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FALSE CLAIMS

Andrea Suarez has recently been making some wild claims about her organizaton having saved the Seattle city government well above $10 million dollars.

We immediately knew there was no way this figure could be true so we set out to do a little bit of homework. This is what we found.

The Trash

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In 2021, the city of Seattle ran a program called the Clean City Initiative. On a budget of $3 million dollars, city workers removed 3,500,000 pounds of trash and 95,000 hypodermic needles from public spaces around Seattle over a course of ten months. Using these figures to calibrate a cost per pound for trash removal, and without considering that nearly half of the trash We Heart Seattle has collected was left for the city to pick up anyway, their 450,000 pounds of garbage collected amounts to roughly $385,000.

Where is that number coming from?

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We’re not sure how Suarez is deriving her total dollar amount, but based upon previous mentions of the cost of homelessness being approximately $35,000 per individual (sourced from The National Alliance to End Homelessness), we speculate that she must be multiplying the number of people she claims to have assisted into housing by that amount.

Even if it were that straightforward to calculate such a figure, 78 people times $35,000 is $2.7 million, which is $7 million shy of what Suarez’s claims.

It's not that simple

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Alas, it is definitely not simple, nor is it even accurate.

The second part of that statistic Suarez conveniently fails to mention when she cites it are the following criteria:

  1. This figure is applicable only to chronically homeless people, which make up approximately 18% of the unhoused population (individuals who have chronic and complex health conditions including mental illnesses, substance use disorders, and medical conditions who experience long-term homelessness — and can be found sleeping on the street or in shelters).
  2. Similarly, the housing provided must be considered supportive (permanent housing that is coupled with medical and other forms of support that the chronically homeless often need).
  3. The provision of supportive housing to said individuals nets an annual savings of roughly $4,800, bringing the cost down to $30,000 per person, per year.

If for the sake of this exercise, we assume 100% of the people We Heart Seattle has assisted qualify as chronically homeless, and that they were placed into permanent supportive housing, the previous figure of $2.7 million becomes $374,400.

Many were bussed out of state

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Roughly a dozen of the people assisted by We Heart Seattle received bus tickets to out of state destinations without any further contact for us to know their current status. Additionally, the vast majority of those who were assisted with shelter were placed into temporary/emergency shelters, which do not qualify as supportive housing.

We estimate that less than a dozen people assisted by We Heart Seattle received placement into long term housing. Assuming that all twelve of them were chronically homeless, and that the long-term solution provided qualified as permanent, supportive housing, $374,000 then becomes $57,600.

Chronic homelessness

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Per the previously cited statistic pertaining to chronic homelessness, of the estimated 580,000 people experiencing homelessness nation wide, roughly 110,000 of them meet the qualifications to be considered chronically homeless.

By this standard, it is statistically likely that only two of the twelve people We Heart Seattle placed into long-term housing were chronically homeless at the time. Even if we’re conservative with this estimate by doubling it, we’re still realistically looking at the previous estimate of $57,600 actually being more like $19,200.

None have been sheltered for a year

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At the time of this writing, literally none of the individuals Suarez helped into housing have been there for a year. When we factor this in by estimating an average of six months of residence indoors per previously chronically homeless person, $19,200 becomes $9,600.

Supportive housing

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We’re just going to go out on a limb with an assertion that none of the people placed by We Heart Seattle were moved into supportive housing as previously defined, thereby reducing the aforementioned figure of $9600 to $0.

Destruction has a cost

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The material value of the many households Suarez and her team of volunteers have destroyed, as well as the material cost of rebuilding said households (of which there are assuredly dozens) amounts to tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds. 

We’re now in the red.

Many have returned to homelessness

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When inexperienced people interfere in this domain by attempting to do a job that requires years of study and training, things go awry, often tragically.

There are many individuals who have verifiably returned to homelessness following intervention by We Heart Seattle, now without any of the possessions they need to survive because they were thrown away. This arguably generates additional cost burden rather than netting any kind of savings.

We’re now even further in the red.

Suarez is expensive

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Last but not least, there is also a cost burden involved in mitigating the many harms done by We Heart Seattle. This not only costs the city money, and thus Seattle tax payers, but picking up the pieces in their wake often comes directly out of the pockets of mutual aid volunteers and other charitable organizations to boot.

Simply put, managing Andrea Suarez is expen$ive.

Actual Savings

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$0 Dollars Saved

With all of that said, we’re going to have to go with “nah, fam”. We Heart Seattle has a demonstrable cost that is not offset by their contribution of picking up trash from city parks. Their claims of saving the government millions of dollars are tall at best, and at worst, dangerous misinformation.

Were they able to just focus on environmental cleanup without intervening in the lives of unhoused individuals, they might have something respectable to offer. And, until they stop putting parks before people and non-consensually trashing people’s vital households and belongings, they remain predatory abusers at great cost to us all, financial and beyond.

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