This is why when I see people on Facebook groups wistfully moaning about how "Seattle used to be so much better," I gotta wonder WTF world they live(d) in. I mean, you only have to go back to the mid 1980's and the film "Streetwise" to point out that they have no idea what they're talking about.


"After all, what does anyone expect the police to do, throw tear gas at people in crisis until they stop being poor?"

Throw tear gas at people in crisis until they go somewhere that I don't have to look at them. I expect the police could accomplish that.



Not to mention the veritable euphemism for the absolute nadir of impoverishment "he's on skid row (sic)" is actually derived from an early Seattle geographical feature, the "skid road" (better known today as Yesler Way) by which logs cut from the eastern hillsides were skidded down to the sawmills along the waterfront. In other words, we literally coined one of the most-used generic terms for the homeless, destitute, and down-on-their-luck habitués of urban cores, roughly three decades BEFORE the 1897 PI article Matt cites.

And yet here we are, some 150 years later, and the hand-wringers are STILL whinging about a problem they're not, nor never have been, willing to invest in actually solving; but just wanting to not have to be constantly reminded that it continues to exist.


Yeah all that's good but we didn't have meth head junkies camping out on school property and murdering each other in tents 150 years ago either so what's the point? Comparing this crises to what happened 100 years ago is apples to oranges. Slog loves to bash anyone that opposes its ideas but sticks its head in the sand when its time to come up with an actual solution that works, because whatever Slog is pushing when it comes to this crisis is doing fuck all. But I get it, cool cities are supposed to have record level overdoses, petty crime, and whores selling ass at noon on Aurora.


We have a system that ensures the votes of city residents count for very little at the national level, is it any wonder we get policies that completely ignores urban issues. All those asking Seattle to solve this problem, are asking them to solve it against the forces of our County, our State, our National Government, the Treasury, the Federal Reserve, and the World Finance system, all that specifically have policies in place to create homelessness and ensure it is easy to fall into and hard to escape.

You forgot the other big similarity with 1897, it was the end of the Gilded Age with rampant income inequality. An ugly time filled with large industrial growth, but rampant corruption, and deep financial crashes. At least they were honest enough to say what they meant and truthful about their hostility; if it were written today it would call for "compassionate non-optional volunteered labor."


@4 "Yeah all that's good but we didn't have meth head junkies camping out on school property and murdering each other in tents 150 years ago either so what's the point?"

No, they were alcoholics. Not much difference. It's like you didn't even bother to read the comments before you. Seattle has had issues like this for years -- we literally coined the term "Skid Row" (look it up on Wikipedia). Of course it is never just those with substance abuse problems. It is often just people who are poor (we had one of the bigger Hoovervilles during the Great Depression). The problem got a lot worse recently because housing prices skyrocketed.

The Seattle Times article only alluded to that, but it was clear by the tone -- as well as the title -- that they get it. The reason why parts of Seattle seem like something Charles Dickens would write about is because that is the world we are living in now.


Do you know what lifts people out of poverty? Work. Jobs are going begging for anyone who wants one. Are they low-paid unskilled jobs? Yes, they are. And if you have anything on the ball, you won't be in one for long, but will soon have something better.

If you won't work and want to sit around all day begging for money for liquor and drugs, then GTFO and bother somebody else.


When all you've been trained to use are hammers and nails, those are your only solutions.

Something I learned a long time ago during my military days.

Sadly, even though they are repeatedly brought up by the powerful and the wealthy as solutions, hammers and nails are rarely the solution, and in most cases, cause more problems that are even worse.

Solution: dine on the Rich.


"The reporter quotes no people who themselves are unhoused, so there’s no way we can possibly know what solutions they feel would be helpful."

The article includes a photograph of apparently unhoused people smoking heroin/meth/crack or whatever. I'm not sure what they feel would be helpful, but I think we can all agree that absent substance abuse treatment, they are likely to remain unhoused, and at substantial risk of overdose and a host of other serious health concerns.

Was there something about that photo that led you to reach a different conclusion, Matt?


@6 it always has been. I used to catch a bus to Renton at 3rd and Pine in the 80s, it was worse then. And newspaper and TV from around WW II says it was then as well.


@9 Your figures are a bit off. You omitted the $116 million Seattle will receive from the American Rescue Plan Act as well as $12 million from the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. We actually will be spending far more than your projected annual $42,000 per homeless person.


Make them pick up trash or repair potholes. 1 garbage bag of trash earns you $25. Those bags of garbage can be turned into housing & food. Make them work for it, stop with the homelessness-industrial complex.


I for one would like to thank Matt for finally acknowledging the truth that addiction fueled homelessness have been with us a long time. Amazon didn’t cause it, racism didn’t cause it, gentrification didn’t cause it. Part of solving a problem is admitting you have a problem. Now for the hard part Matt, find a solution that doesn’t enable their addiction and allow them to quite literally crap on the rest of us.


Citing an average income in a country with severe income disparities and widespread poverty in order to imply that a person can afford to live here of all places while also paying the American pricetag for the level of healthcare people fresh off the street usually need with that magically derived number of dollars per year seems like a stretch.

Nevermind that the average "household" income in the dead city we're talking about is around triple that magic number and at least double the number being divined as the cost incurred per person requiring help. Even by the given logic we could do better. I could come back around on this if we gave each unsheltered person/family in Seattle 90K+ 'resources' per year, actually.


@20 because racism wasn't affecting anybody round here 140 years ago, right?


@22 nope. Addiction treats everyone equally.


Love all the "Make them work for their food!" "If they won't work, then GTFO!" "Rehab them until they're not broken anymore."

They don't want to work. If they did, they'd be working. There's plenty of jobs available.

They don't want to stop using alcohol, pot, and other drugs. If they did, they'd find help because there's plenty of help available for them.

They don't want to GTFO. They want to be in Seattle, otherwise, they'd already have hitchhiked out.

The only way anyone's going to get them to work, or stop drinking and smoking, or leave, is by brute force. At the barrel of guns. And unless you set armed checkpoints up at city entrances, they'll just come back. Or, you can put them in jail. Or make them work chain gangs on the side of the road.

Prison and brute force. That's it.

I've read the comments here and I don't see any other solutions presented (other than @13's "farm jail" which I'm not familiar with but I'm assuming is involuntary imprisonment/labor. i.e., exactly what I've stated).

Is that what you people want? Throw em in jail? Force them out at gunpoint and post guards and checkpoints at city entrances? I mean, if you're ok with that, so be it. But I have not seen any other solutions offered here, nor in any of the other threads on homelessness. Just complaints.

If anyone has any other actual solution, I'm all ears.

And saying, "They should get jobs or leave!" is not a solution, btw. Not unless you provide some way of making them get jobs or making them leave.


"met with relentless hostility" "rousting the homeless men"?

So... marching them out of town at gunpoint? I hope you don't mean hostility as in allowing people to assault or murder them. Kicking them out of town or putting them in work prisons guarded by armed guards. Just the 18 to 45 year old men who refuse to get a job, yes? Ok then. That takes care of the 18 to 45 year old men. What about everyone else?

Certainly there will be some older men and women who don't want to work, don't want to leave, and don't want to give up drinking. Do they get kicked out of town/put in chain gangs too?


OK, here's a question. I'm seriously interested in what people think about this in terms of ethics. If, as @25 says, people don't want to stop using drugs (for the record, I am pretty sure a lot of them DO want to stop) and don't want to work, is society obligated to bankroll this lifestyle? Or may we ethically just say "no"?

I'm not talking about the ones who do want to get their shit together. There seems to be broad agreement that they should be provided treatment (the parameters vary). And I don't think anyone seriously objects to helping them get back to the workforce. But what about the ones who just don't want to do anything but sit around & do drugs? Are they entitled to a heroin/meth stipend and a home to do the drugs in?



Well, that's an interesting experiment I suppose. Kick out all homeless men age 18 to 49, and repeat as necessary, and as for everything else? Just see what happens?

I mean, if they're truly the only problem then yeah, your solution is gold. If, however, they're not truly the only problem... well... now you've got all the same problems you had before AND you now have an actively hostile group of 18-49 year old homeless men with even less to lose than they had before, AND you have less trust from both the homeless community and the rest of the city about your capabilities than you had before.

Seems like quite a roll of the dice to me, but I suppose it's an option nevertheless.



"But what about the ones who just don't want to do anything but sit around & do drugs? Are they entitled to a heroin/meth stipend and a home to do the drugs in?"

Short answer:
"Entitled" is a word with specific meanings, so I'll just say I would be in favor of giving them free drugs and a free apartment of their own to shoot up in, free food and clothes and utilities too. I would also be in favor of giving the alcohol abusers the same thing, free booze and a free apartment to pass out drunk in, since that's WAY more common than heroin/meth users. It's sort of the "least" our species is capable of doing for them.
Are they "entitled" to it? Well, only if it's written into law. Is society "obligated" to pay for it? Again, only if it's written into law.

Can you "ethically" say no to giving the homeless free alcohol and a place to live? Sure! Ethics is entirely subjective and relative. Ethics is whatever you want it to be. Just ask the christians, or the muslims, or the jews. Whatever you want to do? You can just say your god or fairy or whatever says it's the right thing to do. Abracadabra! It's ethical!

Longer answer:
That would be my middle choice for what to do.
My top choice would be for the wealth in this world to be redistributed so that those in need are no longer in any need. Food, water, shelter, clothing, health care, etc. And for society to be more communal and more compassionate towards each other. Those in need are given what they need, no questions asked. Those who have more to give, freely give, no questions asked.

That'll never happen. Never. Not for thousands of years at the very least, but probably never. Humans are still far too unevolved. Maybe humans are incapable of that level of humanity? That is, we're physically capable of treating humans like humans, we can treat people with dignity if we WANT to, but for the most part we don't want to. It's much more satisfying to our egos to treat other humans like shit and filth.

So my middle choice, do the (sort of) next best thing. Take care of those in need as best as possible. Give the miserable a place to eke out their miserable lives by escaping in alcohol. Try to get the ultra wealthy to at least give a few crumbs to help if possible.

That'll never happen either.

So the worst choice:
Just treat the poor and the homeless like filth and shame and belittle them constantly and act holier than thou and complain.
Basically do nothing but endlessly complain.

That's the current "solution" and likely will be the ongoing "solution" for years and years.

Is that ethical? Sure! Ethics is whatever you want it to be!



Would YOU hire some homeless person to do ANYTHING?


The obtuseness of the pro-junkie crowd is incredibly frustrating.

The issue isn't poverty. The issue is unrestrained drug addiction, criminal behavior, and destruction of public spaces. Every city in every civilization since the beginning of time has dealt with some segment of the population experiencing poverty. The problem unique to Seattle is a bunch of junkies shooting up in broad daylight, harrassing passers-by, camping out in tents on public property, and committing crimes -- often violent crimes -- on a daily basis with no repercussions.

And boy am I tired of being told that I don't want to "see homelessness." This has become the new meme phrase that pro-junkie activists like our beloved author choose as their favorite strawman.

There's a video circulating right now of a young couple who rolled up to the Space Needle encampment to try and retrieve some stolen property. One homeless neighbor bashes the dude with a bat. Another whips out a machete and attacks their car, trying to hack through the back window. There was a child in the backseat. Both of the assailants were multi-time felons. Just living on our streets, doing drugs, being violent criminals, most likely harassing people walking by the Space Needle every single day.

That. That is what I'm tired of seeing. And people like Matt never have an answer. They just pretend the problem doesn't exist, and invent a strawman about rich people not wanting to see homelessness, so they can dismiss the concerns of the rest of the city and degrade us for caring. Well fuck you, Matt. Fuck you and fuck The Stranger.


Also, here's your solution. There is a lot of cheap land outside Seattle city limits where we could build large facilities for housing homeless, or just vacant lots where they can set up their tents. Heck, there are a lot of cheap, shitty motels we could house them in -- Dow Constantine is already doing this to a certain extent, although with much nicer hotels.

Even if you believe that every junkie has a right to a free home, there's no justification for saying that home has to be within Seattle city limits, where even most middle-class people can't afford a home.

I say we offer people shelter within the city as long as they follow a program. Either get on the road back to rejoining society, or help clean up the mess you've made, and we'll let you stay.

If you're not willing to do either of those things -- and as Urgutha points out, most of these assholes aren't -- then get the fuck out. We'll put a roof over your head, but it'll be an old Motel 6 in Kent. You can be a degenerate addict all day on the state's dime if you want, but you don't get to do it in Seattle. No more easy access to bikes and packages and cars to fund your lifestyle.

And for Christ's sake, start enforcing the law. These people commit crimes all day to fund their habit, and some of them are lifestyle criminals. There are multi-time felons, pimps, major dealers, even murderers living in these tents. There's no excuse for letting this continue. Enforce laws on theft, property crime, sexual assault, regular assault, public nudity, and other crimes regularly committed by the criminal vagrants. I don't see any justification for our tolerating this. It's just nuts like Nicole Thomas-Kenndy and Nikkita Oliver pushing their extreme ideology of legalizing all crime, under the guise of compassion for the homeless.


Just remember, any solution that involves forcing the homeless out of wherever they currently are, against their will, will require some sort of follow-up or they'll just come back. Armed checkpoints at city entrances for example. If you're ok with Seattle being turned into a reflection of Belfast during The Troubles, that's fine, just know that's what you're heading into.


I'm not sure why it matter that a given percentage of indigent poor are from "out of town" or are "drug addicts?" It changes nothing.

If you look at the data this problem is endemic all over the world right now. I've read that there has been increases in homelessness in the middle east, Thailand, Russia, eastern and western Europe. Not just America. Not just in Seattle. These are not local policy failures. they are systemic failures.

And people with these issues will leave smaller under serviced rural areas and head to cities with services and climates (both atmospheric and social) not totally hostile. And in a (supposed) free society this they are entitled to do by the constitution.

We are in an unprecedented time in modern US history. A opioid epidemic. A global pandemic. Soaring housing prices. This bitter alchemy has combined into a toxic situation that will require the coordinated effort of federal policies.

Pulling up the draw bridge, since there isn't one, is not going to work. If you want to alter the nature of our free society then go ahead. But as we have witnessed over the last four years that may not end as you intend it to.

There are no truly satisfactory solutions because many people are simply beyond "solving." Best you can do is mitigate. And then hopefully, with the right economic and social policies, prevent the next wave.

House those you can for as along as you can, get them into long term drug and mental health treatment outside the correctional system. That seems to have had modest success in other nations. There is no reason why it cannot succeed to a productive degree here. Save the few you can. Take care of the rest.

But simply criminalizing poverty and kicking them from one place to the next will do nothing but make the problem much, much worse.


@36 How compassion became "pro-junkie" is truly an astounding and particular vicious stretch of dehumanizing rhetoric.


@40 - I agree with you that there are systemic problems here. Which call for systemic solutions. However, they are not only leaving "smaller, under serviced rural areas" and coming to Seattle. All of our kindly suburban neighbors (yup, that's you, Mercer Island, with your camping ban, Redmond getting the torches and pitchforks out over a single shelter, Renton barring any new shelters, etc.) are doing their best to kick them out and make Seattle pick up the tab for the entire County's failings. It's no wonder that people in Seattle are getting a wee bit tired of that situation.


The city of Seattle will spend $160 million to combat homelessness in 2021


@42 - If my memory serves, Mercer Island passed a shiny new law banning camping once they realized someone might actually do it.


@44 And those laws do nothing to stem the tide of homeless poor and addicts but only offshore it somewhere else.

And let us recall just that because something remains in a law book doesn't mean it is right or just. AKA: Sundown Laws, Segregations, et al.

Many anti-vagrancy laws in some smaller cities have been ruled unconstitutional or inhumane when someone with backbone get's the bankroll and time to challenge them.


@49 what laws are being ignored? And the laws that have been ruled unjust have been under scrutiny to change and yet met by the same knee jerk reactionary resistance you just exhibited. You can’t have it both ways.


@40 there's nothing compassionate about ruining a beautiful city by allowing a small criminal element to turn entire blocks or entire parks into dangerous cesspools. The other 99.999% of this city deserves some compassion too, we're tired of this problem being inflicted upon us.

It's not compassionate to the junkies to continue indulging their self-destructive habit, waiting for them to OD and die.

I'm tired of people trying to guilt me into shutting up by attacking me as "uncompassionate" or "homeless-hater" or "not wanting to see poverty." If you can't address my valid concerns and my proposed solution directly and honestly, like a mature adult, then just shut up. And that includes Matt.


@54: can you elaborate on what Aurelian_Sun-god should be doing differently? Or is there a way a person can kick drugs on behalf of another person we don't know about? WA can fire people for no reason, but I'd expect more out of you, Professor, if you claim someone should quit their job.

And what would YOU do differently besides offer benefits like Medicaid, shelter, cell phones, meds, housing and mental health services? Do tell.


@20: I, too, am glad to see The Stranger admit drug addiction as a driver of homelessness in Seattle. Years of rock-solid denial seem finally to give way to the obvious reality.

"...the writer does not quote a single marginalized person,"

"The reporter quotes no people who themselves are unhoused, so there’s no way we can possibly know what solutions they feel would be helpful."

You're in luck. Years ago, the City of Seattle itself asked homeless persons about their situations, and what solutions they would find helpful. Here are some of the results:

A majority said that Seattle was not the place they most recently became homeless;
A super-majority said they were not originally from Seattle;
A majority admitted to using drugs, including alcohol.

What would they find helpful? Rental assistance. 70% said they could not afford $500/month in rent; over 90% said they'd need help to pay $1,000/month rent.


To put that last figure in perspective, I once paid less than $500/month to rent a single-occupancy apartment in Seattle. In 1996. This data was collected twenty years later. So there is Seattle's homeless population: arrived here already homeless, using drugs, and completely unable to afford living here at any time over the last twenty-plus years. Please do tell us what you would do to help such a population.

(And, you can get credit for a journalistic scoop when you cite those figures, above; to the very best of my knowledge, no writer at The Stranger has ever quoted them, not even once.)


That year is noteworthy for another event. The Yukon gold rush. Seattle was a major jumping off point for prospectors. Many people came here to continue on their journey. Some came to establish businesses and supply the prospectors. And some came to hold their hands out and live off the generosity of the created wealth. Nothing has changed.

If you want to get rid of homelessness, move Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and others somewhere else. The homeless will follow.


In the past 124 years how many have been afraid to go to their place of work due to being assaulted, bitten, spit on and flat out punched while working..?.. Safeway, hang out in anyone of em. and watch..QFC, Target, on and on..
We lose ( walk off the job ) employees weekly due to all of these problems.. Our medium sized SWY loses 7 to 10K per day in stolen stuff. Mostly meat to sell to crooked restaurants and stuff to re sell on 3rd and Jackson like Tide, and tooth paste.

Security?. The city cant even get "security" Make no mistake, These are not just homeless. These are, 99% of them, addicts, deranged, desperate addicts. I talk to them, and see them everyday. approx 100 to 150 repeat faces visit us from 5am. They line up at the front doors where they wait on the balls of their feet poised to enter the store at opening to start the looting, straight through until 11pm as we scoop these folks up and try and get them to exit the store at closing..Many hide within the store and stay all night..

The days of the family with dirty faced kids living in a station wagon down by the tracks waiting for a job at the mill are over. Thats Homeless... Stop hiding behind the term " homeless".. They may indeed be, but none of these meth monkeys I talk to have any intentions of waiting for a job opening at "the mill"..

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