Let’s Band Together to Fight Homelessness

David Bley
3 min readJul 19, 2018


Homelessness and a lack of affordable housing is an ongoing problem and one that affects us all. Every day, we see people in our city struggle to find a safe and stable place to call home. For many, despite having a job, income isn’t keeping up with increasing rent. And homelessness doesn’t always look like you might imagine.

It’s tempting to assign blame, point fingers, and criticize efforts to solve the problem. But imagine how much further we could go if we stay positive, build on progress, and work together? I’m confident we can.

As a community, we are already making strides. According to the latest Count Us In Report, homelessness is actually down among veterans, families, and young adults in King County — showing that targeted, collective efforts do work. In fact, in 2017, 8,100 people who experienced homelessness were able to find permanent housing. The reality is that our systems are helping more people find stable housing than they were five years ago. But as our region grows and changes, we’re seeing an increase in the number of people who are asking for help.

Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has tried to elevate and support promising signs of progress. We have invested over $88 million to build affordable housing, improve data that paints a picture about who is homeless and for how long, create a coordinated system to access shelter and services, and support “rapid re-housing” to help people get into housing first and then build on that stability to address other challenges such as trauma, addiction, or unemployment.

But hard facts remain. While the crisis response system is dramatically better than it was 10 years ago, it hasn’t kept up with growth or inequity. It’s hard to miss the fact that our region has seen an overall increase in the number of people living without shelter.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the contentious policy debates, but we’re always at our best when we band together behind a common goal. Legendary rock band Pearl Jam is trying to do just that. I’ve always felt that music, art, and personal stories can unite and open doors to new thinking and collaboration. Pearl Jam will play two concerts at Safeco Field this summer (Aug. 8 & 10) — but not just any concerts. The Home Shows are shining a spotlight on local efforts to address homelessness and encouraging all of us to stay positive, have empathy, and act.

The Gates Foundation is working alongside a broad coalition of partners, including the United Way of King County, the Raikes Foundation, the Seahawks, and the Mariners — all coming together to focus on what unites us.

To help show our support, starting on July 30, the Gates Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Deutsche Bank, and Pearl Jam are all matching donations to DonorsChoose.org for projects that support students experiencing homelessness.

Our partners are showing their support, too — by sharing personal stories of our neighbors and their experiences with homelessness:

Join us as we band together with Pearl Jam by donating, volunteering, and getting more informed. We’re excited to see everyone play a part.



David Bley

Director of the Pacific Northwest Division of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helping all children in our home state reach their full potential.