It seems that it was more of a publicity effort than anything, aimed more at commuters than at those who might actually sleep on the benches. (Which renders the benches more as art objects than tools.) Rain City Housing provides a full range of housing services from emergency shelter to permanent housing, and the benches included contact information and addresses for the organization, inviting people to reach out for additional support.
Do these benches help move people into permanent housing? My short answer is I don’t know. I appreciate the creativity, the design, the provocation, the referral information, and to a small extent the practicality of the benches. On the other hand, I’m aware of their shadow side that legitimizes the idea that some of our neighbors experiencing homelessness are sleeping on benches.
I suppose on balance, I support the bench project; the benefits are real and immediate, while the drawbacks are abstract. Then again, that might just be near-far bias speaking.
What do you think?