What is SHARE/WHEEL?
History and Achievements:
SHARE and WHEEL are self-organized, democratic,
grassroots organizations of homeless and formally homeless individuals. SHARE was founded in 1990 and WHEEL was founded in 1993. For 22
years we have been working to eradicate homelessness, educate the community,
and empower homeless people.
We practice self-management because it acknowledges and promotes the innate dignity of each person. All major decisions are made organizing meetings that all members are encouraged to attend, participate, and vote in.
SHARE is the national leader in breaking down attitudinal & unconstitutional legal barriers to Tent Cities, of which we organize three, as well as Seattle’s largest network of indoor shelters, all self-managed. Recognized leaders within SHARE can enhance that role by participating in our SHARE2 housing for work program, which provides extra support for struggling shelters, enabling them to become successful in self-management.
WHEEL operates a Severe Weather Shelter for homeless women and the Women’s Empowerment Center, a self-managed day organizing, arts, and education center for homeless and formally homeless women. Together with the Church of Mary Magdalene, we co-sponsor Women in Black vigils whenever homeless people die outside or by violence in King County. Our annual Homeless Women’s Forum, attended by 250 people, is an opportunity to educate the community, strengthen ties with allies and partners, celebrate our successes, and share our advocacy platform for the next year.
Together, SHARE and WHEEL educate our community about the causes and effects of homelessness, build bridges with homed people to address those issues, and actively lobby to change policies that oppress homeless people.
Up to 450 people each night find safety, shelter, dignity, and respect in our 14 self-managed shelters and 2 Tent Cities.
After years of struggle, community education, and negotiation we established the first Tent City in a suburban area in May 2004. Overcoming initial intense public opposition, we negotiated with King County to define and establish land use standards for temporary homeless encampments. In the process we were able to build bridges with the community, leading to the establishment of Eastside Cares and Greater Seattle Cares, coalitions of religious and lay people that provide practical, fundraising, and lobbying support for Tent Cities.
In December 2003 WHEEL established the Women’s Empowerment Center. In addition to our Dorothy Day study and activism group, we advocate for a number of projects that will increase the health, safety, and dignity of homeless people, with special emphasis on the needs of homeless women. We honor homeless people who have died by standing Women In Black vigils, which are also opportunities to educate the community and advocate for increased services. In November 2005 the Seattle City Counsel passed a resolution in support of a Homeless Garden of Remembrance on public land, which we have lobbied for since 2003.
Membership in SHARE/WHEEL is open to all homeless and
formally homeless adults. Membership is defined as participation: we do not
have dues or formal membership lists. We are active throughout greater Seattle,
with participants from throughout King County. Our self-managed shelters and
SHARE2 houses are located in 13 Seattle neighborhoods. Tent City 3 moves
quarterly within Seattle, Tukwila, Shoreline, and unincorporated South King
County. Tent City 4 moves quarterly between locations in suburban cities in
North and East King County, including Bothell, Kirkland, Woodinville, and
Participants at weekly community meetings make all decisions in SHARE and WHEEL; virtually everyone present is low-income. Every participant who attends has an equal vote; paid staff has none. The SHARE Power Lunch is held at rotating program sites every Saturday, and the WHEEL community meetings are on Mondays at the WHEEL Women’s Empowerment Center. Decisions that affect both SHARE and WHEEL must be agreed on at both meetings. The SHARE Board of Directors meets with the Power Lunch.
SHARE has a nine-member Board of Directors and WHEEL has a ten-member Executive Committee, elected by participants from among participants. There are no term-limits; the community meetings can replace any elected member at any time. These elected groups study issues and make recommendations at the community meetings.
There are a number of standing ad-hoc committees to address particular problems and projects: a Finance Committee, a Vehicle Maintenance Committee, a committee addressing the Safe Harbors Computer Tracking, committees to prepare for meetings such as those with City Counsel members, etc. These committees consist of low-income participants with a staff facilitator, and carry out directives set by the community meetings. Actions taken by committees are always subject to review at the weekly community meetings.
Both SHARE and WHEEL depend on individual participants holding each other accountable. Any member may file an incident report or grievance against a staff member, someone in an elected position, or anyone delegated to do a task for the community. Grievances are reviewed at by-weekly meetings and at the weekly community meeting.