And Then What? Preparing for the Long Emergency

What if instead of a brief emergency, you and your neighbors are in one that lasts months or years? 

Without reliable access to food, water, electricity? Couldn’t leave your home without risking it being ransacked while you were gone?

This is already a constant reality for homeless folks. In Seattle where I live, there’s on the order of 10,000 folks currently experiencing homelessness. 

How does our approach to preparedness change for an emergency that is both (a) long and (b) already happening for lots of people? 

Having the right gear for your household, and having the right skills, is a great starting point. “Put on your own mask before assisting others.” But if lots of neighbors are already in a continuous state of emergency, I think this becomes an imbalanced approach very quickly, because it doesn’t tap into the opportunity for people power, and I also just don’t want to live in a world where I’m personally getting by OK but my neighbors are struggling *hard*. 

For the past year+, I’ve been trying to “prepare for the already continuous emergency” by working with my neighbors to support my unhoused neighbors. My buddy and I created the Homeless Organizing Community Seattle Facebook group so that folks interested in this work could get connected and join forces. We created this Patreon to fund supply purchases, such as ice packs so folks without electricity can keep their food cold, and propane so folks can cook and stay warm, and batteries so folks can still see when the sun goes down. 

Lately, I’ve been trying to transition from focusing on buying supplies myself to supporting folks with my labor, such as helping to build a community food garden next to my buddies who live in an RV, and helping to build a home beneath a freeway. I figure labor is more sustainable/scalable than funds (lots of folks don’t have spare cash, but do have spare time) and also working together contributes a lot to creating a prepared community. 

We’ve been collection some of the lessons we learn into a document called Practical Advice For Addressing Needs With Your Neighbors


  • Comments (4)

    • 4

      Good evening Lowell,

      One of the aspects of prepping for an emergency of long duration is about the same as a shorter length planning event except for resupply of inventories.

      You’re doing something noble.  Will glance at link soon.

      I do strongly encourage you and your colleagues to have some substantial meetings with your Seattle area public sector (and could include the Red Cross) working these portfolios.

      I recommend the meetings and follow-on liaison because,in effect, you’re running a near equivalent of a combination homeless shelter / emergency shelter … at least downstream during an emergency of long duration.

      You will be dealing with those experiencing mental illness, addictions such as drugs and alcohol, those on daily RX medicines/ pharma such as medical oxygen, the slave trade. Look up “Blue campaign” at Dept of Justice, FEMA.  Slave trafficking is a larger matter than the media portrays it.

      For the second part of your question, as per me, …… I am “multi-hatted” … family and small group have priority … if situation allows, I manage part of our county emergency shelter with an ALS – Advanced Life Support – clinic staffed by a nurse and EMT. My big headache is people smoking near our oxygen resupply.  Enforcement levels are at the minus numbers. 

      There are obligations you’re taking on.  Again, the efforts are noble but still must ensure the key public sector agencies approve of efforts.

      Now, don’t let my negative commentary stop your great program. 

    • 1


      I’m not sure you’re allowed to solicit funds for it on the forum. Maybe double check that.

      • 3

        Thank you for sharing your concern Ubique and we understand where you are coming from. We have discussed this thread and in this case will allow this link. 

        Lowell isn’t asking for direct money that will benefit himself but will be used to help others. He isn’t being pushy or even asking for people to donate but is just linking to the cause that he has created.

      • 4

        Thanks for the clarification Gideon. My husband was homeless for three years so it is a cause that hits close to our hearts.