"Rent is obscene here": The issues forcing people in Seattle onto the street
With the days getting shorter and the temperatures colder, it's sobering to think that on any given night more than half a million Americans are homeless. In the last three years, according to government reports, cities on the West Coast have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people who are "unsheltered." That's the term used to refer to anyone who's homeless, but not sleeping in a shelter. They're the people you see sleeping on streets or in parks, in tent encampments, or in vehicles. Why has the unsheltered population been going up at a time of economic expansion and low unemployment? One answer is rising rents in hot real estate markets. Take Seattle and surrounding King County, which are booming thanks to high-tech companies but now have the third highest number of homeless people in the country. The Seattle area is home to Amazon and Microsoft, but also to a homeless encampment called Tent City Three.
In the shadow of Interstate 5 in Seattle, on a vacant strip of public land, this is Tent City 3. There are about 50 people living here, without heat or running water.
Ethan Wood is celebrating his third birthday. He's lived in a tent for the past year and a half.
His parents, Tricia and Josiah, told us Ethan has an enlarged heart and suffers from bouts of asthma and croup so severe, they've had to take him to the emergency room several times. Last winter, one of Seattle's coldest in recent memory, Ethan was sleeping in a tent, covered with blankets, sandwiched between his parents for warmth.
Anderson Cooper: Did you ever think, "Well, this is not the place, we should have our child"?
Josiah Wood: We don't want our son here. We don't want to be here. But as of right now, this is the safest place for us.
Tricia Wood: Absolutely.
Josiah Wood: Because we know the people, we know the rules, and--
Tricia Wood: Our family gets to stay together.