Last night, King County's largest homeless shelter provider, SHARE/WHEEL, closed down 15 indoor shelters after 20 years of service, putting roughly 300 people onto the streets. The closure wasn't unexpected—in August, homeless providers across King County learned that the federal government had cut roughly $1.5 million in funds dedicated to emergency food and shelter programs in King County, sending nonprofits scrambling for emergency funding.

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But SHARE/WHEEL's move last night was: At approximately 7:00 p.m. on Monday, homeless advocates set up camp in front of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at Fifth Ave N and Mercer Street in lower Queen Anne. They vow to continue their sidewalk occupation each night, 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., until SHARE gets the money needed to reopen its shelters.

Why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

Advocates say SHARE wrote to Bill Gates, Microsoft, the United Way and others in a failed attempt to secure emergency funding. Now, they're essentially arguing that the philanthropic foundation hasn't done enough for King County's poor.

From SHARE/WHEEL's press release:

SHARE thinks Charity and Justice Begin at Home. We're part of this community, they're part of this community. It's time for Bill and Melinda to talk to the homeless home folk—us!

That's why we're sleeping around the Gates Foundation tonight—and tomorrow night, and probably until we can afford to re open the indoor shelters. We're shining the light on corpocracy—rule and domination by corporations—while the 99% get slammed coming and going.

SHARE's here because we're tired of seeing nice projects for the world funded out of the 5th & Mercer Headquarters while we suffer in poverty.

And while we've heard Bill is a real smart guy, we also know that the tax rate for rich guys like him dropped dramatically under the latest President Bush and has never gone back up. The 400 richest Americans used to pay 30% of their income on average to Uncle Sam—now its 18%. As President Obama points out, plumbers often pay more. This is why the government is broke, the safety net is shredded, and corporate profits keep doing well.

Its real nice that the Gates Foundation sponsored, over 10 years, a 48 million dollar Transitional Housing Program for Homeless Families in Pierce, King, and Snohomish Counties. If Mr. or Mrs. Gates talks to us, we'll offer that transitional housing may not get the most bang for the buck, targeting homeless families excludes us, and that while housing is being built WE STILL NEED SHELTER.

Meanwhile, the foundation has responded with a statement of their own:

Home is an important issue the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation cares deeply about. In fact, we have committed to more than $100 million in the tri-county region alone to address this problem.

During the past decade, we’ve helped create more than 1,400 affordable apartments for families emerging from homelessness in partnership with nonprofits and state and local governments through the Sound Families Initiative, which dates back to 2000.

We are committed to continuing to fund solutions for this serious issue.