Outsiders | KNKX

Outsiders

Allen, who lives outside in Olympia, stands in the city's so-called "mitigation site," a sanctioned homeless camp.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

Allen doesn’t present like the typical resident of a homeless encampment.

“He’s not struggling with the type of addictions that you often see. He’s not struggling with severe mental illness,” says Vianna Davila, editor of the Project Homeless team at The Seattle Times. “He’s known as kind of a cook, chef, around the mitigation site.”

The mitigation site is a sanctioned camp in Olympia — the center of a podcast series by Project Homeless and KNKX Public Radio called “Outsiders,” hosted by KNKX’s Will James.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Despite Olympia’s efforts, hundreds of people remain in unsanctioned camps around the city. They invent ways to stay alive and help each other survive.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

Olympia's sanctioned tent city, known as the "mitigation site," as seen on Jan. 8, 2020.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX

In late 2018, the number of tents in downtown Olympia swelled from around 30 to more than 300 in about a three-month period.

It was an extreme example of what cities up and down the West Coast have wrestled with during the post-recession years: unprecedented levels of visible, unsheltered homelessness.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

How did people end up on the streets of Olympia? Some can point to a catastrophe that bent their lives toward homelessness. For others, it almost seemed like life was moving in that direction from the very beginning.

Donate to KNKX: knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times: seattletimes.com/subscribe

ADRIAN FLOREZ / KNKX

The rise of homelessness in Olympia looked different depending on where you were standing. To many people, it swept over the city like a storm in a matter of weeks. But a few could see the pressure building for decades.

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

ADRIAN FLOREZ / KNKX

KNKX and The Seattle Times’ Project Homeless team invite you to "Inside 'Outsiders:' What one city can teach us about homelessness" on March 3, 2020 at Town Hall Seattle. At "Inside 'Outsiders,'" we'll explore issues and questions covered in the podcast "Outsiders" and hear from the people who made it.

Episode 1: The Rain

Jan 29, 2020
Adrian Florez / KNKX

The West Coast's homelessness crisis arrives in Olympia, Washington. City leaders scramble to respond, and wonder if they can succeed where larger cities have failed. People trying to survive outside face a choice: whether to set aside years of distrust and go along with the city’s plans. 

Donate to KNKX:  knkx.org/support

Subscribe to The Seattle Times:  seattletimes.com/subscribe

Adrian Florez / KNKX

  

As part of our conversations for KNKX Connects to Olympia, we’ve heard lawmakers talk about homelessness as a priority for this 60-day session. It’s a growing issue in many parts of our state, not just cities. But it is perhaps most visible there.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Everyone wants to tell a story about homelessness. But it’s not just one story:

“I was a mom who wasn’t prepared to lose anything. And I lost everything.” 

“I had pictures on my wall and I had carpet between my toes. Now I don’t get that.”

“People are dying out here in the cold.” 

And homelessness isn’t just one thing. So, KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times Project Homeless team have partnered on Outsiders, an in-depth podcast series to help you understand what’s actually happening.

Adrian Florez / KNKX

Homelessness on the West Coast is rising to crisis levels at a time of historic economic growth and prosperity. Why? KNKX Public Radio and The Seattle Times' Project Homeless spent one year in a city that’s grappling with homelessness. What’s it like to live outside for months on end? What’s it like when tents come to your neighborhood? What new solutions can city leaders find?

This is Outsiders.

Outsiders is available wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe now so you don't miss the first episode debuting Jan. 29.