SEATTLE—Frank Clark was 6 years old the first time he took on a responsibility no child should be burdened with. A young boy living in a homeless shelter, reassured his mother, telling her "everything's going to be all right," even though the future looked bleak at the time.
"I told her this in the midst of us standing at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles, in an area you guys are probably familiar with as Skid Row. When I told her everything was going to be all right, it wasn't a great time," Clark said, speaking to a crowd at Safeco Field on hand for a kickoff event for Pearl Jam's two shows that will take place here in August, dubbed, The Home Shows.
"We were homeless," Clark continued. "I told her everything was going to be all right, because I felt like she was giving up. I feel like it was a time where she needed as much support as she could have, and as her son, her only child with her in those conditions, I felt like I was the person who should tell her that. I didn't understand it at 6, didn't know where I was going to be, I didn't know I was going to be in the NFL, but at 6 years old, I told my mom everything was going to be all right, because I deeply felt we weren't going to be in that situation our whole life."
Clark, as well as Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, spoke at Tuesday's kickoff event because the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund is partnering with Pearl Jam in their effort to fight homelessness. When Pearl Jam announced its home shows, the Seattle band's first shows at Safeco Field and first in Seattle since 2013, they pledged to give more than $1 million to help alleviate homelessness in King County. With local businesses, foundations and fans joining the cause, a group that now includes the Seahawks Players Action Fund, as well as Paul Allen's Vulcan, Inc., the total raised is now more than $7 million towards Pearl Jam's stated goal of raising $10 million.
"You can't be a Seattleite and not feel and understand the gravity of the situation," Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard said.
Added guitarist Mike McCready: "Pearl Jam is a small part of this, but we have a big megaphone that we want to bring to this issue. We want to use it to amplify the amazing work being done to address homelessness."
People looking to donate, volunteer or just find more information on The Home Shows can do so at PearlJam.com/TheHomeShows. Those who want to donate to the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund can do so here.
"We created the Players Equality & Justice Action Fund in 2017, and the mission for that was to support grassroots, ground-level organizations that are doing the work and having boots on the ground," said Baldwin, one of the players who led the way in creating the Seahawks Players Action Fund. "We felt like we were in a unique position to use our influence, to use our platform to spread the message and do things as athletes and really express the things that matter to us… As athletes, as players, as human beings, we've all experienced this at some level. That's really what the action fund is all about, supporting these organizations that are viewing these social issues at a humanistic level, realizing that the people we're interacting with are human beings, and they want to be loved and taken care of. That's what we're hoping to do now."
Baldwin then introduced Clark, for whom this is a very personal cause. Clark eventually moved to Cleveland to live with family there when he was 10, giving him more stability in his life, but before that his childhood in Los Angeles included being homeless at times.
"At that time, I knew we were in a dark place," Clark said. "I understood what struggle meant at 6 years old, I understood what being homeless meant, I understood what an eviction notice meant. It was tough. It was tough walking the streets of Los Angeles, the streets of Crenshaw, growing up in Baldwin Village not really having anything to eat. If you know me, you know about a syrup and peanut butter sandwich, ramen noodles, I ate them faithfully. That's what my mom could give me, and I was so thankful for it, and I still am today, because it made me the person I am today.
"I told my mom everything was going to be all right, because I truly meant that. As the years went on, at the age of 10 I ended up moving away to Cleveland. I wasn't this golden child, I wasn't the best kid. At the end of the day it was her making the decision to send me away so she could give me the best life. At 10 years old, I didn't really understand that. I thought it was her giving up on me, but as I got older, when I got to the age of 18, 19, I started to realize she meant the best for me. She didn't want me stuck in this situation."
Clark's life is drastically different now, in part because his mother sent him away to a better situation, and in part because of his athletic gifts, but he knows for the tens of thousands of homeless in King County, many of them children and teenagers, the struggle continues, which is why this is such an important topic for him.
Clark described, "just waking up not knowing where your next meal is coming from, staying in a shelter where you've got 400 people sharing the same restrooms, maybe two or three in the facility. You've got the same meal every day—you're thankful but they're not the best meals, let's be honest. It's a whole different mentality."
Clark also talked about volunteering at Seattle's Union Gospel Mission, where, "one thing that stood out was that they felt like the system failed them."
Through Pearl Jam's two concerts in August, and through the help of more than 20 partners, including the Seahawks Players Action Fund and Vulcan, the hope is that the system can change, leaving fewer people in situations like Clark faced as a child, and like too many people continue to face today.
Defensive end Frank Clark and receiver Doug Baldwin spoke Tuesday at Seattle's Safeco Field for a kickoff event for The Home Shows, a pair of concerts Pearl Jam will put on at the venue this August. The two sides have partnered in an effort to fight homelessness in the Seattle area.