- From Rich Gamble at Keystone United Church of Christ in Seattle:
“Scott was a community organizer who worked with low-income tenants and homeless people in Seattle for most of his adult life. Seattle has been deeply impacted by his tireless efforts, though few may know how much of debt this city owes to his legacy.
Scott was a community organizer. Asked to speak to some group about his work and he would bring homeless people to speak about their work. He was tenacious, utterly committed to his vocation, with an ever-present sense of humor. The communities that Scott worked with were often challenging for those in power who wanted homeless people to know their place as powerless individuals. He wore the derision of the Seattle Times like a badge of honor.
When I was hired as the interim executive director of the Tenants Union over thirty years ago. Scott was on the board, having served as a leading organizer there. When he talked about organizing homeless people, I thought it was a doomed effort. Community organizing for people who have no place to live, who must struggle with meeting the most basic of needs on a daily basis, how could you possibly pull such people together for a common effort? Scott did it. He brought people together and they forced the city to take notice of the people it tried to ignore. We see people living in tents because they have no homes, but Scott organized tent cities: homeless people providing their own security, making and enforcing their own rules, and defying city leaders who wanted homeless people dispersed and out of site.
The life of a community organizer is difficult and demanding, even more so when those being organized are in crisis. Somehow Scott did this work for most of his life.
The fact that tent cities are part of the landscape of Seattle can largely be attributed to Scott’s ability to empower homeless people and his ability to live up to his commitments. Scott called me one Saturday and said that the Nickelsville community needed a place to stay and asked if they could stay at Keystone UCC, my church. Another place had fallen through at the last minute and this community of homeless people needed someplace to stay in two days. On Sunday, Scott came with a group from Nickelsville. They made their presentation. Scott was largely silent. When church leaders gathered to decide whether to open our sanctuary as an emergency site for Nickelsville, I told them that I had complete faith in Scott. If a group he worked with made a commitment, they would live up to that commitment. On that Monday, Nickelsville moved in and in their time with us, they left Keystone better than they found it.
Thousands of lives have been impacted by activists, organizers, low-income housing developers, social service program staff and some dedicated people in city and county government. This city should be overpopulated with statues honoring the work of such people. I’m sure Scott would prefer energy for such efforts be used to help those this city would rather ignore, take their rightful place as citizens and leaders.
Though we have thousands more units of affordable housing and a much broader network of shelters for homeless people, ever-increasing rents have made more people homeless now than when Scott started his work 40 years ago. While the work goes on, it is important to remember and honor people like Scott. He will be greatly missed.”
From the Homeless Remembrance Project: “For years, SHARE and Nickelsville Founder Scott Morrow (pictured center) was one of Women in Black’s most faithful supporters, joining almost every vigil to hand out our leaflets. This was on top of countless hours he spent organizing and supporting and living amongst people experiencing homelessness as they advocated for their own rights, first and foremost the right to stay together and safe. Without that work, there would have been even more needless deaths and heartbreaking vigils. The community lost a great warrior when he died.”
Scott’s Leaf is on the 5th Avenue side of Seattle City Hall. If you have photos or memories to share please post a comment.