SEATTLE -- Leaders have called the homeless crisis in Seattle a state of emergency, and after Wednesday an estimated 15 SHARE/WHEEL shelters will close, leaving hundreds with no place to go.
“So we can't pay the money out if we don't have it, and we've fallen behind $75,000 right now, so we can no longer operate,” said Clint Wade, SHARE’S spokesman.
SHARE, or Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, and WHEEL, or Women's Housing, Equality and Enhancement League, are a self-help organization managed by homeless members.
SHARE managers say despite more than $600,000 awarded by the city of Seattle to operate the shelters, a loss of funding from King County last year crippled their operating budget.
“We have not paid our employees and they're all minimum wage employees,” said Wade. “We have not paid our employees in over a month.”
The city of Seattle has a contract with SHARE to provide roughly 249 beds a night. In an email to Q13 News, the Human Services Department says it didn't receive notice of SHARE’s financial issues until Wednesday, and that it still expects "shelters funded by the city remain open.”
However, SHARE leaders say it's simply impossible.
“It's because of the increase in expenses and the cost of living in Seattle and operating numerous shelters, we fell behind,” said Wade.
Those who use the shelter say the announcement has been worrisome for many who won’t have many other options.
"People who don't have a place, people that rely on God's house to provide a home, to provide a shelter, and they're going to be back on the streets again with nowhere to go,” said one of the shelter residents.
SHARE organizers have planned a rally for Thursday. They say they'll be marching to the King County Administration Building and creating a tent city as they demand the county fund the program once again.
A statement issued by the city late Wednesday night read:
"The City of Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) invests $610,932 in shelter support to SHARE/WHEEL. This investment funds 90,555 bed-nights per year (serving roughly 249 people every night). HSD had not received any communication from SHARE/WHEEL until today requesting additional funding nor indicating an inability to continue to provide City services at the level agreed to in your 2016 contracts. It is the City’s expectation that SHARE/WHEEL shelters funded by the City remain open 365 nights a year, and that individuals experiencing homelessness have access to those beds."