Iconic Seattle band Pearl Jam has been in the news recently after raising nearly $11 million to fight homelessness through its Home Shows Initiative this past summer, and on the long list of nearly 100 beneficiaries is Vashon’s own DOVE Project.
The project involved the band calling on area corporations, philanthropies, restaurants, small businesses and individuals to make a commitment to ending homelessness — in any way that worked best for the donors. An advisory group that includes representatives from King County’s All Home, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Mocking Bird Society, United Way of King County, Chief Seattle Club, the Raikes Foundation, the If Project and more, was formed to make decisions about where to direct any money that wasn’t earmarked for specific beneficiaries. The band then performed two concerts at Safeco Field in August — its first in Seattle in five years — focused on promoting awareness, empathy and action on the issue.
To date, the initiative has raised $10.8 million from over 170 donors.
The news initially came as a surprise to DOVE’s Executive Director Heidi Jackson, who at the time of The Beachcomber’s initial request for comment was not aware that the organization would be receiving anything in connection with the effort.
“This is great news!” she said, upon learning that the island organization, which provides support for survivors of domestic and interpersonal violence, relationship education and community outreach, would be receiving a $10,000 grant from the RealNetworks Foundation as part of its commitment to the Home Shows Initiative.
With the donor identified, the mystery of the gift was unraveled — and turned out to not be such a mystery after all.
“We have a relationship with them, so it just made perfect sense,” said RealNetworks Foundation Director Kathryn Shields of Vashon’s DOVE Project. “In their work, they not only help those in need of shelter and safety, but their school programs are focused on prevention, which really aligns with the goals of the band’s initiative.”
RealNetworks is a company with offices in Seattle, New York, Asia and South America that specializes in various types of entertainment media delivery — some might remember RealNetworks’ RealAudio and RealVideo services from the mid- 1990s. It is also committed to philanthropy through its nonprofit foundation, which focuses on direct human services such as housing, health and hunger relief, as well as employment and training programs that help individuals and families become self-sufficient. The foundation supports several domestic violence resource organizations around Puget Sound, but DOVE made a particular impression.
“Our employees are the ones who make up the grant review team,” Shields explained. “And after making a site visit to DOVE for Betsey’s (Archambault) first grant application back in 2015, our employee said ‘This is an organization we have to help, and tell them to ask for more.’ It’s a small organization, but it’s really had a huge impact on us.”
So much so that RealNetworks, whose SoDo office has about 90 employees, invited former DOVE Executive Director Archambault to speak at one of its “lunchtime discussions” that also included employees from other nearby companies. The topic? How common it is for youth that flee from violence at home to end up homeless, as well as become abusers themselves.
With that connection and impression already made, it felt like a given, Shields added, when Pearl Jam put out the call to participate in its initiative, that RealNetworks would include DOVE in its commitment.
“The band understands that homelessness doesn’t just look one way,” said Kira Zylstra, Acting Executive Director of King County’s All Home and member of Pearl Jam’s Home Shows advisory group. “So this diverse range of support is so important to offer our communities.”
Pearl Jam consistently supports charitable, philanthropic and environmental causes everywhere they play, and here at home, the issue was clear.
In a statement on its website, the band explains the motivation behind the project:
“Seattle’s population growth is outpacing housing development — and most of what is being built isn’t affordable. Many people are finding themselves living on the economic edge — just one medical bill, one layoff or one late rent payment away from losing their homes. While there are many complex reasons people find themselves homeless, there are proven ways to get people connected with housing and ensure they have the right support to stay housed. We must come together to solve this problem. To close the gaps that are contributing to this crisis. To look out for one another. To invest in this place that we can be proud to call home.”
And the Home Shows Initiative was born.
“I was really impressed with how Pearl Jam approached this,” Shields said. “They really found a way for everyone to support what they are trying to do. Donors could contribute to a combined pool of money or give directly to organizations, as we did with DOVE. It was thoughtful, inclusive, and with more than one way to get involved, they made it easy to say ‘yes.’”
Zylstra added that it was important to the band that this project become a true community effort. And by bringing companies like RealNetworks to the table, which in turn will invest in small, community organizations like the DOVE Project, it has accomplished just that.
Jackson said that the money from the RealNetworks Foundation will go toward survivor advocacy and its youth education programming.
“It’s startling for most people to hear that 40 percent of the Seattle area’s homeless population is women and children,” she noted, “because they’re not the ones standing on street corners. And of that 40 percent, 80 percent (about 20,000 people) are domestic violence survivors, according to a study done last year. This is a population that is so often overlooked in society.”
And harking back to Archambault’s lunchtime discussion with the RealNet Networks staff, Jackson and Shields spoke with enthusiasm about DOVE’s youth education work.
“One of the things we’re working on is a ‘Coaching Boys Into Men’ program at the high school,” Jackson said. “As well as a girls’ program that focuses on peer-to-peer leadership modeling and ‘allyship.’ Primary prevention is the key here. If we can educate our kids about healthy relationships, we can stop violence before it happens for the first time, and we can change the culture and acceptance of it.”
The Centers for Disease Control promotes “coaching boys into men” programs as having a direct correlation to preventing violent behavior in high school.
“Programs like what the DOVE Project is working on are really working to change the ‘ecosystem’, so to speak,” Shields said. “It’s critically important work.”
And they are aligned with one of the initiative’s areas of focus: youth homelessness.
“One of the band’s goals from the beginning has been to create a catalytic change,” Zylstra said. “That’s why young adult and youth needs, including preventing them from ending up in the homeless system in the first place, are a key target for the remaining, un-designated money.”
For a small nonprofit organization such as DOVE that relies on grants and donations and whatever it can cobble together to keep going, every dollar counts. This is a big part of the reason Shields said that the RealNetworks Foundation specifically wanted DOVE to be a beneficiary through this initiative.
“It turns out that we are one of DOVE’s largest, non-government supporters,” she said. “We’d love to see that change — there are a lot of much larger fish in the donor ocean around here, and we were hoping that by doing this, DOVE might end up on the bigger radar.”
And after a decidedly successful start to its endeavor, the band remains intent on maintaining the momentum, and impact, of its efforts.
“From the start, we hoped businesses, foundations and individuals would see themselves in this work,” Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam guitarist, co-founder and lifelong Seattle resident, said in a press release. “The Home Shows Initiative has been about bringing the issue of homelessness closer to all of us — increasing our understanding of a complex issue, our empathy for our neighbors experiencing homelessness and our resolve for working together. We’re proud of what our city has done. Now we need to stay inspired. There’s a lot more to do.”