We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year with nearly 200 contracts to end homelessness in Seattle, but as long as the fox is allowed to guard the hen house, we won’t see a reduction of tents in Seattle parks and public spaces. It will just continue to get worse.
I’m out there just about every weekend doing litter picks at unsanctioned encampments in public parks and public spaces and I can tell you it gives me pause to see what I see. The encampments are filthy and rats run rampant. Lots of physical and mentally disabled people. Addicts. Rapists. Assaults. Trafficking. Human waste everywhere. Drugs and needles abound and so much useless junk and rotting food. Meanwhile, the government says we just don’t have enough housing while they refuse to acknowledge who’s really in charge at the encampments.
So-called “mutual aid” anarchists have created little CHOPs or CHAZs in many park locations and beyond. They guard them and use the homeless as human shields to keep anyone but other MAs and drug dealers from entering the encampments. If you’re trying to help the people in the tents, the MA folks will try to prevent it. Outreach efforts are usually met with verbal harassment and sometimes worse by the “MA” folks toward volunteers even when people emerge from their tents begging for detox and recovery. They’ll even cyber bully you, lie in the press, and call your employer with lies about how you’re stealing belongings from homeless people.
The thought the Mutual Aid anarchists have is to just keep taking the parks and public spaces for their delusional utopia at all of our expenses, including the folks in the tents. Remember, they’re anarchists. The government does nothing thereby promoting the anarchist-guarded encampments and their movement to continue taking over our public parks and public spaces. It’s like last summer on Capitol Hill, but everywhere. This will be no “Summer of Love”, I guarantee you that.
The government could transition all of these folks to sanctioned encampments at the very least or other legal housing options (some to prison, thank you) in a matter of a few months, but they won’t. They cow-tow to the anarchists. They don’t even know or care to know who the people are in these encampments because the information management system is optional. Sometimes they “sweep” folks, but that’s just optics because another unsanctioned encampment pops up with another group of Mutual Aid folks at another park or school property to defend it.
Meanwhile, a constant inflow of more people from every point on the map is a footnote to them, not the meat and potatoes of the problem. Finally, the mayor admitted (because she’s not running for re-election) that at least 60% and possibly many more of the folks in tents are not from here. Of course we knew that, but I’m glad she finally said it.
We could immediately staunch inflow by getting the word out on the street to stop coming here and enforce it. Require any newly homeless person to report to “City of Seattle Homeless Services” before they do anything like pitch a tent, park an RV, or live in their car. No exceptions. Even the DSHS offices where folks can get an EBT card could be on the lookout for new arrivals and divert them immediately to Homeless Services, but no. They just keep them coming and they come because you can pitch a tent in a park, on school grounds or on a sidewalk in Seattle, park a derelict RV where you wish, get food and drugs delivered to your tent, shoplift all day and resell all night to feed your habit and the government will do nothing.
So-called “Public Health” workers drive up and throws bags of needles to campers and do little of anything else. No litter pick, no offer of services, no exchange of needles, nothing. They call that “harm reduction”. Please. Can we just call this what it is? It’s Crony Socialism: grow the problem and the failure industry workforces surrounding it. I’ve seen the pattern before with the failure of the public K-12 system and the so-called closing of the “achievement gap”. Their efforts have resulted in dumbing things down 2-3 grades and eliminating accelerated and advanced learning opportunities in the name of “equity” – and make no mistake – be very afraid of that word. Equity. Yikes. There’s Marxist intent behind it. If some kids have trouble learning, then nobody should learn seems the motto while 50% of kids fail to learn to read, write and do math in Washington State. Likewise, if we just keep calling it an affordable housing problem we’ll certainly never solve it.
There are tons of well-paid government workers and 100s of peanuts-paid non-profit workers involved in this particular homelessness failure industry. Most of the non-profits are top heavy with a six figure Executive Director and Exec staff that wear suits and go to meetings, but below that is a constant churn of overworked social worker minions trying to do the work of therapists, families and friends for unsustainable wages. Always with an “equity lens” as they’ve all been indoctrinated with Marxism either in college or at work and all of them chasing their tails. Their work will never create the on-demand mental health and addiction recovery infrastructure we’re lacking. Add insult to injury, there is zero funding for responses one could actually call preventive. After all, most of these problems come from adverse childhood experience and adult onset mental health problems and with no discernible metrics associated with the performance of these so-called homeless services, no progress happens and no one asks for anything more, except more funding, as if that would move the needle.
The real canary in the coal mine is this: when someone is ready to recover – which is the exact moment we all hope will come for our mentally ill and addicted loved ones – we have nothing for them. No place for them to immediately report. No emergency number with a 10 minute response that whisks you off to a safe and fully supported recovery. Nothing. That tells you everything you need to know about the failure industry at hand. It insists that you continue to fail because that is job security for an every growing humongous part of our government, private and non-profit sectors. We have to cut the cord.
“Housing First” battle cries have become a significant big labor benefit and the units are coming in at $500k – $750k each without services. Lovely pod dorms would be socially awesome and supportive and their construction comes in well under $100k a unit. This kind of transitional housing could be right on campus so people could prepare for re-entry. They could even be an opportunity for entry-level home ownership because building stability and wealth will calm a lot of anxiety and depression and certainly temper addiction. Just remember the Indian reservations if you want to remind yourself what it looks like to not be able to own private property. The whole affordable housing thing and the housing first thing smack of a bit of a reservation-type racket if you can’t own.
We should just take some money and start a City of Seattle Homeless Services department like Gresham, OR which has achieved functional zero homelessness because it’s a proven solution and it’s scalable. Poach or clone Kevin Dahlgren to run it and let him build a tight and talented department complimented by a sea of volunteers and philanthropy funding and phase out the to-date failed government response.
Every person in a tent, RV, or car has a story that we need to respond to. Let’s find out who they are, what they need and transition them out of the public spaces and into a legal place to live now. It’s time.