Ross: The volunteers working to address homelessness themselves

Feb 9, 2023, 7:44 AM | Updated: 9:25 am
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 13: Andrea Suarez dismantles a tent as garbage lies piled at a homeless encampment on March 13, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. The accumulation of garbage at such sites has become a major issue in Seattle as the city tries to move the unhoused out of shared public spaces. Suarez is the executive director of We Heart Seattle, a non-profit that stages trash cleanups across the city. According to a recent report commissioned by Seattle Councilmember Andrew Lewis, the COVID-19 pandemic put undue pressure on the city's shelter system and delayed funds for new housing, leading to an increase in homelessness. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Let’s hear from someone who says the tents could start disappearing in a matter of months, not years.

I want to repeat some of what we heard yesterday from Andrea Suarez of We Heart Seattle, which is a group that organizes volunteers for cleanups around the city. It was working on these cleanups that radicalized her.

More from Dave Ross: Biden shoots down Social Security cuts in tactical maneuver

“We’ve cleared over 780,000 pounds of trash from our parks and shared spaces and picked up over 20,000 needles,” Suarez said. “In doing that, for me, as a person that is not very civic-minded, or plugged into city politics at all prior, was like ‘we have an addiction problem in our city and in many cities across our nation.’ And it shouldn’t be political.”

She is now convinced that housing homeless people without first treating their drug addiction is doomed to fail, as it has so far.

“I have put people in housing and hotels and tiny houses, fully furnished apartments during my volunteer effort here in Seattle,” Suarez said. “And almost 100%, if folks hadn’t sought treatment, they’d be back out on the streets.”

She’s gotten some support from the county executive but nothing from the mayor and nothing from the head of the regional homeless authority, which she admits may be due to her approach.

“You know, I’m a disrupter. And my tongue is not tied. And when I go in and say I just picked up 20,000 needles to clean up a trail on the top of Queen Anne, I publicly post them on my social media page, and I guess it’s embarrassing, I don’t know. I don’t say I don’t like our counsel.”

You don’t use swear words, do you?

“No, I have begged Mark Dones, [King County Regional Homeless Authority CEO,] please come to my office and meet me and let’s go for a walk in a camp. I’m just out there trying to inspire more volunteerism, and civic engagement as a form of direct action strategy like Antifa does, and the Stop the Sweep people do. You know they throw crap over freeways and graffiti our city and blow up cop cars, and my strategy is to pick up the trash and say, ‘come on, City of Seattle, clean up the city.'”

She says she has been accused of stigmatizing the homeless, but as she sees it, her group was one of the few actually trying to save their lives.

“I mean, I’ve seen many dead bodies. David, my volunteer in Ballard, found two dead bodies at Gilman playground in a honey bucket. Then my team and I found a young man in Canoga Park about a month ago that was confined to a wheelchair. He never would accept help, and of course, we can’t take people against their will. So guess what? I found them flat down, and sadly who knows how long he was there. But you know, to me, that is just so cruel.”

You can listen to Andrea Suarez’s unedited interview right here. You can also volunteer, by the way at

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave's Commentary

KIRO Newsradio Opinion

Dave Ross

Ross: Trump’s post-indictment popularity shows character no longer counts

It finally happened – not only was Donald Trump indicted, he was very indicted, in hindsight, none of it was necessary.
1 day ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Where are all the pro-life activists trying to stop school shootings?

There is one group that has been silent in all this, the pro-life activists who pushed to overturn Roe v Wade.
2 days ago
Nashville shooting...
Dave Ross

Ross: After the Nashville shooting, is this finally enough?

This is another case where all the guns were legally purchased. Yet gun sellers can legally refuse to sell. So where’s the no-buy list?
3 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: We need to trick the wealthy into wanting to pay the capital gains tax

As the reality of the capital gains tax sets in, we’re seeing pushback from the wealthy. So, I proposed that idea to our 'tax whisperer.'
4 days ago
Dave Ross

Ross: Oh no, the capital gains tax could downgrade my yacht purchase

It’s humiliating! I’d have to settle for the Majesty 100 yacht. Now instead of 180 feet, I have to shoehorn my guests into 100 feet?
5 days ago
Travis Mayfield

Mayfield: Helping others through loss with empathy, care, and memory

Death, loss, and grief are hard things, so when we see others dealing with them sometimes our instinct is to turn away.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Ross: The volunteers working to address homelessness themselves