” forces POV but there are a few minor exceptions. Usually the forced POV is related to food and places to sleep (and though not relevant to me, those “free” pregnancy tests at the pro-life clinics); I’ve never heard of a charity shoving religion on someone for a bus ticket, clothing, or other stuff.

        I would guess, however, that the four churches getting Metro tickets are simply the only four that had qualifying programs *and* applied. I would guess if Narconon applied, Metro would include them as long as they appeared to have a legitimate program (and yes, I know Narconon is Scientology). Anything else would get Metro sued. And Scientology loves suing people….

        I’m not defending the status quo. I’m just wondering how Metro could adequately and fairly define eligibilty if it ran its own program. I know some cities have low-income fares (Tucson, AZ is best example) but even that may not help with the crisis situations the Metro program is intended for.

        As to only giving out tickets through non-church entities, doesn’t that discriminate against people who receive their other services through a church entity? Most poor people don’t choose programs based on religion, but rather on appropriateness to their needs.

        All said, your points are valid, I’m just raising counter-points. Please don’t take the wrong way….

    • says

      Erik, I’d also like to point out that most religious groups would be overjoyed if proper funding of social services made some of their charitable work obsolete. Let’s make it happen.

      • Erik G. says

        This isn’t charity, this is a discount on bus tickets that are otherwise indistinguishable from those sold to the general public which is ripe for fraud. This is a task that can be handled now by the county itself through ORCA.

    • says

      This is a misunderstanding of the seperation of church and state. There is nothing wrong or unconstitutional about government funding for a program run by a church as long as it serves a secular purpose. There *is* a valid issue, however, when that program requires some religious activity or declaration to receive the benefit thereof. For example, I think it’s wrong for government to fund a mission that makes you attend a service to eat or get a bed. I don’t know if that’s happening in Seattle, I know it happens in some cities with varying degrees of flagrancy….

  11. Erik G. says

    Well this will all be moot soon.

    From the October ST Book:

    All tickets will be replaced
    by ORCA in the near future.

    So now we’ll be able to see if the bums and transients are going to the job lined up for them in Sodo, or to Auburn to catch the Emerald Downs shuttle (too bad there is no longer the “Pony Express”) or perhaps the CT221 to the Tulalip Casino.

  12. Krystal says

    I know this post has been retired for a few days, but I have been researching low income fare passes for the last couple of days and have found nothing. I get my pass through work, but my boyfriend is an artist who works in a retail store and is very low income. He would like to stop driving but fare prices are high enough to keep him in his car. 4 dollars a day 5 days a week is 80 bucks a month, that is 20 bucks higher than what he pays to commute by car. We live a block away from the new light rail in Columbia City and he works in SoDo, so the convenience is there, but he can’t afford the price. Isn’t there a way to get low income fare even if you’re not homeless? He’s not looking for charity just subsidy.

    • Martin H. Duke says

      Krystal,

      Three things:
      1) His employer really ought to set up a pre-tax pass sales program, which costs them nothing but the administration.
      2) If he unloaded the car, $80/month is likely less than insurance alone. I don’t know if you share a car or not, but if you both have one, that’s one expense you might not need. We got rid of our second car and it hasn’t slowed us down one bit.
      3) If he wants subsidized tickets, he should try with whichever agencies listed above you think would actually give him some.

    • Chris Stefan says

      Krystal,
      Looking at the Link fare table Columbia City to Sodo station is $1.75. A $1.75 Puget Pass is $63 per month which is close to what you say it costs your boyfriend to commute currently. Factor in the cost of insurance and maintenance on the car and transit likely comes out a winner. In addition he can use the pass for trips on buses and link for reasons other than commuting.

  13. Used to be like you. says

    In reply to: Comment by Erik G., 2009-09-04 22:11:26

    “Well this will all be moot soon.

    From the October ST Book:

    All tickets will be replaced
    by ORCA in the near future.

    So now we’ll be able to see if the bums and transients are going to the job lined up for them in Sodo, or to Auburn to catch the Emerald Downs shuttle […]”

    So- you’re saying it’s okay to track someone’s every move just because they’re poor? Nice.

    (Although I suppose everyone who uses ORCA is going to be tracked in this way, which I find unacceptable. Why aren’t more of you upset about this?)

    To the rest of you who seem to think poor people have such a cushy existence here:

    I’m currently experiencing the “other side.” I worked in social services for nearly a decade, but I was laid off and subsequently developed some complicated medical issues.

    I didn’t live beyond my means. I don’t smoke, drink, gamble or take drugs. I didn’t eat out often, own a car or even have cable TV. No large CC or other debts, paid off my student loans in full long ago.

    After my unemployment ran out and my savings were depleted & I still could not find steady employment, I moved into a kind friend’s extra room. Then the medical issues developed. I applied for low-income housing, and the people who run the property where I now “live” are so inept that they caused me to become homeless, whereas I hadn’t been before.

    This caused me to lose more than half the possessions I still owned from when I had a “normal” existence and had hoped to start over with, including my beloved mountain bike- which was my main transportation.

    Food banks: half the time, the food is moldy, expired, or rotten. I don’t expect fancy top quality, but offering me moldy bread, rotting vegetables and dairy products which were 6 months expired (no exaggeration) is really uncalled for. And these stores get a tax-write off for this?!

    Also, the food is geared toward highest-calorie instead of balanced nutrition. I gained 40 lbs and hypertension from it. I now prefer to skip meals when necessary rather than deal with food banks.

    Bus tickets: good luck getting more than two at a time. Pretty inconvenient in most instances. There is one agency who actually does give out whole books at a time, but I was appalled at the way they violated my privacy and their own confidentiality policies & decided the humiliation wasn’t worth it for a few metro tickets and an occasional $10 Safeway card.

    Just hope you never have to navigate medical, dental, or mental health care in this situation. This post is already far too lengthy for me to detail the horror stories, but I am willing to communicate through the site admin (if he is wiling) if anyone is interested in specifics of any of this, particularly agencies who’d like constructive feedback on the services they provide. (If I find this difficult and appalling to navigate, and I have some residual knowledge from my former job- what must it be like for others?)

    That’s the only “good” thing that’s come of this experience. If I ever escape this hellish situation and decide to return to the social services field, I now have a much deeper understanding of the sheer hell my clients go through and will not just hand them the Crisis Clinic number & “Where to Turn” sheets and send them on their way.



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