Partnerships

Community impact: a take on the homelessness crisis through the eyes of Uber driver-partners

June 22, 2018 / Washington
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This story was originally written and published by Wellspring Family Services as part of their June newsletter. It has been adapted for the Uber Blog to present a first-hand account of Seattle’s homeless crisis and how organizations are helping families in need.

Driving around Seattle, it’s hard not to notice how much the homelessness crisis is deepening. To most of us, it’s something we confront every day on our way to work. But for local Uber driver-partners, the effects of homelessness on the city are a constant presence.

This year, Wellspring Family Services received a $10,000 grant through Uber’s NW Community Impact Initiative, offering clients free rides to and from their offices. We decided to talk to some of the Uber driver-partners about the effects of homelessness they’ve seen in Seattle.

James said he’s noticed how much things have changed. “It’s worse now than it was a few years ago. Any freeway you get on, you’re going to see a tent somewhere.” He described how new visitors to Seattle were shocked by the homelessness situation, but that locally “I think most people just ignore it.” He empathized with many of the families experiencing homelessness, saying, “A lot of them have jobs, they just can’t afford to live here.” He summed up his feelings of the homelessness crisis, “There’s a lot of band-aids, but no fixes.”

Jafer had similar feelings. He spoke about some of the barriers that many face when it comes to finding housing. “With landlords, the requirements are very high…. I know some people are working, but they’re homeless. They just go in a shelter. They just don’t make enough money, you know? Every year you see more and more homeless.”

Mercedes spoke from personal experience, revealing that at one point she had been homeless. After her husband lost his job, the setback brought on a period of mental illness for him. Mercedes worked alone to raise her children and put them through university. But later, after becoming ill with diabetes, she lost her own job and home. At that point she found herself bouncing between friends’ homes, sleeping on their couches, and trying to manage her health while finding a job and a place to live.

Eventually, she found part-time work and a home, but without full-time hours she wasn’t making enough income. Her job as an office manager was only for 5 hours per day, so she decided to drive with Uber for the other three. She loves to drive, because in her own words, “I love people.” She’s thankful for the opportunity to supplement her income.

We’re proud to stand with and support Wellspring Family Services as they help individuals reclaim their lives and get out of poverty.

In 2018, the Uber NW Community Impact Initiative has donated over $600,000 in financial assistance and rides to 45+ nonprofits across the region. For more information, visit t.uber.com/communityimpact.