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Originally published September 29, 2009 at 4:38 PM | Page modified September 29, 2009 at 6:46 PM

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Seattle homeless say: 'your money or your lawn'

SHARE/WHEEL's advocacy for the homeless must get beyond theatrics such as camping out in front of elected officials' homes to more rational and long-term solutions.

A STRATEGY by homeless advocates to raise money by camping out in front of the homes of city politicians is overwrought and unhelpful, verging on extortion.

SHARE/WHEEL, the homeless-advocacy group that brought us Tent City, launched the series of campouts to embarrass city officials into giving the group $50,000.

Mayor Greg Nickels' refusal to give in is appropriate considering the current economic climate that has the city curtailing services at libraries and community centers.

The city has been generous to SHARE/WHEEL, allocating more than $300,000 in funding in 2009 and including another $300,000 in 2010. SHARE/WHEEL, which operates a dozen shelters around the region, says it needs the additional cash to purchase bus vouchers to get the homeless to its shelters.

But the reality is the organization is running low on money. It is looking for a quick infusion of cash and saw the city as a deep and convenient pocket.

First up on the shakedown list was Nickels, when a few dozen homeless and their advocates showed up Monday night with sleeping bags and set up temporary camp. City Councilman Tim Burgess was expected to be next on the list.

What's next, camping out in front of restaurants until free meals are served?

The city has tried to work with SHARE/WHEEL, offering to advance the group money as long as it agreed not to close any of its shelters. But SHARE/WHEEL refused that offer, underscoring the group's priority is getting its way, not getting assistance.

Theatrics such as the campouts unfortunately get in the way of constructive long-term solutions to end homelessness. Time would be better spent helping pass Seattle's fifth housing levy. Voters will be asked in November to approve a $145 million, seven-year measure that will create 1,850 residences.

This is a far more sustainable solution than trying to embarrass elected officials into a short-term infusion of cash.

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