Change Agent of the Year Dee Powers | 1-7 Sep 2021
The advocacy arm of Real Change has nominated Dee Powers to receive the honor of Change Agent of the Year. Advocacy Director Tiffani McCoy said the team chose Powers for their involvement in raising awareness about the camp, supporting them, setting up a mutual aid post, providing resources to homeless people , defending safe campgrounds, defending Amendment 29 to the Pro-Scanning Charter and much more.
At the onset of COVID-19, Powers found himself in a precarious situation. Powers has a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, so they could no longer provide in-person mutual support to people living in tent camps.
For Powers, a contactless drop-off site where community members could leave supplies for people living outside seemed like the perfect fit, and that’s how in February 2020, they designed the waystation.
Now every Tuesday and Saturday, donors drop off supplies and Powers spends the day sorting items into bins and taking inventory. Then, volunteers show up on Wednesdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. to bring supplies to where they are needed most.
“It’s been a busy year,” Powers said. Powers lives in a vintage Pace Arrow RV on a strip of private property in SODO. Powers isn’t immune to it, but understands on an intimate level what it’s like to live in a space with limited access to basic amenities, making them a good fit for knowing the supplies people living in camps need.
Powers explained that the word traveled fast, and volunteers showed up with items like socks, hygiene products, harm reduction supplies, clothing, ice packs, tupperware and tents, load after load. .
If they find themselves with a surplus of items, such as after recent shipments of 2,000 N-95 masks and 20 gallons of hand sanitizer, Powers is quick to pull out his phone and start calling his network. aid organizations and supporters to see what supplies they are lacking.
“Due to the pandemic, many nonprofits had to stop providing services in the camps, and a group of self-help volunteers needed supplies. … So I opened up my house for this and I just supplied a drop table, and it has been blowing up ever since, ”Powers said.
Powers explained that the project has evolved into partnerships with nonprofits and several self-help groups throughout the city of Seattle and is not a small-scale operation.
“That’s all people need… and I’m proud of my 24 hour donation deadline,” Powers said. “It kept me busy throughout the pandemic, and I really don’t mind. … It’s a necessary service, so why not? said Powers.
In an average week, Powers’ supplies pour into homeless settlements for at least 100 people, and when they have a surplus of items, they estimate that number could jump to 1,000.
When Powers doesn’t sort through donations, they organize against Amendment 29 and plead for more funding for safe lots. Powers said they haven’t seen much progress in opening up more spaces for people living in their cars to park.
“With the lack of funding from city offices, it’s really hard to get anything done,” Powers explained. “Fifty percent of our homeless community live in their vehicles, and there is no safe land for RVs in the immediate vicinity. In fact, I don’t think there is one at all right now.
What Powers wants to see are safe campgrounds with wrap-around services similar to what a person might find in a small village of houses. A shared kitchen, a hygiene trailer, social workers and transition services are what Powers believes are needed to bring more people living in their cars indoors to more stable living conditions.
While many people would remember last year and qualify the creation of a pop-up crossing station as a successful mutual aid center, Powers is focused on the future and what they can do next. .
“I recently received the Solidarity Fund grant through the Coalition on Homelessness in the amount of $ 2,500. I’ll be shopping for flip flops galore this summer. I’ll make sure everyone’s feet are healthy before the next rainy season. When you’re still stuck in your winter shoes in August, it gets tough, ”Powers said.
Read more from the September 1-7, 2021 issue.