Key Communications

We Heart Seattle Volunteers Making a Difference

July 26, 2023

We Heart Seattle Drives Civic Engagement 

We’re Making a Difference in Seattle!
Since 2020, We Heart Seattle volunteers have been working to make Seattle a cleaner and safer city — removing more than 910,000 pounds of trash from the city, and helping 170 people get off the streets. We are restoring trails and parks across the city, inspiring sustainable civic engagement and working to restore public safety while advocating for policies that will make the city a safer and more beautiful place for all. Here’s a snapshot of what that all looks like.

WHS Highlighted at Public Health and Safety Forum 

With property and violent crime, the fentanyl crisis, and the fate of drug-related prosecutions at the forefront of public discourse, We Heart Seattle welcomed the opportunity to participate in a recent forum on public health and safety. This well-attended forum included Council members Sara Nelson and Andrew Lewis, Seattle City Attorney Anne Davison, King County Prosecutor Leesa Manion, SPD Captain Steven Strand, along with representatives from LEAD and various service providers. See the full list of attendees HERE. Tim Emerson, WHS Program Director, brilliantly represented We Heart Seattle, sharing unvarnished observations from our boots-on-the-ground experience and emphasizing the effectiveness of our “empowerment versus enablement” approach. Tim’s own lived experience journey was recently featured nationally in this US News & World Report article. 

Continuing to Make Seattle Safe & Beautiful for All 

By the Numbers 
We are more than just numbers but these numbers are impressive:

  • 911,100+ pounds of trash removed 
  • 20,000+ needles recovered  
  • 275+ Trash Events 
  • 26 (out of 31) distinct Seattle ZIP codes served 
  • 170 individuals assisted off the streets 
  • 800+ volunteers
  • 9,000+ person hours logged
  • 25 individuals placed through second chance employment
  • 10,000+ WHS followers across social media 
  • 80+ media mentions: local & national news, podcasts, etc.
  • 3 donated downtown offices
  • 2 donated vehicles 

We have also teamed up with all varieties of organizations to run litter picks across the city including the Alliance for Pioneer Square, Belltown United, Rotary Club District 5030, Seattle Municipal Court (with volunteers logging court-ordered community service), Union Gospel Mission to name a few (see our partner list – which is by no means exhaustive – here). 

Ultimately pictures speak louder than words: 

Individualized Outreach  

Since the inception of We Heart Seattle, our presence on the streets and in our parks has led to serendipitous opportunities to offer a helping hand to those we encounter. 
Recovery is a path off the streets:  While “spring cleaning” in Pioneer Square, our daily check-ins with two gentlemen living in the park revealed two pressing realities: one of them urgently required medical attention, and both were willing to embark on a path to recovery.  We took swift action, arranging for immediate hospitalization (a decision that proved vital as one of them had indeed been precariously close to death) and ultimately, finding a treatment home for both. They are now connected with family, and thriving. These two gentlemen were well known to the surrounding business owners and residents and may have continued languishing (perhaps even died) on the streets.  We are grateful that we could act quickly and offer intervention assistance when they showed an openness to recovery.

People housed but still living on the streets:  Earlier this month we initiated conversations with a woman living unhoused across the street from our 3rd Ave office.  It turns out this woman has an apartment through public housing two blocks away but due to a combination of inadequate support services and personal challenges, the apartment had become uninhabitable and she ended up, once again, living outside. With her blessing, we embarked on a multi-day endeavor of excavating and disinfecting her squalid and bug infested apartment. We know that our clean-up efforts are just a part of a more complex web of support this woman deserves but we were honored to offer assistance when she reached out for it. 

This is by far not the first time we have encountered someone who has housing but continues to live outside nor is it the first time we have encountered utterly appalling living conditions in publicly funded supportive housing. WHS is sharing these practical observations with the city, the county, KCRHA, the media, etc. as a means of countering the “housing first as the only solution” mindset. We are also a founding member of
North America Recovers (NAR), a movement of individuals and organizations seeking to restore peace in our cities by ending drug deaths, open drug scenes, untreated mental illness and homelessness. With our focus on civic engagement, we are also pushing for the city and county to embrace the power of the people – we can and are making a difference.

Help Amplify the Movement 

As always, we encourage you to check our Facebook page and online calendar for upcoming litter picks, noting that these events are typically organized a week or two ahead of time. Other ways to support We Heart Seattle include: 

  • Connect WHS to your business and/or friend circles
  • Invite WHS to speak at community council, club, church or corporate events
  • Ask your employer to partner with us on a team-building litter pick
  • Offer your nonprofit or strategic (or any!) wisdom 
  • Use your social media superpowers to spread the word of WHS’ work
  • Provide pro-bono services or expertise – we have needs in IT, marketing / PR, fundraising, finance, etc.  
  • Join the Board as our Treasurer (see the job description)
  • Attend the Columbia Tower Mile High charity night on Sept 23rd; a percentage of the proceeds will support WHS (see
  • Share your great ideas! 

And, please remember to exercise your right to VOTE (August 1st)!  As a 501(c)3 organization, We Heart Seattle cannot make endorsements, but we are actively engaging with the Seattle City Council and King County Council candidates and advocating for issues that align with our movement. We encourage you to do the same. 

Register to vote – Who’s on the ballot: Seattle City Council and King County

Please reach out to me with comments, questions and ideas! 

Andrea Suarez

Founder and Executive Director | | 206-850-4290

Read about We Heart Seattle’s great work throughout Seattle in the media page.

Follow us, join us, volunteer with us and
please donate to support our work.

We Heart Seattle
Two Plus Years and Going Strong

January 30, 2023

We are thrilled to share our metrics of what we’ve accomplished together since We Heart Seattle (WHS) launched, along with a snapshot of what’s in store for 2023. With your support, our (your!) grassroots effort is thriving – you can see it every day in the public spaces where WHS and its supporters have cleaned up litter and offered resources to those in need!

Civic Engagement

Volunteers remain THE driving force behind our unique and successful model of civic engagement. To date, volunteers have logged 7,500 volunteer hours with WHS. Our scheduled litter picks have proven meaningful for individuals and teams ranging from faith-based, social, nonprofit, and community groups to corporate businesses – all with a common goal of coming together to make Seattle beautiful and safe for all.

Sharing the Love

Why is We Heart Seattle indispensable?

Each day, we see the need to restore Seattle’s urban spaces. Along the way, that includes being a positive force in the homelessness crisis, which has resulted in thousands of people living (and sadly, dying) outdoors. We Heart Seattle gives volunteers and supporters a friction-free way to restore Seattle’s environment by clearing out litter, while giving the unhoused folks we meet along the way important resources for a chance at recovery. While addressing the litter that renders parks, alleys, sidewalks, playgrounds, greenbelts, bike trails, vacant lots, and commercial zones unsafe and unusable for their intended purposes, we can also advocate for change, by shining a light on what works and what doesn’t.

City-wide Debris Removal

Since inception, WHS and its volunteers have:

  • Removed 750,000 pounds (363 tons) of debris from Seattle’s public spaces
  • Hosted 226 events in 26 distinct Seattle zip codes
  • Restored AND kept 42 parks clean across the city and acres of green space

Successful Individualized Outreach and Impact

Our small and nimble team of staff and volunteers regularly connect the unhoused folks they meet on litter picks to a range of vital resources, including shelter, housing, employment, recovery/treatment navigation, securing vital documents, and removing a range of other barriers. Several on our team have lived experience, which is key to building trust and maintaining motivation for change. To date, WHS has assisted 144 people in moving off the streets.

Executive Director, Andrea Suarez, speaking to KOMO News in January 2023

Real Change News: ‘I could have very well died’: Johanna Paul speaks about being saved from violence in her own tent

Johanna Paul, left, embraces Tim Emerson, who pulled her out of her tent and away from an abusive individual. Paul did not want her face to be photographed. Photo by Tobias Coughlin-Bogue.

It’s hard to miss all of the tents that line our streets and accumulate in encampments. In those tents live real people, many of whom are experiencing seemingly inescapable abuse and violence on a daily basis.

In late 2022, Tim Emerson – WHS’ incredible boots-on-the-ground staff member – was out making rounds and heard cries for help from a woman named Johanna, who was being violently thrown against the side of her tent. Tim acted quickly by pulling her out of the tent, and quite literally, saved her life. Real Change News happened to be at the scene and covered this incredible story, quoting Johana as saying “Today, [Tim Emerson] was that angel, [who] was able to open the tent, pull me from his arms and save me,” she said, “because I could have very well died.”

As is the WHS way, assistance did not stop there for Johanna. After much effort, we were able to find Johanna a safe place to stay and receive much needed trauma-informed care.

‘I could have very well died’: Johanna Paul speaks about being saved from violence in her own tent | Oct. 19-25, 2022 | Real Change (

Engage and Empower

WHS works side-by-side with encampment residents during litter picks. They assist with cleanups, and as a thank-you, WHS offers a basic needs stipend in the form of a gift card. It provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment when cleaning with WHS teams. They also feel appreciated and supported when receiving this stipend. This helps to build trust in We Heart Seattle, leading to future, meaningful engagements that include pathways to recovery and addiction treatment, shelter, housing, and even employment.

WHS leverages its strong partnership with Uplift Northwest (formerly The Millionair Club Charity) to hire people on a contract basis to put more boots on the ground in doing this work. Most are re-entering the workforce after a significant gap and feel empowered joining the WHS team.

Grassroots and Broad Support

The grassroots appeal of WHS’ work is evidenced by the hundreds of individuals who have made financial donations, along with countless others who have offered in-kind support, including big-ticket, critical items like office space and program vehicles.

Efficient and Effective Operations

We run a nimble and efficient operation driven almost entirely by volunteers, with only 15% of our revenue going to administrative expenses (thus leaving the lion’s share to fund field work and outreach). We Heart Seattle was also awarded the Candid (Guidestar) “Gold Transparency” rating. Want to take a deep dive into our public financials? You can find our IRS filings here, with our 2022 IRS 990 form filing expected in Q2.

What’s next for 2023?

Turbo-charging Civic Engagement

Driving our commitment to civic engagement is an ongoing conversation with you—our community. We continually and collectively ask ourselves “What more can we do?” and hope you’ll continue that conversation by asking yourself the same.

  • What else can I do?
  • What can I do in my neighborhood and with my family, friends, and colleagues to amplify the WHS impact?
  • Who can I tell about the movement?
  • How can I share our experience and advocate together for a safe and beautiful Seattle?

Focusing on Sustainability

We’ve done massive litter picks at parks such as Denny, Kinnear and MacLean (and so many others!), and tackled tens of thousands of pounds of trash that built up over the years. Now, these public spaces are available for community enjoyment.

MacLean Park even hosts twice-monthly walkabouts organized by community trail stewards – and regularly contact WHS requesting outreach to homeless individuals they encounter along the trails. This is a shining example of the importance of sustaining the hard work of WHS and its volunteers, while growing community commitment to safe and beautiful public spaces for all. We promise to continue to work with local communities on maintaining sites, and in identifying equally critical areas that have yet to benefit from this important work.

Embracing Partnerships & Alliances

From day one, we have welcomed and sought out meaningful partnerships and alliances with community and faith-based organizations, businesses, schools, and fellow non-profits. We Heart Seattle will continue this approach, embracing collaboration with others who wish to further our mission.

Putting Ourselves Out There More!

On March 25, 2023, the University Sunrise Rotary Club is hosting its Annual Big Taste event in Seattle. We Heart Seattle joins Outdoors for All and the University Sunrise Rotary Foundation as beneficiaries of the event. We look forward to sharing our work with a new audience, and hope to see some familiar faces there, too! If you’d like to attend, you can click here to purchase tickets(A quick answer to “What more can I do?” could include sharing this event with friends!).

With Gratitude

We have been able to continue this work throughout Seattle because of your direct support, and we cannot say thank you enough. Feel free to reach out anytime for a conversation or a visit. You can connect with any of our board directors or staff by sending an email to

With gratitude,

Andrea Suarez, Founder and Executive Director
and the
We Heart Seattle Board of Directors

At its core, WHS is a movement driven by ordinary citizens – together, we are helping make Seattle safe and beautiful for all.

Consider a cash or stock donation to WHS. You can increase your impact by having your donation matched by your employer!

Spread the word! Join us on social media!

Join a litter pick or help organize one (see our calendar and FAQs)

We Heart Seattle recently joined 22 other organizations in founding North America Recovers, a coalition seeking federal, state and local actions that encourage recovery from, and end the enabling of, addiction, untreated mental illness and homelessness.

We Heart Seattle is a 501c3 organization and welcomes donations to defray operational costs and to support the hiring of project leads (most of whom have experienced homelessness and poverty). Your time and support are much appreciated.

We Heart Seattle Co-founds Nonpartisan Coalition Advocating for Community Harm Reduction

North America Recovers believes in prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery solutions that reduce substance use, untreated mental illness and homelessness.

January 31, 2023

We Heart Seattle has joined North America Recovers (NAR), a nonpartisan coalition made up of community leaders, parents of those affected by substance abuse, and people in recovery from across the United States and Canada. North America Recovers is seeking federal, state, and local actions that encourage recovery from – and ending the enablement of – addiction, untreated mental illnesses, and homelessness.

“Keeping people alive isn’t enough anymore, we want to see them reach their full potential. To do this, we must use available funds to stand up 24/7 medical detox centers and provide recovery focused programs after discharge to help mitigate the adverse effects on one’s mind, body and spirit after long-term drug abuse.” – Andrea Suarez, Executive Director

To represent a continuum of care that can benefit everyone in a community, policy proposals operate within four major pillars: prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery. The coalition believes that there are multiple paths to harm reduction, treatment and recovery that do not provide addiction maintenance services.

North America Recovers is urging President Biden to favor creating a recovery-focused system for addressing our addiction crisis in lieu of further legalization or supervised consumption sites, which tend to be placed in chronically disenfranchised communities and negatively impacts the quality of life there – Harlem, New York, for example.

The twenty-two founding member organizations of North America Recovers are represented by individuals who range on the spectrum of political affiliations, but have come together to drive toward life-saving strategies with a recovery focus. The coalition is collectively opposed to any “housing first” strategy that fails to address addiction and mental illness, which are often co-occurring components of homelessness.

“We can meet people where they are at, but we can’t leave them there,” shared one coalition member during the inaugural convening.

A “Shelter-first” model expedites triaging and placement of those with addiction and/or untreated mental illness into a program that is right for them. And when done right, provides permanent supportive housing when they are ready to return and begin their long-term recovery journey.

“Improved programming within current housing solutions, community integration, reconnecting with family, and generally believing that recovery is possible, though hard, is the right and compassionate solution to end homelessness for so many.” – Andrea Suarez, Executive Director

For more information about We Heart Seattle’s work with the North American Recovers coalition, and in the City of Seattle, contact Andrea Suarez, Executive Director at:

Huge Milestones Reached with Big Plans Ahead!

April 15, 2022

We Heart Seattle (WHS) recently reached significant milestones – 500,000+ pounds of trash removed from the city’s parks and public spaces and 100+ individuals helped off the streets. That’s 250 tons of trash, along with more than 20,000 needles removed, all thanks to our 300+ volunteers and dedicated second-chance work team. Our proven model of trash removal and individualized outreach, coupled with community engagement has also resulted in the restoration AND maintenance of 30 parks across the city.

How It Started and Where We’ve Come

Who would have dreamed that WHS founder and Executive Director Andrea Suarez’s decision in the fall of 2020 to start picking up trash in her Belltown neighborhood would spark a city-wide grassroots movement – one that would grow into an innovative, nimble, boots-on-the-ground organization making a visible and measurable impact on our wonderful city. Along the way, WHS is:

  • disrupting entrenched, ineffective systems,
  • saying “no more” to excuses, and
  • paving the way for citizen-led solutions to Seattle’s humanitarian and environmental crisis.

We Heart Seattle’s Impact is Grabbing Attention

We Heart Seattle’s unique model of civic engagement has attracted global attention. Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and special correspondent for Getty Images John Moore recently joined the We Heart Seattle team in the field for several days. Moore’s stunning images (featured in The Guardian and Geek Wire) illustrate the degradation of our public green spaces but also showcase the power of our dedicated team.

Kevin Dahlgren’s New Leadership Role

We Heart Seattle is thrilled to announce Kevin Dahlgren is assuming the role of President of the organization, bringing 27 years of expertise in homelessness, social services/public health, and substance abuse counseling to our city. The remarkable documentary on Kevin’s success in helping bring Gresham, Oregon to functional zero for homeless is linked below along with Andrea and Kevin’s recent discussions with Mike Solan, national law enforcement expert and President of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, on his Hold the Line podcast.

What’s Next?

Amidst the often-polarizing discourse in the city and across King County, We Heart Seattle remains laser-focused on its mission of making Seattle safer and more beautiful for all. And to sustain and scale that work, WHS needs to make a significant investment in its infrastructure.

Trusty BBQ tongs are our tools of the trade but to continue and increase our impact, WHS needs to build its infrastructure by adding an operations manager, additional drivers, volunteer coordinators, and dedicated case managers. We must also fund our basic needs stipend (gift card) program that empowers those living unhoused to join our clean-up efforts. Finally, WHS must fund our second-chance work team – individuals we hire through Uplift Northwest (formerly the Millionaire Club) to participate in our daily boots-on-the-ground team, many of whom have lived experience and welcome the experience with We Heart Seattle as a means of making their way back into the working environment.

None of this would be possible without YOU – our generous donors and tireless volunteers. Together we are reinventing how to approach longstanding and seemingly insurmountable problems while disrupting the inertia that has long gripped our city.

Our heartfelt thanks for your unwavering support. Onward from here!

Andrea Suarez
Executive Director