It started in 1999 on Thanksgiving Day in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle.
Patti Dunn and Michael Grabham were new to Seattle and realized they had made a bit too much food for themselves. Patti had the idea to package up the leftovers and bring them to the two homeless men that lived just by them. This gave Patti and Michael the opportunity to talk with the men and to get to know why they were living on the streets and what things they needed most to survive the streets. Both men immediately said they needed socks so Michael went back to the house and brought them some. That was the first year for Survive the Streets.
For the next several years, from 2000-2006, Survive the Streets became a tradition for their families and friends. They would raise money, make extra turkey dinners, and purchase gear such as sleeping bags, hats, gloves, coats, backpacks, and anything else that was needed for someone to survive the wet, cold winters of Seattle. Michael, Patti and a few of their friends would load up a van and drive around on Thanksgiving Day to find people living on Seattle’s streets and outfit them for the the winter.
In 2007, they had filled two vans full of gear and it was then they realized they had to make this project a bigger event!
make Survive the Streets a bigger and more successful event. Partnering with Real Change was a great fit because Michael and Patti could reach more homeless people and, as the years passed, the vendors at Real Change began to look forward to the Thanksgiving Day event of Survive the Streets.
Here is our first news article in 2009 by the Seattle Times
In 2010, they came up with an idea to actually change the Real Change offices into a “Survival Gear Store” on Thanksgiving Day. They set up racks for coats, a boot/shoe room, a sleeping bag department, bins for hats, gloves, socks and even an area where clients could pick up “Cold Kits” provided by the Seattle Nursing Association. On the morning of the event, people lined up for a hot breakfast and coffee provided by a local food truck. After breakfast, they entered the store in groups of four to six people. Each client was assisted by a personal shopper so they could get the gear that they needed most and to make sure they got things that really fit. The personal shoppers made each visitor feel just a bit more special.
See the story about the 2011 event by KOMO 4 News
Survive the Streets became even more of a community event in 2012. Local schools and businesses hopped on board and organized “Gear Drives” to collect goods to be distributed on Thanksgiving Day. Thanks to Trident Seafood, it was the first year Survive the Streets gave away a room full of boots. Approximately 275 men and women were outfitted before the project ran out of survival gear.
The final count on items for 2012 was:
- 200 Sleeping Bags and Warm Blankets
- 187 Warm Coats
- 85 Warm Fleeces
- 75 Pairs of Boots
- 84 Extra Warm Hoodies
- 89 Duffel Bags
- 120 Backpacks
- 230 Pairs of Gloves
- 260 Warm hats
- 120 Waterproof Tarps
- 300 Cold/Hygiene Kits
Patti and Michael were grateful to have so many volunteers on board, including a few people from Mayor McGinn’s office, the Real Change Staff, the Seattle Nursing Association, Top Pot Donuts, Sound Crossfit, Seattle Strength Studio, Cascade Design, WA Mountaineers, WA Defense Trial Lawyers, and many local schools.
It was because of the great success in 2012 that, again, Michael and Patti realized that they had to make this bigger. They both really wanted to find a way to serve people in need on an everyday basis.
Survive The Streets will still hold its annual Thanksgiving Day gear event but now the founders will be able to help people in need seven days of the week.
2013 you can go to see our latest video and support our mission of building our giving platform.
2014 we continue to grow our user base and now that we are finally an approved 501(c)3 we can partner with corporations to help more people.