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The struggle to help Seattle's homeless

Melissa and Denny Hancock tent PIXLR KVI.jpg
Founder of MammasHands.org homeless outreach Denny Hancock (L) kneels with Seattle homeless woman, Melissa Burns, inside her tent on 3rd Avenue near The Space Needle as they discuss options for getting her off the street and into safe, permanent shelter. (photo: KVI staff)

Homeless people dot Seattle streets and beyond in Puget Sound. The tents and make-shift camps are a monument to something that has gone horribly wrong for any number of reasons like drug addiction, domestic abuse, financial distress, mental health, or criminal background.

The story of trying to help one Seattle homeless woman find real shelter showcases the monumental struggle to rectify the region's rampant problem.

"It's been very...educational," sighs a frustrated homeless outreach volunteer from MammaHands.org, Denny Hancock, when he talks about Melissa Burns.

On behalf of KVI, Hancock reached out to Burns, a Seattle homeless woman who KVI found living in a tent 'mansion' just over a block away from The Space Needle.

KVI hosts John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur hoped that Burns would accept some charitable help from Mamma's Hands to reach permanent shelter and get off the Seattle streets.

"She seemed kind of hesitant a little bit at the beginning (and) that surprised me but I thought maybe she doesn't trust me or whatever," Hancock explains. But he persisted to build a bridge with Burns. "I've gone done there (to her tent on 3rd Ave.) several times (and) spent some time with her thinking I'm gonna break through."

But that break through has failed to materialize, Hancock says.

"She keeps coming up with reasons why she can't (accept outside help), and I've been able to overcome all those reasons so far but then she keeps coming up with more," Hancock confides.

He described an overture offering to drive Burns and a male companion to Spokane for shelter with a friend. But she didn't respond to his calls or emails despite Hancock's 20 year track record of reuniting homeless people with family and loved ones through his work with Mamma's Hands.

So he returned to her tent for a face-to-face discussion.

"She thanked me and said that she needed to wait for this and that." Hancock says referring to her reliance on excuses rather than being direct. "She said basically I'm okay, I'm happy with where I'm at, " Hancock recalled.

He urged her to reconsider, saying "Any time now the city could come here and scrape this place (tent structure) off the map and you'd be really homeless again. And she goes, 'no, no they (the city) would never do that.'"

Hancock says he doesn't see evidence of drug addiction with Burns, who told KVI she has a master's degree in social work, which made him cautiously optimistic that should would eventually accept help to reunite with family to reach safe, permanent shelter. However he explains that the obstacle preventing her fateful decision is a male companion she describes as her husband, Mike. Listen to the KVI interview with Carlson, Wilbur and Hancock for his assessment of that aspect of Burns's homelessness.

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