Sally Bagshaw’s BIG IDEA in this morning’s edition of the Seattle Times: to house the homeless in tiny new houses to be built in 7 different districts of Seattle is THE worst idea yet. Yes, Seattle has a problem, and it is chronic. As with any illness, repeated attempts to treat symptoms usually offers little relief. Real healing does not occur until the cause, the source of the illness is identified and treated.
CONSISTENCY. Consistency is the first component to addressing a huge problem such as Seattle homeless. There is no plan, there is no direction. We must identify the common elements that are causing the problem, especially those elements that are making it worse. We can’t change the weather, which the homeless agree is quite suitable most of the time. But we can stop catering like so many grandma’s with a hot bowl of soup that is attracting homeless from across the country. Seattle has become known as soft and kind to the homeless. Good for us! Now let’s plant them in cute, free little houses all over the City so we can make more room under freeways for the next wave that will surely move in.
ENFORCEMENT. I’ve gone this far, so I may as well press on. Enforcement of any policy regarding the homeless is going to fall to the Seattle Police. Since we’ve done such a fine job of castrating their incentive to enforce the law on many levels, the ability of this force to administer an overhaul-type policy must come into question before any action is taken.
Imagine if our housing population of 4,000+ were comprised of a single wave of immigrants from a single foreign country, one towards which the US holds no ill will. It could be the result of a natural disaster, or someone else’s war (a novel concept). Would they be allowed to wander the streets of Seattle, aimlessly camping wherever they like? I may be wrong, but this is what I envision:
- The Feds would get involved. A state of emergency would be declared by the Mayor of Seattle and/or the Governor prompting a please for Federal assistance. Whether it is FEMA trailers or simply cash, the Feds would stick their nose in this scenario, making sure the nice folks from nowhereland are treated respectfully.
- An intake facility would be established. By that I mean a central facility big enough to handle ALL of the refugees in one place. I think the giant hanger at Magnuson Park is a likely location. Here the people would be provided with cots to sleep on, food, showers and sanitation facilities. This would be at an incredible savings when compared to the City and all the myriad volunteer organizations driving all over heck with pots of soup and sleeping bags. Families would be consolidated in an area separate from all the singles to ensure safety for children.
- Consolidated in one location, the screening process would begin. Professionals, or at least college educated personnel, would screen individuals to learn their respective (1) place of origin, (2) work & language skills, (3) level of education, (4) medical/health issues, (5) location of relatives in the US, (6) is their intent to stay permanently or return to their homeland?
- The critical component is a central facility where ALL are dealt with, professionally. Costs can only be controlled in a controlled environment.
- Volunteers and Safety. Want to help? Take a drive down Sand Point Way and deliver your donations to a well lit, clean receiving area with ample parking and nice folks to thank you for your kindness. There are those of us that brave the mean streets in the dark of night to deliver directly to the immigrants. We fear for the day that goes badly. I am not one of them, but I am willing to help, so I will deliver extra bedding and food to the central facility. I am not inclined to visit 1st Avenue between Midnight and 4:00 AM.
The hard core would be quickly sorted from the unfortunates. There are various elements among the homeless in Seattle that have no business being on the street. They are a public health and safety hazard. Whether they are criminals, addicts, or mentally ill, they need to be treated appropriately, not ignored. Most important is that they are separated from those that are on the street for relatively innocent reasons, especially those with children that have recently been evicted due to job loss, inability to pay rent, etc., but were previously working, tax paying citizens. The disparity has to recognized and addressed.
Regardless, nobody goes back to the street. Camps are cleaned out the moment they are reported. Off to Magnuson they go to be processed, evaluated and cared for until they get back on their feet OR they get a one-way bus ticket back to where they came from. If they return, they either get with the program and get to work or they get sent home again.
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