Running Every Street in Tacoma with Rob Huff

hosted by
marguerite martin


a map of tacoma created by rob huff running every street in tacoma

About This Episode

Rob Huff is almost finished running every street in Tacoma. Yes, even the really steep ones. What has he learned about the City of Destiny on his runs? Rob shares what he's learned about streets, sidewalks, and folks living on the street. Rob is the Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Metropolitan Development Council. He brings unique insight into the issues our city is facing, and how we can work together to help find housing for all Tacomans.

Get Personal Guidance founder Marguerite has been a real estate agent in Tacoma since 2005. She knows Tacoma neighborhoods and she knows local real estate agents. She can connect you to agents who are experts in the neighborhood you're looking in, at no cost to you!

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00:01):

This is channel 2 53, move to

Speaker 2 (00:00:03):

Tacoma on this episode of move to Tacoma,

Speaker 3 (00:00:06):

The system that we live in now we've inherited, um, it includes the impacts of redlining. Yeah. Uh, it includes a lot of systemic racism elements. Yep. And without you, that has to be changed. If we're really gonna be, make space for everyone in our community.

Speaker 2 (00:00:29):

Channel 2 53 is supported by Microsoft. Microsoft is committed to civic conversations like those on channel 2 53 that inform and empower Washington communities to learn more visit Slash Microsoft in Washington. We're back

Speaker 1 (00:00:48):

I'm Margarite. And I want you to move to Tacoma,

Speaker 4 (00:00:52):

Move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma. Don't like it. Move to Tacoma, move to Tacoma, move to

Speaker 1 (00:01:02):

I'm Margarite, and this is moved to Tacoma. And I'm here today with Rob Huff. Welcome, Rob.

Speaker 3 (00:01:09):

It's good to be here.

Speaker 1 (00:01:10):

Yeah. And you've, you've been here before we, we did this like six years ago.

Speaker 3 (00:01:15):

It's been a while. Yeah. It's

Speaker 1 (00:01:16):

Been a while. So Rob is a long time Tacoma and the, uh, director over at MDC. And what is MDC?

Speaker 3 (00:01:27):

Metropolitan development council,

Speaker 1 (00:01:29):

Which is not what it sounds like. What do they actually

Speaker 3 (00:01:32):

Do? Yeah. So we work with folks who have, uh, challenges in their lives like addictions, uh, mental health challenges, as well as provide, uh, over 200. You units of housing for people who were previously homeless. Uh, and we do direct services for people who are homeless through something called our care management program.

Speaker 1 (00:01:52):

Awesome. So when you came on in a past, uh, episode, we'll link to it in the, the show notes, we talked about homelessness in Tacoma, but that was six years ago. And

Speaker 3 (00:02:02):

So much has

Speaker 1 (00:02:02):

Changed. Yeah. Like I, everything has changed and that's not the total reason I'm having you on. You're also, it's hard for me to even speak of this from you are running every street in Tacoma and Rob goes for like a casual 10 mile run on an afternoon. So like, can you talk about running? What do, why would you run every street in Tacoma? What is this journey you're on?

Speaker 3 (00:02:23):

So there's this story. Okay. Um, so this started, uh, there was a, a guy named Ricky gates who in 2018 ran every street in San Francisco.

Speaker 1 (00:02:34):

Oh, oh my gosh. Must have been very

Speaker 3 (00:02:36):

Steep. Yeah. Lots of Hills. Uh, it it's even more hilly than Tacoma. Um, and I saw a few people, including a friend, uh, online friend of mine from Olympia who did the same thing in Olympia in 2018, probably wrapped up in early 2019. And I thought, Hmm. It might be kinda interesting to do the same thing here in Tacoma. So it was on January 28th, 2019 that I started running these crazy, crazy, uh, checker board routes around Tacoma, gradually filling in the map.

Speaker 1 (00:03:12):

Okay. So when you go for a run, I mean, I, I joked about you going for the casual 10 mile run, but like what, what did you, your usual run?

Speaker 3 (00:03:20):

Uh, so I, I run a lot, um, I run a couple thousand miles a year, a little bit more than that. And a, and typically I run three miles a day. Oh, that's. So I run, that's very

Speaker 1 (00:03:33):

Reasonable. That's three miles,

Speaker 3 (00:03:35):

But to do 2000 miles in a year, you're actually averaging more like six or seven miles per day. So there's longer, there's longer line runs in there. And, um, so I've, I've yet to do an actual calendar year where I didn't miss a day. Oh, last year I missed one day. Oh man. Because I was traveling to Leavenworth and got truck stuck in traffic and yeah. Yeah. Not default. Yeah. Anyway, I'm still, still bothered by it, but, um, clearly, but, uh, so I, I run quite a bit, uh, found it helped co-found a group here in Tacoma called Tacoma runners. Yes. That started in 2010. And we still continue to run now, even though during COVID we have not been running for of bars.

Speaker 1 (00:04:20):

So we did an episode of try, where we went running with you and showed kind of how that process goes. We'll drop that in the show notes as well. But how has the process of running with Tacoma runners changed since COVID like, where do you meet up? How often do you meet up? Do you meet up? How does it

Speaker 3 (00:04:35):

Work? Yeah, so we ended up, uh, taking a break from March 12th, 2020. That was when everything suddenly shut down to roughly July of 2021. So, um, we managed to do some remote style events during the time that that was happening, but not running together. Yeah. And then now what we did is since July of 2021 we're every Thursday night from a different park. So we have yet to return to our normal, which the normal situation was we'd have somewhere between 75 and a hundred people get together and run from a Tacoma bar every Thursday night. We

Speaker 1 (00:05:16):

Haven't and then have beers after.

Speaker 3 (00:05:18):

Yeah. And we haven't been able to do that yet. So we'll see when that restarts,

Speaker 1 (00:05:24):

And if somebody wants to figure out what park you're meeting at this Thursday, they just go to Facebook. Is that,

Speaker 3 (00:05:28):

Uh, so yeah, they can go to Facebook. Uh, they can join, we have a, we've made our group private on Facebook, but they can join the group on Facebook and they'll get the invites to every week's run that way. Mm.

Speaker 1 (00:05:40):

Well, we're gonna, we're gonna talk some more about running over street in Tacoma, but for anybody who's curious if you wanna hang out with Rob Tacoma runners on Facebook, try to try to join the group. Yep.

Speaker 3 (00:05:49):


Speaker 1 (00:05:49):

Right. Okay. So you're, you're running out the door sometimes three miles, sometimes six miles. Yep. Probably sometimes more. And you're how do you select where to begin when you're creating this map? Or is it haphazard? Was it strategic?

Speaker 3 (00:06:04):

It took a little bit of, so when I first started out, I liked doing liked to do each run from my house. So I live in the north slope. Yeah. And I was stubborn about this. Uh, I got to the point where I was running all the way from the north slope over to say the TCC campus or the east side of Tacoma. Yeah. In order to start then running a grid of streets

Speaker 1 (00:06:27):

And that's five, six miles.

Speaker 3 (00:06:28):

Uh, so the east side of Tacoma is about, you know, Lincoln high school is three miles from my house. Okay. So that's not unbearable, but that means six extra miles. Yep. Going there and back. Yep. Um, same thing with TCC. So essentially that's kind of the range. Yeah. Um, so for the first year in 20, 20 19, I was doing a lot of runs from home to the runs then, uh, in 2020, um, things became more D of COVID and I for many months just didn't do any, every streets runs. Yeah. Uh, and

Speaker 1 (00:07:04):

Just running close to home,

Speaker 3 (00:07:05):

Just close to home. Occasionally I ran some of the most scenic portions of Tacoma down in the NA valley and places like around the Costco. Are you you

Speaker 1 (00:07:14):

Being sarcastic?

Speaker 3 (00:07:15):

No, not at all. Um, so ran industrial Tacoma. Okay. Kind of during COVID

Speaker 1 (00:07:21):

Very diplomatic.

Speaker 3 (00:07:22):

Yeah. Um, and then late 20, 20, and then through 2021 started transitioning to the point where I'd have to drive, find a place to park my car. Hope that the catalytic converter wouldn't get stolen while I'm out running eight or 10 or 12 miles. Of course, that happened in front of my house. Not after,

Speaker 1 (00:07:42):

As these things go. Yeah, no, where's safe. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:07:47):

Um, and yeah, I just would drive to a different location and then kind of built a grid of, uh, the city, uh, running every block. Sometimes it would be out and back on a block, um, parts, some parts of the city you could run, you know, up and down a coup like four or five streets one way and then four or five streets the other way. And it made a nice little grid, but that's not the case in most of Tacoma.

Speaker 1 (00:08:12):

Mostly it's twisty.

Speaker 3 (00:08:14):

Yeah. And hilly,

Speaker 1 (00:08:15):

Hilly. Okay. So I'm just gonna ask them like rapid questions, Rob. Okay. So prettiest run so far. What is the prettiest stretch you've done so far in Tacoma.

Speaker 3 (00:08:27):

Wow. Um, the views are great from portions in Northeast Tacoma. So if, if you are

Speaker 1 (00:08:34):

She drive path, the port Marine, you drive, that's

Speaker 3 (00:08:37):

The worst. The worst part about running in Northeast Tacoma is

Speaker 1 (00:08:40):

Getting, there's getting there if you don't live there. Right. Okay. So where did you run in Northeast Tacoma? That was so amazing.

Speaker 3 (00:08:45):

Uh, boy, I'm trying to remember the names of the streets. There are some streets on the hillside. You can see them from Rustin way. If you look over that kind of stair step down the hill and face to the west. Okay. So you see from there, you see kind of, you can see point Rustin in the distance, but you see vaon island. Oh yeah. You see the Olympic mountains

Speaker 1 (00:09:06):

And that's not our usual view. That's really special. No.

Speaker 3 (00:09:09):

Yeah. Yeah. Um, and there's areas in the west end of Tacoma that have that too

Speaker 1 (00:09:14):

Crazy sunset view.

Speaker 3 (00:09:15):

Yeah. Right. Um, but that's actually one of the areas that has the most gated communities where those, those were areas where I couldn't run.

Speaker 1 (00:09:23):

So you, oh, you didn't like,

Speaker 3 (00:09:25):

I didn't hop the fence.

Speaker 1 (00:09:27):

I thought this was gonna be like really hardcore. Okay. So, all right. So there were some, some neighborhoods that were excluded to you. Yes. I don't think you, it's funny cuz like, you know, I talk about real estate and neighborhoods in Tacoma with people all day, every day. And I forget there are actually a few places in Tacoma that have gated neighborhoods. I think even in Rustin or in old town, there's like one gated community

Speaker 3 (00:09:47):

There is. And I didn't didn't run that either.

Speaker 1 (00:09:49):

Yeah. That's so interesting. Well, for those of you that live in gated communities, you didn't get Rob on, you Rob's map on your neighborhood. Hope you're happy. All right. So best runs were in Northeast Tacoma and in the west slope, those are your pretties

Speaker 3 (00:10:02):

Runs. Yeah. I mean, in terms of views, views, um, this was really not a big part of the, every streets bit, but um, running point to finance. Oh

Speaker 1 (00:10:11):

Yeah, really?

Speaker 3 (00:10:12):

You just did. So if you run five mile drive, that's pretty pretty. Yeah. I mean it's pretty hard or to beat that. Okay. Um, there's also fantastic views in some of the areas of the east side of Tacoma.

Speaker 1 (00:10:22):

I'm thinking like McKinley hill.

Speaker 3 (00:10:23):

Yeah. And stellar. Yeah, exactly. And uh, even further south on the east side really where you have really nice views of Mount Rainier. Oh. So looking the other way.

Speaker 1 (00:10:33):

Yeah. That's so true. Okay. So best view McKinley hill on the east side, west slope, Northeast Tacoma. What about the worst places to run in Tacoma? You've already dropped the N valley hope. Hope. No. N valley residents are offended. There's like probably 10 people that live down there. It's

Speaker 3 (00:10:50):

Hard. It's hard to be worse than running into tide flats. Oh

Speaker 1 (00:10:54):


Speaker 3 (00:10:54):

So it actually was just a

Speaker 1 (00:10:56):

Few. You, you ran into the port.

Speaker 3 (00:10:58):

Yeah. Um, I that's the one area where I have limited the number of streets I've run just because I've run areas that have sidewalks. Yeah. And areas that have a little bit of a shoulder. Yeah. Um, I'm really not wanting to mix it up with the trucks.

Speaker 1 (00:11:13):

Right. It's dangerous to run there. It's not designed for you, right?

Speaker 3 (00:11:16):

Yeah. Uh, but I, it was only, probably about a month ago. I did a run down by the sewer plant and I referred to that route as the smelliest route in Tacoma.

Speaker 1 (00:11:26):

It did. It did smell bad. Yeah. Where the sewer plant is in the port. I don't

Speaker 3 (00:11:30):

Even know it is. So it's essentially down by the Lincoln avenue bridge.

Speaker 1 (00:11:33):

Oh, okay.

Speaker 3 (00:11:34):

Sort of what is that? Portland avenue and Lincoln avenue intersection is where the sewer plant is.

Speaker 1 (00:11:41):

All right. Well, Rob, I'm going to take a moment to take a break so we can run a channel 2 53 sponsor and then we'll be right back.

Speaker 3 (00:11:49):

Sounds great.

Speaker 5 (00:11:52):

Hello. I'm Eric Hamburg host of the channel 2 53 podcast, citizen Tacoma. This episode of channel 2 53 is sponsored by Microsoft. The Puget sound region is experiencing historic growth. And while this presents a remarkable opportunity for the region, it also creates challenges. Microsoft is, is committed to our region and everyone in it, working in partnership with the community to improve environmental sustainability, affordable housing, efficient transportation, and high quality education. These issues are fundamentally connected, smart transportation systems reduce our region's carbon footprint. Affordable housing allows people to live in communities where they work high quality education, prepares young people for great jobs and a bright future. Our region is remarkably complex and diverse. We need policy solutions that reflect it. This is all part of Microsoft's goal to empower every person and in Washington to achieve more, to learn more about Microsoft's work in this area, visit Slash Microsoft in Washington. My thanks to Microsoft for their support of channel 2 53.

Speaker 1 (00:13:15):

All right. We're back. And Rob, I am supposed to mention right now that, uh, move to Tacoma is on the channel 2 53 network. Are you aware of

Speaker 3 (00:13:23):

That? Rob? I am quite aware of that.

Speaker 1 (00:13:25):

And I'm supposed to remind listeners that if you're interested in, uh, being a member of the channel 2 53 network, it is for, is it $40 a year investment and Rob, if I'm not mistake and you are a member, a channel 2 53,

Speaker 3 (00:13:37):

You gotta get on the slack. Yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:13:38):

And that's the, okay. That's why I keep telling people like, yes, it's nice to be a member. It's nice to support local podcasting, but the real hookup is the slack channel. So why should people care about some random slack channel with a couple hundred D Tacomas?

Speaker 3 (00:13:50):

It's just the inside scoop and great banter on all kinds of topics.

Speaker 1 (00:13:54):

So when the stuff is happening, when there's drama in the city, that's where you go. Yep. Yeah. All right. Well, thank you for sharing your experience. So back to running every street in Tacoma, when you're, I mean, when I think of running in Tacoma, not that I'm as good as running as you are, but like I think of, uh, some neighborhoods where the sidewalks are maybe more uneven than others and neighborhoods where it's like, obviously running in point, defiance is wonderful, cuz you can run on the trails and that spray on your feet. But what, what would a as a citywide, what's the grade you would give us as a runner? Like how do we, how do we stack up as a city in terms of supporting runners?

Speaker 3 (00:14:32):

Yeah. I mean, it's hard, it's hard to make that comparison cuz I haven't done in the same kind of running in other other cities. Yeah. But um, I mean we clearly have room to get better. You're right. Sidewalks don't exist in a lot of places. Um, especially in parts of the city that have kind of lacking infrastructure overall anyway,

Speaker 1 (00:14:55):

Historically underfunded.

Speaker 3 (00:14:56):

Yeah, exactly. Um, so the areas like the east side, the very south end of the city, um, the area that I still need to finish is in the very far south end. So like all the way down to south 96. Oh, okay.

Speaker 1 (00:15:09):

Yeah. You're almost to Parkland.

Speaker 3 (00:15:10):

There's really not much in the way of sidewalks in a lot of the areas. Um, so you can see where the community, the city has invested in that infrastructure. Um, we could do better. Um, ironically enough though, there are plenty of blocks in the north end of Tacoma that don't have sidewalks as well. And a lot of that I think is a historic thing when, when the development was done, it wasn't required. So

Speaker 1 (00:15:35):

Yeah. So, um, you know, one of the things like the city of Tacoma has that, uh, health or it's the health Pierce county health department Tacoma Pierce county health department that has the map that shows health disparities from neighborhood to neighborhood. There's like a 20% difference in life span from the east side to the north end, something like that. Right? Like there, there, there are huge differences in the ways that the ne the neighborhoods are supported. Did you notice that, like when you look at maybe with some understanding of like the historically redlined parts of the city, do you see a difference in support and infrastructure from neighborhood like the neighborhood where you live to neighborhoods where you were running? Do you see that

Speaker 3 (00:16:10):

Disparity? Yeah, definitely. You, you can tell a difference in the socio-economic status of people who are living there, as well as, like I said, the investment that the community has made in those areas. Um, there are things here and there, like, you know, the east side community center, of course, a great community asset that's in that part of the city. Um, Shan was actually one of my favorite neighborhoods to run through new plan development, relatively

Speaker 1 (00:16:37):

New. I was gonna say, is it like 15

Speaker 3 (00:16:39):

Years old now? Yeah. Yeah. Relatively new. If you've been at Tacoma a long time, it's new wish.

Speaker 1 (00:16:43):

Well, most Tacoma houses are like a hundred years old, so that's new.

Speaker 3 (00:16:46):

Yeah. But, um, some of those areas you can see investments have been made. Yeah. But, uh, but it's also, as you run through the city, the further you get from the downtown core, the more suburban and then rural Tacoma becomes because some of the properties that exist once you get, say south of 56th street, you know, it's larger lots for sure. Um, still small homes, so big go open spaces, some completely undeveloped tracks of land. Um, there's clearly room for Tacoma to grow in those areas if they weren't zoned for single family homes only.

Speaker 1 (00:17:26):

And you know, that's not really the topic of this podcast, but I just wanna take a moment to remind our listeners that we are short 15,000 homes in Tacoma right now. And, uh, we're expecting 1.5 million more people in the Puget sun region over the next 30 years. So, you know, I know you want your neighborhood to say exactly the way it is, but it's gonna have to change just dropping that in there. Yep. So, okay. The other nefarious reason that I wanted to have you on Rob is, uh, not just because you ran every street in Tacoma,

Speaker 3 (00:17:52):

Almost not done

Speaker 1 (00:17:53):

Yet. Oh. But you're any minute now. Uh, but the other reason is to talk about homelessness and you know, that was the topic that you discussed with us on the podcast six years ago, you work and you have worked for a very long time with MDC. Like I think for a lot of us that do not work in that business. No, it's not business, but like, I mean, it kind is like, you know, in the world of homelessness, like we think we know what's going on. We think we know the solution. It's so obvious. Right. But then everybody has a different solution. And I, I think right now I'm becoming very discouraged in the conversation around housing, how home homelessness, because the rhetoric is getting so incendiary, like just to take the temperature of the situation, like how would you describe the housing situation for the unhoused in Tacoma right now?

Speaker 3 (00:18:40):

It's tough. We have come through in the last year, um, besides the fact that we've lived through a pandemic, right. And the accumulation of visible homelessness increased during the pandemic, um, for a number of reasons. One because more people became homeless, but also because due to, uh, the guidance from the CDC, the city was not making people move from spaces that were along city street. So there were areas where encampments built up right along the sidewalk and stayed there for 18 months.

Speaker 1 (00:19:18):

So historically what would've happened before the pandemic, why wouldn't we have seen you, you say visual homeless, like you're saying like these people were here, you just couldn't see them. Why couldn't we see them?

Speaker 3 (00:19:28):

Yeah. So before that time, the city, uh, a couple of things were happening. The city at one time had a public camping ban that actually expired in 20, 19, late 2019. But

Speaker 1 (00:19:41):

That's also illegal, right?

Speaker 3 (00:19:43):

It is. Yes.

Speaker 1 (00:19:44):

Like didn't the Supreme courts that,

Speaker 3 (00:19:46):

Yeah. Yeah. That's the Martin view Boise yeah.

Speaker 1 (00:19:48):

Decision, but that's not, it's not really illegal.

Speaker 3 (00:19:51):

Oh, it is illegal. So that, that decision, and I'm not a lawyer, but, but that decision essentially says that a city can't make it illegal to have a place to sleep at night. So

Speaker 1 (00:20:01):

They can't, so they don't have shelter beds, they can't move you or something. Right.

Speaker 3 (00:20:05):

Yeah. Yeah. Um, but our county right now has roughly 3,300 people who are homeless and we have roughly 1200 shelter spaces.

Speaker 1 (00:20:21):

I feel like that's 10 times as many people as when you were on last time. I feel like the point in count that year was like under 400.

Speaker 3 (00:20:28):

So there's a couple of, couple of things that have changed. Um, one the conversation about what data system, what the actual number of people who are homeless is, has really, uh, progressed from just talking about the point in time count. Oh. And when I was on the program, six years ago, the point in time count numbers were really focused on people who are chronically homeless. So people who had been homeless for a a year or more, and or who have had three episodes that equal a year within a certain time period. Um, and that, that was where that 400 number was. Um, the point in time count is something that's done on a Friday at the end of January, every year, it's required by, uh, the department of housing and urban development. And it always is an under count or, you know, it's a best estimate of what people see on that single day and things as subtle as what the weather looks like on that particular day can really affect the numbers. Um, and

Speaker 1 (00:21:36):

It's also is volunteers like going into the woods, like walking on every street, like marking every person down and like a, like a census,

Speaker 3 (00:21:44):

Except it's not, they

Speaker 1 (00:21:46):

Don't take their information. It's just

Speaker 3 (00:21:47):

Exhaustive person. Yeah. So, um, so there's a recognition that the point in time count is an under count. Okay. Um, and I think when I was here six years ago, we talked about how, yeah, it's rough. There was always kind of this in the, in the business, if you wanna call it that, that there was always this thought that it was at least two and a half times what wow. The number that comes up in the point in time count, um, it's really difficult to count people on the one night if they're sleeping in their car or if they're in, in abandoned building. Um, the number that I used, the 3,300 number is an estimate that the county created last year in creating this new comp apprehensive plan to end homelessness that the county council's gonna be considering, uh, here in mid-March considering approving and, and, uh, and moving forward with. And so that estimate uses a combination of methodologies to come up with a number, including the homeless management, the information system or Hemi.

Speaker 1 (00:22:50):

Ah, okay. So, and does that include, like, I, I know when I've heard folks talking about this before they talk about, you know, people that don't have a home that are crashing on a friend's couch, still homeless people that don't have a home that are sleeping in a friend's garage, still homeless, is are those folks counted, like families living in cars? Like I know that there's many gradations of homelessness, like right. Who, who, where is the line? So when are you homeless? Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:23:14):

That 3,300 number is people who are literally homeless. So they're

Speaker 1 (00:23:17):

Either on the street

Speaker 3 (00:23:18):

Or in a car they're in a car. Um, they're in a building where that's not set, you know, not good for human habitation. Um, it doesn't catch everybody who is couch surfing.

Speaker 1 (00:23:29):

Okay. So the there's actually beyond the 3,300 is another huge swath of people.

Speaker 3 (00:23:34):

Yeah. And the school districts, uh, work with something called the McKinney bento system that does capture students whose families are doing the couch surfing or living doubled up. Wow. So it's a bigger number even than that.

Speaker 1 (00:23:49):

So Rob, why do we have so much homelessness in Tacoma?

Speaker 3 (00:23:55):

Because we don't have enough housing. What

Speaker 1 (00:23:59):

I thought it was because everybody's on drugs and they're being bused in from other cities and nobody wants to work anymore. What are you telling me?

Speaker 3 (00:24:06):

Yeah, I know. I hate, hate to burst the bubble.

Speaker 1 (00:24:09):

Okay. Well, all right. What's really going on. Housing is expensive. This is, and we don't have enough.

Speaker 3 (00:24:13):

Yeah. I mean, if you look at you, you mentioned the number, uh, of estimated number of housing units that were

Speaker 1 (00:24:20):

Short lacking.

Speaker 3 (00:24:21):

Um, so I'm trying to remember the report I saw a week or so ago that talked about how through the end of this year, Tacoma's projected to add 3000 units of apartments and other housing, which

Speaker 1 (00:24:35):

Sounds like a lot.

Speaker 3 (00:24:36):

Sounds like a lot, except for over the last year, two years, we've had more than 8,000 new residents. Yeah. So those numbers don't come, I'm close to matching up.

Speaker 1 (00:24:47):

Yeah. I mean, when you're adding 10,000 people a year ish, average, I think a few years ago was 12,000. Yeah. I mean, we are not even coming close to keeping pace. Plus Rob, you're not gonna believe this. I know this isn't you or me's thing. But like people have children, people in this county, in this city, they keep reproducing and those people become adults that want buy houses, the millennials, the largest generation in home buying history. They're almost 41. Yeah. I know. And they like have kids and wanna buy houses yeah. And wanna rent houses. And I think that's, I, I, I am a little sensitive to this because I have a podcast called move to Tacoma. I've heard of it. Yeah. But like, you know, people are always like, well, maybe you should stop your podcast in. Maybe you should turn on of your website.

Speaker 1 (00:25:27):

Then we wouldn't have this problem. And it's like, y'all had babies too. Like we have, we have it coming from like both ends. Yeah. Um, so I just, it's a little disorienting for me as a realtor. And I always feel very uncomfortable in this conversation because on one hand, we're talking about appreciation and you know, in 2020 home prices in Tacoma appreciated 15%, some neighborhoods more, um, in last year in 2021, it was 18%. And we have these like dizzying gains and I'll see people, you know, on social media and stuff, talking about this awesome. And like, we sold our house and we bought another house and like cashing out and like doing these different things and like remodeling. And then in like the same breath, they're like, why are these people in the street? And it's disorienting for me because I feel like it, it should be very obvious that when housing becomes so expensive, not everyone is gonna be able to get in on it. And I don't know that everybody's making that connection. And I, I feel like the reason is because it's really sad when you make that connection. I don't, I think there are people that are, are looking for any story that would justify sort of dehumanizing people that live on the street.

Speaker 3 (00:26:35):


Speaker 1 (00:26:36):

Uh, that was a little editorializing. I'm sorry, Rob,

Speaker 3 (00:26:38):


Speaker 1 (00:26:38):

Do you think?

Speaker 3 (00:26:40):

You won't get a much disagreement for me. Oh my

Speaker 1 (00:26:43):

Gosh. Yeah. So, okay. So the story, the story of folks that are like, there is a mix, what do we know about the 3,300 people that are living on the street or living in a car on the street right now? Like,

Speaker 3 (00:26:56):

Yeah. I mean, it, it is a real mix. Um, we, what we know about homelessness is that most people, when they become homeless, it is a very brief situation really.

Speaker 1 (00:27:08):


Speaker 3 (00:27:09):

But you have another population that doesn't have the same kind of support network, um, and can't as easily like land back on their feet and can end up in a spiral where stuck in homelessness for a long period of time,

Speaker 1 (00:27:25):

I would think the longer you're out there, the harder it would be to come back.

Speaker 3 (00:27:29):

Yeah, for sure.

Speaker 1 (00:27:30):

And so, I mean, since you work at MDC and part of your mission is to support people, you know, at various points in that situation, like what are the interventions that actually help people find housing again, since the market won't do it in case anybody's wondering like the market is not gonna solve housing for people like, yeah, we're gonna have to find some other way to build housing cuz like the, the market won't do it. So like what interventions actually get people housed.

Speaker 3 (00:27:59):

So there are different strategies. Uh, the county puts a lot of money into something called rapid rehousing. Hmm. Um, that essentially gives people a sh uh, rental support for a short period of time and allows people to kind of figure out their job transition. They need to go, go through and get their own housing on the other end in a relatively short period. The challenge with most of the interventions that exist is that there's not low income housing yeah. For people to move into. Yes. So the, one of the really wild things in our, it's not just in our community, but you, I definitely see it in Tacoma is that we have probably a dozen nonprofits who employ people to try to find units, to move people into, they're all competing against each other and competing against people, moving in from other areas, right. To the community. Right. And, you know, competing unfortunately against our efforts to resettle people who are refugees in our,

Speaker 1 (00:29:02):

Yeah. Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3 (00:29:04):

So it's, it's, it's a little bit of a perfect storm and we just, we're not building housing quickly enough and definitely not building it in, uh, in a way that serves people who have extremely low income.

Speaker 1 (00:29:17):

Right. We don't just need affordable housing. We'd like deeply affordable housing. I remember when I first moved to Tacoma in 2004 I one bedroom apartment in stadium, uh, and that was $550 a month. And, uh, I recently saw that apartment listed for, I think, $1,800 a month, you know, and then there was like the, the cheapest studio I could find when the housing market crashed, that was 4 65 and that rents for 1400 a month now. And those were like, that's not even deeply affordable at that time. You could have probably still got a studio like on the hillside, going up to hill Hilltop for probably like 300 bucks. Right. Like, and that is like, if you're, if you're skirting the edge, you can scrape together, but you can't scrape together $1,800 a month with a side hustle. You probably can't scrape it together with a minimum wage job. And so I guess, um, how do we sell this Rob? What's

Speaker 3 (00:30:12):

The plan? Uh, we build a whole lot more housing, uh, and we do in, in the interim in terms of addressing homelessness because it takes time to build the housing. We, we need to do something like create safe places where people can stay, whether it's, um, well of course, during the, during the pandemic people, uh, logically didn't wanna stay amongst a bunch of other people in a

Speaker 1 (00:30:39):

Congregation in shelters or,

Speaker 3 (00:30:40):

Yeah. Um, so it's better to be able to create solutions that are either safe and warm outside. So low barrier encampments of some kind, um, that have security and garbage pickup and access to showers and bathrooms, um, or the that's one thing on the continuum or, you know, there's been the situation where the city of Tacoma and Pierce county and the city of Lakewood purchased a unused hotel and have converted it into, um, noncog congregate shelter that over time will become housing. So in a couple years it'll be transitioned into actually be becoming permanent supportive housing.

Speaker 1 (00:31:25):

So as a realtor, um, please handle this objection because I, I, I, I think something just clicked for me because you were talking about, well, yes, we need to build, but it takes so long to build that. Even if we had the money right now, which we don't, um, to build a ton of housing, it would take so long to get on the market. We, or we'd still have these people living in the street. Right. So we have to at least section off a giant parking lot, put tiny homes on it, guest garbage sanitation. But what I always see whenever I see people talking about things like tiny house villages or whatever, uh, first of all, I think the housed people's idea of what that's gonna look like and feel like is always like different. Yeah, exactly. And second, it it's so freaking expensive. Like it's millions of dollars to, I mean, it seems like, oh, it's just gonna be really cheap.

Speaker 1 (00:32:10):

We're just gonna like let people camp in this parking lot. But no, no, no, no. Like to do it in a way that's organized and where people are getting support and where there's like proper sanitation, like it's actually quite expensive. And then I'm like, well, if we've got $3 million, can't we just like make that the day own payment on a hundred unit apartment complex. Like can't we just do it that way. And then we actually have permanent housing and then that housing appreciates and then they can use the equity from I'm such a realtor. Right? Yeah. Use the equity to buy another apartment complex to house more people like, am I taking crazy pills over here? Like why? But now I understand like, okay, I understand like interim housing, but the cost of the interim unsustainable temporary situation is so high.

Speaker 3 (00:32:50):

It is. And part of that is because, um, to, to make it successful, you really need to bring services to people beyond just saying, you can use this field. Right. Um, so there's, there are costs involved when you're bringing in those, you know, mental health supports yeah. Uh, substance use treatment, uh, those kinds of things all end up carrying a price tag. Unfortunately, though, what we're seeing right now is the, at we're paying that price tag as a community. Yes. And folks are living out there on the sidewalk.

Speaker 1 (00:33:26):

Yes. And this is, this is where again, like it's just, I know it's such a huge problem and we all think we understand it. And there is no easy solution, but it's like the amount of money that we are spending on, like these terrible bandaid. Like we could just be investing in housing, our population. Yeah. And I,

Speaker 3 (00:33:46):

Well, and that's why you gotta cobble together, uh, a plan and a continuum so that you, um, the housing should be built and should come along. But because it can't be in an immediate situation. Yeah. Um, you've gotta do the humane thing and find interim solutions for people. So that for one, they can survive the winter. We, we just came through a period where last summer we had the heat dome and people died from

Speaker 1 (00:34:14):

The heat people died. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:34:15):

Um, we were, we dodged a bullet and didn't really have a big smoke episode last year. So we didn't have the huge health impacts from that. But then we had at least two cold spells yeah. In the last two and a half months. So, and, and that's where, um, so part of the work I do too, is with the Tacoma Pierce county coalition and homelessness. Mm. And a lot of the work there has been about advocating that we take to make, make sure people can survive those kinds of episodes. Um, because we do know people freeze to test. Yeah. You know, and, and unfortunately people overheated and died that way last year. So

Speaker 1 (00:34:55):

Rob, I just feel like it's, it's so like in order, what I, what I feel happening in me is when I like walk past a camp or I, it used to be, if I saw someone in downtown Tacoma that was like sleeping on the sidewalk, that was a jarring experience. Like that was, that was a surprise. It was unexpected. Like to see someone camping in the woods was odd. Even 10 years ago, it was like, oh, that's kind of weird. Right. And now it is. So it's everywhere. It's every neighborhood is challenged with this. And I feel like I'm losing my humanity, like in order to go about my day in order to keep talking to the person I'm talking with to keep moving along on my walk, I have to just kind of put this filter up around what I'm seeing. And I'm worried, like, I know I'm not alone.

Speaker 1 (00:35:44):

I'm not the only person doing this. Like I'm losing my ability to see the crisis to see that like, people are dying in the street and they might not be people that I wanna hang out with. Like, they be people that are having problems. They might not like they might just be regular people that are having a bad experience. But like at the end of the day, like these are my fellow human beings. These are my fellow Tacomas and they're, they're dying in the street and I'm used to it. Yeah. And we're all getting used to it. And how do, what are the actual things we can do to, to be human in this face of this? Like, I mean, from an advocacy standpoint, I mean, from a walking down the sidewalk standpoint, like, I don't know if I should ask, like, what do you do Rob? Or what do you think, right. But like, how do we retain our humanity in the face of this?

Speaker 3 (00:36:31):

Yeah. I think, I think it helps to just ha you have to remind yourself that the person who's going through something on, on the side of the road, um, and finds themselves living there, um, that they are human and that, um, you don't, it, it can be easy to either avert your eyes or to make a judgment that makes you feel a little bit better about it. Like, okay, they must have made some sort of mistake, but that's in too many cases, that's not the situation. Um, people have simply been priced out of their housing, um, and found themselves without a support network and suddenly they're living in a, in their car. Um, I remember earlier that, well, late year when the, the new, um, hotel was converted into shelter down in the south, in Tacoma, along Hoser, um, there was a public meeting and someone called in and, and was wanting to know if he could get screened in to the site he's he was fully employed, but he was not making enough money to stay in the place where he had been living. Uh, he was struggling to keep paying his bills while living in his car and working. So he really didn't have the kind of, uh, stereotypical issues that people associate with. Someone doesn't

Speaker 1 (00:37:55):

Fit the narrative.

Speaker 3 (00:37:56):

Yet. He slipped into that situation, had fall all and behind. He was still even paying his bills, but he just couldn't pull things together to be able to get back into housing. And that happens to a lot of people. Um, there's a relatively large percentage of people who are homeless, who are employed.

Speaker 1 (00:38:18):

Well, I was just a sneaky looking at my calculator here. Like, if you make $15 an hour and you work 40 hours a week, that's $2,400 a month. And I mean, that's with full employment and no sick days and no vacation. And how, how are you gonna pay 15, $1,600 a month in rent and still have enough money to eat and pay your phone bill? Yeah. Mean, God forbid you have a car and car insurance. Right. Like, I don't think we,

Speaker 3 (00:38:49):

And what has changed a lot over the last couple of decades is I remember when I was younger and didn't have a whole lot of resources and I could pretty easily go find somewhere like a, you know, small, very small apartment or studio to rent. I back in those days, not every rental unit was being managed by an, by a large

Speaker 1 (00:39:10):


Speaker 3 (00:39:11):

Corporation. So true. And not everybody had to show proof. They, you made three times yes. The amount of the rent every month.

Speaker 1 (00:39:19):

So even if you take your $2,400 a month and dedicate it to housing, you won't qualify right. For a rental like, and your credit better would be good. Yeah. Yeah. Oh my gosh.

Speaker 3 (00:39:30):

It's a real title that, yeah. So,

Speaker 1 (00:39:33):

So, okay. Back to being our humanity. All right. I'm gonna, I'm gonna talk a little smack here. I hope everyone will forgive me, but you know, there have been a, a variety of situations that have come up and like the internet sort of lights up when these things happen. Um, there was a group, uh, I haven't heard a lot about 'em recently, um, uh, safe Tacoma is that right. Tacoma site Tacoma safe. And, you know, it's a trend that seems to be happening. Uh, I guess I should have already said, like, Tacoma's not alone here. We're, we're having this problem. Uh, Olympias having this problem. Salem, Oregon, Portland, Oregon, Seattle, every city on the west coast, having this problem, large cities, small cities, we are not alone. And, and I feel like the rhetoric is like,

Speaker 6 (00:40:16):

Comma's going downhill. It's turning

Speaker 1 (00:40:19):

Into, I'm gonna do an impression of like my, uh, direct messages on Instagram.

Speaker 6 (00:40:23):

It's a garbage heap. Like, we've let these people take over.

Speaker 1 (00:40:27):

You know, I

Speaker 6 (00:40:28):

Am a business owner.

Speaker 1 (00:40:29):

I can't handle this anymore. And by the way, uh, also a business owner, very sympathetic and like no one deserves to have, you know, human feed sees in the door, going into business every day, or no one deserves to have an unsafe workplace to have your windows broken all the time. That is absolute BS though. Not necessarily connected to homelessness. And so, you know, we have the pandemic hasn't made crime rates go up in every city in America. We have all of these sort of confluence of lack of affordable housing increase in. I'm like increase in homelessness. And I feel like the blame is going to people that live on the street and not, oh, we have a systemic issue. Oh, we are underfunding services. Oh, we have extreme wealth inequality have trouble hearing you. Oh, I watch

Speaker 3 (00:41:15):

Siri agrees. Siri

Speaker 1 (00:41:16):

Is preach. You're preaching to the choir. So, I mean, we have all of these, we have this rhetoric that is it's, it's frightening. And, and it leads to this idea that what we don't, what we don't, instead of focusing on how do we house people? How do we get services? How do we get people back on their feet? The conversation is how do we get resources into policing? These individuals clearing the camps, even though they have nowhere else to go incarcerating people like people in Seattle were talking about, let's just open up McNeil island and put every single homeless person in Seattle on McNeil island, like bat, crazy stuff. I know you shouldn't say crazy bat Duff. Like, so what do we do with this rhetoric? I'm not sure. I get very, uh, as you can hear, like, I get very wound up when the, when the, when the tone goes to this place and I get very afraid because I feel like this is going to usher in fascism. Like this is going to offer in usher, in a police state and the, the door, the crack in the door is I don't like looking at homeless people. Right. I don't look like, like looking at people, living on the streets, so just make it go away. What do you, what do you see? What do you hear? Am I exaggerating the rhetoric? Am I tuning into the wrong voices?

Speaker 3 (00:42:26):

I, I try not to wallow in that rhetoric too much. Uh, it's definitely out there though. I mean, all you have to do is go on. Well, you can see it on Facebook, on Twitter. You can see it on Twitter. Heaven forbid if you visit next door.

Speaker 1 (00:42:39):

Oh, I've tried not to. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:42:42):

Um, and you can go further down the rabbit hole from there. Yeah. So, um, I, I think it's, I understand people's frustration. Yeah. And nobody feels comfortable and none of us should be comfortable. Somebody living on the

Speaker 1 (00:42:56):

Street, this should be uncomfortable.

Speaker 3 (00:42:57):

Yeah. It should be uncomfortable and we should solve the dang thing. Um, but we do have to remind ourselves about the humanity of the situation and that, you know, like you said, um, sweeping people from one place with no real option that they're going to utilize to go to another place means they just move a block. There's a, there's a, a small encampment, uh, near, uh, second in Tacoma avenue. That's gonna actually get cleaned up tomorrow. And the same folks who live there lived lock up the street two months ago when they were swept from that site.

Speaker 1 (00:43:39):

I was just talking with a client that lives on the hillside above UWT, kinda near Yakima. And she said that when they swept under the freeway, uh, down by hope furnishings. Yep. They, they, she, they just moved in next door. So we're moving the problem from one neighborhood to another, from one street to another. Well, and I'm saying, we're moving the problem, but we're moving our problem. Yeah. We're moving like the consequences of our systemic decisions. Like,

Speaker 3 (00:44:05):

And, and it's costly to move people around when, besides

Speaker 1 (00:44:10):

The human

Speaker 3 (00:44:10):

Cost, the actual there's a human cost. Yeah. There's that trauma and retraumatization that happens with people where they lose things. I mean, homelessness really is. The process is appealing away of the things that we're all used to. You lose your housing, you live in your car, you lose your car, you're in a tent, you lose your tent. Now you're in a doorway. And,

Speaker 1 (00:44:32):

Um, and all the dignity that goes with that, right. Having a safe, having regular meals, having a safe place to go to the bathroom, having a safe place to sleep. Yeah. Like it, it, it just, no matter what you might have done, no matter what mistakes you've made, no matter what you might be addicted to, no matter what, like whatever, the worst case scenario, someone is imagining for the people that are living on their street, no one deserves it. Right. We should have

Speaker 3 (00:44:57):

And making 'em move the block over doesn't doesn't

Speaker 1 (00:45:00):

Solve anything, solve anything. Yeah. Okay. So I asked this already, I'm gonna ask it again, like as an individual, what are some things I should keep in mind and what are some things I should do? And then as a, a citizen, as a, a person in the community supporting policy, what are the policies I should support? And then, yeah. Anything I should avoid? Is there anything I should avoid saying, is there any policy I should avoid supporting?

Speaker 3 (00:45:24):

So it's

Speaker 1 (00:45:25):

Like four questions and one,

Speaker 3 (00:45:26):

Get it, Rob. I know in, in terms of, of what can an individual do? I mean, just be human say hi. Um, and I think I said this six years ago, when we talked about a similar topic, um, you can recognize it's cold outside. Maybe somebody would like a hand warmer, right. Or, or even during a cold bell, handing a bottle of water to somebody can just be a, a quick human connection, um, and acknowledge that the person exists. And if you have the capacity to help in, you know, in a more, um, deeper way, then, then you could ask, what if there's anything they could use? Sometimes people will say, yeah, I'd love to have a sandwich. Yeah. Something as simple as that.

Speaker 1 (00:46:12):

Well, and there, there are organizations in town from the rescue mission to mutual aid to people's assembly. Yes. Right. Where they're, you can Venmo cash out them money, and they're just gonna put it right into sandwiches. They're gonna put it right into hand warmers. Right? Yeah. Like,

Speaker 3 (00:46:27):

And that especially happens in a coordinated way when there's something like a weather event. And yeah. And so boxes of hand warmers are going out. I, you know, I have friends and colleagues who literally carry around things in their car and they go out and visit encampments, um, just as individuals to help people. And they develop a relationship with people there. So it

Speaker 1 (00:46:51):

Might be like, you sort of ladder up to like, maybe just are with dropping some things off. And then as you develop more comfort, you can do more.

Speaker 3 (00:46:57):

The, the simplest is find organizations that are doing this work and donate to them, support them support. Yeah. And that donation could be financial, it could be, um, clothing, or, you know, a box of hand warmers.

Speaker 1 (00:47:09):

It could be just posting on your social channel. Like, Hey, I'm rounding up fun, whatever you've got, I'm gonna take it down there. Like send me some money and get your group if you don't have it, get the people, you know, to

Speaker 3 (00:47:19):

Yeah. And then in terms of, uh, policy. So I think it's, uh, if you have the heart to do it and the time to do it advocating at the city and, and, uh, county level for funding for extremely low income housing,

Speaker 1 (00:47:38):

How do people know when these conversations are happening? How do I feel like it can be a little impenetrable if you're not a, a nerd? No offense. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:47:46):

Yeah. None, none taken. Um, so a very nerdy way to do it is to, uh, so there there's a group that I mentioned earlier, the Tacoma Pierce county coalition in homelessness, it holds a meeting every Friday morning. Okay. From nine to 11:00 AM and the, you can register through a website it's at PC register and come to the meeting and start learning about homelessness.

Speaker 1 (00:48:12):

And they'll send you updates and let you know when the conversation's happening.

Speaker 3 (00:48:15):

Yeah. Uh, that, that website, PC, uh, also has links to different resources. If you're trying to work one on one with somebody to try to find them the resources that they need. Um, and you can see, uh, where, where, uh, comprehensive life resources is doing outreach this week. You can see where the different shelters are located and what's currently available. Um, so there are ways to slowly learn and get involved that way. And that's probably the easiest avenue to then figure out, okay, this is the weak where it makes sense to show up at community forum at the city council and talk about

Speaker 1 (00:48:55):

Homelessness. Actually, this is actually another great plug for channel 2 53, because these kinds of conversations always come up on the slack channel. Like, Hey, we can do some support in the zoom tonight. Everybody like, come and speak up. Yeah. So that's just a

Speaker 3 (00:49:07):

Little plug. Yeah. It's a little tiny plug. So advocating for policy sees though, like the home in Tacoma effort that's going on in Tacoma.

Speaker 1 (00:49:14):

All right. Okay.

Speaker 7 (00:49:16):

You said it first, Rob,

Speaker 1 (00:49:19):

What if you want to support, uh, homeless folks having housing, but you don't want another house to be built in Proctor as long as you live. How do we reconcile that? How do we re okay, so, so what you're saying is home in Tacoma, just to explain what it is. It is, um, well, right now the plan that they have kind of passed is a much watered down from the original proposed plan. Right. But the idea is to bring more density, more apartments, and more missing middle housing to the residential neighborhoods around in town. So, um, it it's there, the, the plan that's been proposed that hopefully goes all the way and we are able to start constructing homes. Obviously this is going to take years, lots of time. Um, yeah, it's, it's not, it shouldn't be too disruptive to the current status quo, but what they had been talking about was, you know, a lot more housing enough housing to make up for our 15,000 missing units, enough housing to house, the future, people coming to the Puget sound area and home and Tacoma, didn't quite get us there and why didn't home and Tacoma get us there?

Speaker 1 (00:50:22):

Like what, what do you see? I mean, as a north end resident. Yeah. Like what do you see as the opposition? What, what, what, what do you understand is the reason for the resistance?

Speaker 3 (00:50:32):

I, a lot of the resistance is just built into that, that very common human feeling that we don't like change. And I like my neighborhood the way it is now, but your neighborhood, the way it is now, wasn't that way 20 years ago. Yeah. It, so development does happen in field development happens. And the system that we live in now we've inherited, um, it includes the impacts of redlining. Yeah. Uh, it includes a lot of systemic rate system elements. Yep. And without, that has to be changed if we're really gonna be, make space for everyone in our community. And we, we're not gonna build enough single family homes to accommodate everybody possible or end homelessness without every square inch of developable land between here and Mexico. Right. Being occupied. So, and that's not good for any of us either because we want to have parks and open space and all we'd

Speaker 1 (00:51:39):

Like to be able to grow food.

Speaker 3 (00:51:40):

Yeah. I mean, selfish, things like that.

Speaker 1 (00:51:43):


Speaker 1 (00:51:46):

Yeah. Sorry. My brain just thinking about, I was what I was, my head went to the public comment when home in Tacoma came on and it was very explicit, you know, Tacoma like every city in America has a history of redlining steering, systemic racism built the city. The difference between north Tacoma and south Tacoma divided by sixth avenue, which was the historic dividing line. You know, like north Tacoma was whites only until 1968 and open housing, which was the attempt to have some fair housing that wasn't federal and Tacoma failed in the fifties. Right. And to this day, you know, the outcomes for people on the east side, as we mentioned earlier, you live 20, 20 years, less than people in the north end. So you have this and I'm not I'm. I have to be kinda careful realtors. Aren't supposed to talk about the racial composition of neighborhoods.

Speaker 1 (00:52:32):

This is publicly inform information, but like, you know, the north end is still 87% white. And to have the 87% white neighborhood of the city fiercely advocating with lots of money with tariff, excuse me, terrifying campaigns, you know, of what is going, going to happen to our neighborhood. If we let those people in and then to see in the public comments of home in Tacoma, you know, racially, I think it was like racially ethnic people will never be able to afford to live in. I think it was Northeast Tacoma. Yeah. You know, like tho tenants and renters, you know, they just, that that's not what kind of neighborhood this is. This is a family neighbor head, those

Speaker 3 (00:53:10):


Speaker 1 (00:53:11):

Those people. Right. And these are, I mean, and I think what is such a, a frustration is that I think there are people. I, I don't, I don't, I don't wanna other anybody. I, I know I'm getting a little wound up, but like, there are people that truly want to help people living on the street in Tacoma that do not wanna see this situation continue from a place of compassion, not from a place of this is irritating to me. And they don't see the connection between the fact that their home in Proctor has doubled in value in seven years. And the increasing number of people sleeping on the street, they don't see the connection. They don't think it's real. So how do you, I mean, first of all, that's the connection that I see. Do you see that connection?

Speaker 3 (00:53:47):

Definitely. And there's been studies done nationally that show that's the situation. Um, we just live in a system where property values continue to rise historically. Yeah. And those who have have, and those who don't don't and,

Speaker 1 (00:54:05):

And those who have protect. Yeah. So if by restricting the supply of housing in the city of Tacoma, you can ensure that your most important investment doubles every six or seven years. Right. You know, well, I guess other people just aren't as lucky as me or whatever, right? Yeah. Like you're gonna protect that. And to add more housing, to have the abundant that we were talking about earlier, that could impact the rate of appreciation of your home. Right? So we're asking people because the system is set up to really screw us. We're asking people to work against their best interest. That's a tough sell,

Speaker 3 (00:54:37):

But again, you see what ha what's happening alongside the streets in Tacoma. And you have to be able to connect those two in your head and realize my if you are that north end resident or, or property owner somewhere who's benefiting from that appreciating value, the direct impact is the fact that people have to live alongside the street because they can't afford housing.

Speaker 1 (00:55:01):

I remember a few years ago, uh, Nate bowling on the nerd farmer podcast was talking about like, when you go on vacation in Mexico or somewhere, and you see a neighborhood that where they have broken pieces of glass on fences all around the neighborhood, like that's, what's in store for us. Like if you want to live in the kind of community where things are open and ungate, and you know, your neighbors all have a place to live. And like your you're not experience seeing violence from people who are completely desperate. There has to be more opportunity.

Speaker 3 (00:55:33):

It benefits everyone.

Speaker 1 (00:55:34):

Yeah. What kind of world do we wanna live in?

Speaker 3 (00:55:37):


Speaker 1 (00:55:39):

Well, Rob, I'm not really sure how to wrap this up. You're a communications professor professional. Like what, what note should we leave this on? Like what should people be thinking about?

Speaker 3 (00:55:52):

Well, so to be somewhat hopeful, I, I think, um, there are opportunities to beyond home in Tacoma to advocate for solutions, that'll benefit everyone in the community. Um, there are opportunities to advocate to the Pierce county council to, to step into this role that they seem to be willing to do now to create, um, more of a regional approach, at least countywide approach to trying to solve homelessness and solve these issues on a broader scale, create enough shelter so that people don't need to live in front of your house, on the sidewalk. Yeah. Um, and it's, it's really in everybody's best interest to advocate for that, so that, um, we can create a better community for everyone.

Speaker 1 (00:56:45):

So support home in Tacoma and other zoning changes that offer more housing for all, um, support the Pierce county comprehensive

Speaker 3 (00:56:55):

Plan to end homeless,

Speaker 1 (00:56:56):

Comprehensive plan to end homeless, PC,

Speaker 3 (00:57:00):

PC is the website for the Tacoma Pierce county, any coalition Dan homelessness. And, uh, you're right. I mean, this issue of homelessness is really on fire in Tacoma right now and across the county. Um, there's also the, the effort that Evelyn Lopez has started up the compassion Tacoma.

Speaker 1 (00:57:18):

Yes. And you can follow compassion Tacoma on Twitter yeah. On Facebook or on Instagram. Yep.

Speaker 3 (00:57:23):

So there's plenty of opportunities to engage and learn. And actually we can all work together to try to solve this issue.

Speaker 1 (00:57:32):

Uh, I, I like what you just said about like kind of keeping hope, cuz I, I have a tendency to just be like, no, to fascism, this is bad. You know? Like how do, what is your advice for sort of keeping hope like in these conversations, um, that get heated in these interactions that are sometimes unpleasant? Like what is your advice?

Speaker 3 (00:57:52):

Yeah. Um, to me it almost even goes back to thinking about what we've all lived through in the last two years with the pandemic where, um, if there's one lesson we've we should have learned is to of give each other a little grace, a little bit of space, don't think everybody's approaching things from the worst perspective. Yeah. And, um, try to work together to find solutions that are productive and try to avoid getting into that heated conversation. If you do step back, uh, if you have to disengage for a while, but really try to find what are some positive things that we can do to actually impact the situation,

Speaker 1 (00:58:36):

Keep moving it forward.

Speaker 3 (00:58:37):


Speaker 1 (00:58:38):

Well, thanks so much for coming on and for being willing to talk about all these things, Rob and, uh, good look on your last couple runs, are you to have like a parade waiting for you for your final street? You're still that kind of personality.

Speaker 3 (00:58:50):

No, you're

Speaker 1 (00:58:50):

Such an extrovert. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:58:51):

Right. No, I don't think I will be doing much to celebrate and I've had folks asking me what I wanna do next. Um, you know, I should, before we end mention that there's another person who is, uh, also running every street in Tacoma. Oh

Speaker 1 (00:59:06):

Really? A competitor.

Speaker 3 (00:59:07):

Yes. A collaborator. And he and I have been going back and forth on who's in the lead of doing this.

Speaker 1 (00:59:13):

What's his name? Is it okay to say yeah,

Speaker 3 (00:59:15):

His, his first name's Ethan. I'll just say that. Okay. And um, I think one thing I'll do to celebrate is see if he, and I can go have a beer or something.

Speaker 1 (00:59:23):

Oh, that's awesome. If somebody wanted to see your map, I'm, I'll get the map from you and include it in the, in the show notes. But uh, where can someone see your progress?

Speaker 3 (00:59:32):

Uh, probably the easiest thing is just to find my Facebook and uh, I've posted it there more frequently than I probably should.

Speaker 1 (00:59:40):

Right. Rob Huff on Facebook. Yep. Thanks so much for coming.

Speaker 2 (00:59:43):

You bet.

Speaker 1 (00:59:45):

Wanna learn more about life in Tacoma. Visit, move to

Speaker 2 (00:59:51):

Channel 2 53 is supported by Microsoft. Microsoft is committed to civic conversations like those on channel 2 53 that inform and empower Washington community to learn more visit Slash Microsoft in Washington.

Speaker 1 (01:00:09):

Okay. I didn't used to have to do these and I keep forgetting. So I'm kissing Doug's book today.

Speaker 2 (01:00:12):

Move to Tacoma as part of the channel, 2 53 network, check out our other shows. Nerd farmer interchangeable, white ladies, citizen Tacoma division. We are Tacoma flounders B team. And what a you, this is channel two.

Show Notes

Rob Huff is almost finished running every street in Tacoma. Yes, even the really steep ones. What has he learned about the City of Destiny on his runs? Rob shares what he's learned about streets, sidewalks, and folks living on the street. Rob is the Director of Advocacy and Communications for the Metropolitan Development Council. He brings unique insight into the issues our city is facing, and how we can work together to help find housing for all Tacomans. This is the second conversation we've had with Rob on the topic of Homelessness in Tacoma. The first was back in 2016, and the situation in the city has only worsened. Join us for a conversation about what individuals can do to help neighbors experiencing homelessness and to advance humane policies that are effective going forward.