Stone Gossard talks Home Shows, homelessness with Real Change vendor
When I was asked by Aaron Burkhalter, the former editor at Real Change, if I was willing to interview a member of the legendary Seattle band Pearl Jam, I told him that I would be glad to do the interview.
I am a Pearl Jam fan but more importantly, I understand the impact they have had. Over a decades-long career, the group has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, donated millions to their foundation and of course, given voice to some of the most important issues of our society.
Earlier this year the band announced they planned to perform in Seattle for the first time in five years. The two shows, dubbed The Home Shows, were being held to unite the community around the cause of ending homelessness. The band has pledged $1 million to local organizations combatting homelessness and hopes that they will be able to up that figure to $10 million.
Recently, I interviewed Stone Gossard, Pearl Jam’s guitarist. He talked to me about how excited he was to be doing some upcoming concerts, designed to bring awareness to and start conversations about Seattle’s growing homeless population.
I hope you enjoy the Q & A; I found it very insightful.
Darrell Wrenn: Thank you so much for coming out. I’m a huge fan.
Stone Gossard: I’m a huge fan of Real Change, too!
DW: I appreciate that! I think it’s huge, whenever you see
people, you know, artists like you, come in and want to have an impact.
I’m all about making a difference. So what inspired you to get involved
with the homeless crisis here in Seattle?
SG: I think there are two specific things. The first is just the specific… the real obvious, evident, visceral experience of seeing it and experiencing it on a daily basis. Just seeing people standing at the end of freeway ramps, hanging out in the streets, sleeping in their cars, sleeping wherever. I don’t think you can be in this city and not be taking that information in and kind of going, “wow.”
It’s different than it was five years ago. It’s certainly different than it was 20 years ago. And there’s a real specific thing that’s going on. It’s related to economics and an emergency situation with people not being taken care of.
I think, also, on a personal level, the thing that’s impacted me the most was meeting a homeless person who became a friend about 10 years ago.
I met a guy named Dee when I was walking my dog every day. He was living in a tunnel. He was there every morning and we just started talking and we became friends. I’d bring him a little money every once in a while. I’d bring him blankets when it was cold. I watched him go through, you know, full winters and summers, living outside.
DW: Oh wow. Ok.
SG: During that time, I was talking to him, kind of asking if we could get him inside. And he’d always say, “I don’t want to go to shelter. I don’t want to deal with anybody.”
I knew he had some mental health stuff going on. And I remember asking him about it, once we got to know each other better, about who else would come talk to him. And he said that DESC [a Seattle organization that helps homeless and recently homeless individuals] would come out and visit him.
That was a big moment for me, realizing that the DESC was out there meeting with people and connecting with people. And for him to kind of tell me that … if there was going to be anyone to help him, those were going to be the people. That really inspired me and got me supporting the DESC and wanting to recognize who is on the front lines of what’s going on.
Over the course of four years, before he decided to move inside, I got to know him pretty well. Eventually…he went down to check out his options and he’s now been living in [transitional housing] for three years.
This is all over the course of a decade. And what knowing him helped
me see was the complexity and the reasons that someone may not want to
or be able to go into a shelter. You know, the intense pressures …