News Feb 3, 2016 at 4:00 am

(One Right, Two Wrong)

Some cleanups and sweeps are necessary, but it matters how the city goes about them. Kelly O


The reason homelessness rates in Seattle are climbing, and will likely continue to climb, is because Seattle attracts thousands of homeless migrants each year. In addition to having a moderate climate, liberal politics, ample services, and plenty of fellow homeless people to blend in with, we have tent cities, acres of uncontrolled green space, and lose laws on car camping and vagrancy.

This isn't necessarily a reason to stop opening our arms to the nation's homeless population. However, any plans to "end homelessness in Seattle" should probably take into account that the more assistance we provide, the more people who will come here for that assistance.
@seadr: Yes, we (as a city that is trying to be a leader on homelessness issues) definitely need to advocate for a national (and state-wide) approach to homelessness services. That approach needs to result in providing services in towns and cities, big and small. It's unsustainable to leave it to only the biggest, most liberal cities to do something other than, well, pushing their most disadvantaged to the biggest, most liberal cities.
A huge problem with the shelters is that occupants -- and all their belongings -- get put back on the street every morning. We should be looking for places that people can call "home," however temporarily. Where they can leave their possessions, and then return to them. The tent and RV camps allow this, and it should become the standard for alternatives to homelessness.
What disturbs me most are the homeless people who are obviously deranged or mentally ill being allowed to live in the gutters. What type of society are we, where we allow for those who are obviously unable to care for themselves, have no family to care for them, to exist in an impoverished, dangerous and largely feral life?

In the past week, I've seen many examples of folks who are obviously schizophrenic and off of their medication, talking to themselves, yelling at buildings and even banging their heads against concrete walls. Honestly, WTF society!?! It's obvious most in this demographic can't take care of themselves, private and government support systems don't meet their special needs, and these people are in an indignant mental state.

Just because government and society as a whole decided to give up on the care of the mentally ill, and the ACLU has helped to secure their "freedom of choice," doesn't mean that we're better off at ignoring the problem of the mentally ill walking around the streets and sleeping in bushes.
We should increase somewhat the density allowance within single family neighborhoods like HALA suggests. However, if that's currently politically toxic, we don't have to do it now. We can wait: we can instead increase allowed density within enough urban villages to the degree that we can reach growth goals for the next decade or more. Not with 3-story apartment buildings, but with ~15-story buildings clustered around transit hubs and the most prominent urban villages, and ~10-story buildings clustered in the residential urban villages. It is better to concentrate population anyway for transportation planning, rates of commuting by public transit, pedestrian friendliness, etc. Just one (scalable) example: conservatively, fifteen thousand people could live in housing that replace giant Northgate area parking lots, alone...and that would just be with low-rise/mid-rise buildings. And the transportation infrastructure is there. Allow high density in all the urban villages (major and minor) and we get to where to need to go in the medium range, and all of a sudden we'll be living in a city where the clear majority of people live in high density housing and guess what? Density will spread somewhat throughout the single family neighborhoods, because the scales will be sufficiently tipped, and apartment dwellers vote, too.
Stranger logic: it's only acceptable to be a NIMBY if you live in Capitol Hill or the CD.
@4, MrSteve007: Thank Reagan. There's little that can legally be done to provide help to people who need it so badly that they cannot seek it out themselves. Seattle state Rep Brady Walkinshaw introduced and got Joel's Law passed that at least takes a step in the right direction, allowing family members to petition the court to intervene when an untreated mentally ill patient is in crisis. But for those without supportive family? Or before that law was (very recently) passed? Nothing, unless the person is healthy enough to seek his/her own help. Thank Reagan.
"Not In My Backyard!" - everyone, in response to all undesirable things.
As you note in your article, homelessness increased even more in the broader King County outside of Seattle. What is the county doing to address this regional crisis? A Seattle only solution is clearly not the answer here.

One other thing. However much you may personally like the blanket upzone, it has very little role in a discussion on homelessness. The idea that the "market" will create below median income affordable housing is laughable. It can relieve some pressure on upper middle income rents, but that is all we will see from a blanket upzone. Unless you think developers are careless and will drastically overbuild creating a large glut that may bring down rental costs below the cost of construction. In this case only a market failure will bring truly affordable housing. This has happened in some areas, but hoping for failure does not constitute an actual plan.
While the highly questionable local (non-)media yak and yak and Mayor Murray yaks and yaks, the Mayor and his administration continue to sit on a most important study which has greatly added to the local homeless situation:…

This was the study which analyzed a small time segment of foreclosures during 2013, and found that about all of them had been fraudclosures, illegal foreclosures. Of course, since the majority were performed by Bank of America, we've heard nothing about this in the local (non-)media to date.

Seems like a mighty important study to this humble person, one would think I shouldn't be the only one with that opinion, after all?

To trivialize the homeless situation without ever examining the economic situation is pure propaganda, pure Edward Bernays-fantasy.
@7, actually, one could more specifically blame the recent president of U.W., now at U.T., Michael Young, who wrote the legal brief for Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist which dumped the mentally ill onto the streets of America.

Sure, Reagan helped quite a bit by withdrawing $50 billion from the low-cost housing fund(s), but let's please not ignore the obvious.

For some (self-serving, perhaps????) reason, U.W. students could never be bothered to protest against Young, while having no problem with protesting Trump (who will destroy the RepubliCON Party, if people would support him and stay quiet).
@4, what really disturbs me, is not only the situation you described, but the fact that for around 50 to 70 years the US gov't has been bringing deranged killers, mass murderers and terrorists over to America, either with high level jobs at places like the Cato Institute, American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Brookings Institution, etc., or at the lower levels, to use America as their own hunting preserve.

Those would be the Nazis from WWII (Operation Paperclip, plus other programs), the vile ones from the Shah's former government of Iran, and those from Gen. Pinochet's administration, and those from various other bloody dictators' administrations throughout Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

It almost appears like something they might just be doing by design, huh?
@1: I used to think that, and Mrs. Solomon definitely thinks that, but there was a Homeless Advocate after the 1 night count who said that 85% of the homeless are from King Co.

Now I don't know what to think. I don't want Seattle/King Co (or Portland, or SF) to have to fix a Nation-wide problem, but who else is going to help?
The city needs have police actively respond to small crime calls - bike thefts, car break-ins, snatch & grabs, etc. - as they happen, and follow-up. This lack of follow-up has led to rumors from Fremont to Ballard (noted for slow 911 response times) that "those people in RV's" committed the crimes.

I've lived in that area for over ten years, as the amount of RV's has gone DOWN, not up (and now that your friends can't park overnight, are you happy?) My housing complex has rich people who complain that the homeless are stealing their stuff - yet every time, EVERY time, that someone is "caught in the act" by a witness or a camera (never by 911), the crime was perpetrated by affluently-dressed people in luxury cars & high-end bikes cruising the neighborhood. EVERY time. Seattleites need to put their heads on straight and realize: If you tended to break into places and steal stuff, you would have plenty of dough, enough so that you wouldn't have to live in a broken-down "unsightly" vehicle that risks being towed away...

In fact there used to be less crime when it was OK for homeless people to live in their cars here, because there was enough of them to stop a burglar, keep an eye on things & talk to us, even 911. Now the people who can't afford to drive away are terrified of crime (yes, unbelievably, they get burgled too) and afraid of calling 911 when it happens, for fear of ending up on the sidewalk in January.

Remember the recession? Anybody?? The near-collapse of capitalism as the Fed called it?? A lot of hardworking Americans lost everything, after following the rules their whole lives. Most of the homeless around here are good people, and to presume people are criminals because they can't afford a $1K apartment, and to demand that people not exist because they are "unsightly" is evil.

Most Seattle voters moved to the city to meet people from all walks of life, not to live in a pristine cul-de-sac controlled by homeowner-association rules. I am boycotting any business who calls for homeless sweeps! Any business who blames their failure on imaginary "scared customers" who never appeared -doesn't deserve to have their economic delusions propped up. Ditto for complaining "homeowners" who have nothing better to do (don't THEY have a job?) -they're concerned with how much they can inflate their home value to escape their underwater mortgage.
my question is, when will and why hasn't anyone ever held the homeless accountable for their own actions? They are not a bunch of retarded people that have no brain function, so why does the city not just say,"If you can at least clean up the shit and piss and needles that you litter the public areas with you can stay there. If not, we will take a hose and wash you away. Why do so many idiots just find it unthinkable that those of us that have worked hard today our share want our parks free from the smell of piss when we coach our kids or just want to NOT have to have someone panhandle on every corner because of the laziness or addiction that these goofballs HAVE CHOSEN FOR THEMSELVES?
I am guessing someone got a little sand in their mangina and deleted my post as they got offended by the thought of me asking someone to clean up my feces from their porch after a thai dinner.. oh the outrage over cleaning up after an actual taxpayer when in fact they are more than happy to clean up the crap form a hobo on the street..or at least have someone else do it.
@13 define "from King county" half of the people here now weren't here a few years ago but 85% of the homeless are "from" here. Does that pass the smell test?
Does Heidi have any data confirming that increasing density in neighborhoods will lower housing prices? In my NIMBY hood (Magnolia) they tear down small houses all over 22nd AV W and put up fourplexes that actually cost more each than the original homes. That is helping how exactly?

Also I do believe the last "Cruel and incompetent encampment sweep" they did around me resulted in the bicycles stolen off my deck being thrown away, so yeah, we should let them keep my bikes, I mean it takes guts to steal stuff, give them a break. NIMBY's like me just go to work and buy stuff with the money they earn, so bourgeoisie.
Izzy @14, I heart you very much. Yes, the recession is the part that commonly gets forgotten as a precursor to the increases in numbers of people experiencing homelessness.
#26 that's a bunch of crap. The recession is not enabling the homeless. And since I am guessing you are a progressive, do you not believe our leaders that the economy is roaring and that the unemployment rate is lower in Seattle than anyplace else? Really, the reason we have so many homeless is because we give them so much and NEVER hold them accountable to even do the things normal adults usually do, like clean up after themselves and not steal. Is that really too much to ask? And how many homeless camps have you walked through lately? I am guessing zero, because after you have had to wash human shit off of your shoes because someone didn't feel it was their responsibility to clean up after themselves, you may sag a different song.
Squat. It's far cheaper to give the homeless who are neither crazy nor addicted to psychotropic substances one thousand Feudal Reserve Notes per month than to arrest, book, try, jail them in the same period of Time. Duh. --- (N) .
All you greedy-ass self-labelling " Liberals" have sooo many empty rooms to spare . . . . ---
The vast majority of people with serious mental illnesses do not need long term involuntary commitment. If you've ever seen footage of those old hospitals, you'd know it would be less of a human rights violation to just euthanize them. They were that bad. With housing, healthcare, maybe a visiting nurse, and sometimes "intensive outpatient" programs (basically like inpatient but they can go home at night), most of these people would not cause problems, and some could become quite functional. For those that need even more care and supervision, there are other kinds of assisted living situations where patients still have some freedom and privacy. People with serious mental illnesses are still humans with human rights. The problem wasn't deinstitutionalization, it was the lack of followup with housing and healthcare.

When it comes to addicts, I am glad there is finally a house for people who won't stop drinking. I live and work in areas where I frequently come in contact with erratic crackheads, especially since i am stuck commuting by bus, and have often felt that my personal safety would be greatly increased if some of these people were giving housing, no strings attached. They would probably spend less time hanging around bus stops, squawking at the air and threatening people. The level at which I have to watch my back all the time is just wearying, and I know a lot of my fellow working class people have the same problem. Chances are, no matter who you are and what you think about the homeless in general or addicts specifically, you want these people off the street. We have to stop being so ideological and start going with whatever evidence-based solutions exist.
You contunue to misrepresent the percentage of Seattle's land that is zoned single-family. It is not 61% because that number includes parks. No one "owns" the parks and open space. According to the DPD, the percentage in single-family zones is 47%. Neither I nor my neighbors nor the candidates who lost are NIMBYs, although this smear may have cost some of them the election. Instead, like Peter Steinbrueck, I call for smart growth, density done right. The last Comprehensive Plan called for density to be clustered around transit and this has been responsible for creating sufficient ridership to justify our current transit projects. We cannot afford to have frequent busses everywhere, but we can work together to create walkable communities with access to schools, parks, stores and transit.
@20: Appearing to be "physically able" to work, and being able to hold down a job, are not the same thing.
- Jobs are hard to find if you have no recent employment history or references.
- Jobs are even harder to find if you have no fixed address, and no reliable place to shower and do laundry.
- Some people are physically able but, without treatment, not mentally fit to hold down a job. Even something as basic and treatable as depression can keep someone unemployed, if they don't have access to psychiatric care. I know people like this, although since they're from middle-class families they're living with parents instead of on the street.
- Some people just see no reasonable way forward from their situation. If you know having a job won't pay enough to put a roof over your head or measurably improve your situation, getting one isn't a logical choice.

I think actual laziness is vanishingly rare. Humans aren't wired for idleness; we get bored. If someone is inactive it usually means there's something, either internal or external, blocking them from moving forward.


@30: Yup. Deinstitutionalization became an excuse to do nothing, then blame the consequences on the ACLU.

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