$11.5M and counting, Pearl Jam’s Home Shows raise money to combat homelessness

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Pearl Jam’s Aug. 8 and 10 concerts at Safeco Field — the band’s first Seattle dates in five years — are the centerpiece of a week’s worth of events and promotions aimed at raising money to combat homelessness in King County.

Like any grizzled Seattleite, Mike McCready is sick of the traffic. He’s tired of watching the places that give his hometown its soul being razed, oftentimes replaced by high-rent apartments. And more importantly, the Pearl Jam guitarist is saddened by the “incomprehensible” homelessness he sees every day in the city he was raised in and never plans to leave.

McCready also knows it’s been a while since his band — arguably the biggest active rock band from a city that once grew them out of discarded Rainier cans — has played its hometown. So when the grunge kings started making plans to return to Boston’s Fenway Park and Wrigley Field in Chicago this year, McCready wanted to make sure Seattle didn’t get snubbed (hey, we got a ballpark, too). Once the Safeco Field dates were in place, the famously charitable band started talking about donating some of the proceeds, as they often do, to a local cause: homelessness.

“I grew up here and I’ve never seen anything like this — none of us have,” McCready says. “So what do you do? Do you just sit around and go, ‘That’s just how it is?’ Or do you dig in and hopefully have organizations compromise or get together, figure out some sort of solution or long-term plan. … We don’t know what the solution is, but we want to be part of some of it.”

As internal discussions began, a suggested $1 million pledge from the band quickly escalated to an ambitious $10 million fundraising campaign spanning more than 70 partner organizations and countless individual donors, centered on the two most anticipated concerts of the year, expected to draw around 90,000 people.

Those two concerts — on Aug. 8 and 10 at Safeco Field — mark Pearl Jam’s first Seattle dates in five years. Dubbed the Home Shows, the stadium gigs are the centerpiece of a week’s worth of events and promotions aimed at raising money to combat homelessness in King County.

Among the highlights: More than 80 restaurants will donate at least 10 percent of their Aug. 8 sales to the Home Shows fund and 107.7 The End is kicking in $2 per ticket sold to its annual Summer Camp concerts (Aug. 11-12). Also coinciding with the shows, MoPOP opens a new exhibition of Pearl Jam memorabilia Aug. 11.

“This has more partners — more engaged philanthropic and corporate partners — than I’ve ever seen around homelessness,” says Mark Putnam, the former executive director of All Home, the coordinating agency for King County’s homeless services. “And I’ve been working on this for a while.”

$11.5 million and growing

Roughly two weeks before the shows, John Hoyt, of Pyramid Communications, who’s helping the band manage the Home Shows initiative, said they had already raised around $11.5 million, a number likely to grow down the stretch. Currently, the bulk of the money has already been designated to specific charities by the donors. But the band has assembled an informal advisory group of nonprofit leaders — including Putnam, who now leads Accelerator YMCA — to make recommendations on how the remaining funds should be spent and provide guidance throughout the campaign.

Once the band and the Home Shows team know where all the designated money will go, they will determine how to distribute it later this month. Asked if they will use specific benchmarks or look for organizations with demonstrable success rates transitioning people to permanent housing, Hoyt — who co-produced Pearl Jam’s famous voter-registration concert Drop in the Park in 1992 — said the group will consider where the money can have the highest impact, fill funding gaps and “bring things to scale.”

“Something has to be done,” McCready says. “We certainly don’t have all the answers, and I’m not saying that. But there’s enough smart organizations and people in Seattle that can get together and come up with some sort of plan — long term, not short term.”

So far that long-term solution has been elusive. The Home Shows come on the heels of the acrimonious head-tax debate, which saw the passing and swift repeal of a tax on Seattle’s largest employers that would have raised about $47 million a year for homeless services amid backlash from the business community and general public. Meanwhile, the One Table panel of public and private stakeholders tasked with proposing ways to address the root causes of homelessness had stalled as the head-tax debate swirled; it is starting to meet again this month…

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This article ($11.5M and counting, Pearl Jam’s Home Shows raise money to combat homelessness) was originally published on Seattle Times and syndicated by The Event Chronicle

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