Friday, February 5, 2016

Where do we let them sleep?

Today I went to a City Council committee meeting, convened by Sally Bagshaw, of a number of homeless service providers and homeless advocates from the City of Seattle. The Human Services Department had created a State of Emergency Implementation plan (3 months after the SOE was declared), and Sally wanted to get a bunch of people around the table to talk.

What we heard was, in large part, more of the same stuff. While there is some progress being made, they need more resources, they need more funding, they need... well... everything.

And someone asked the question: why, in 2/3 of the states in the US, are homeless counts dropping, while in the other 1/3 they're rising? What is there, in a general qualitative sense, that we in Washington are NOT doing that the other states ARE doing? Or, what are the 1/3 of states where homelessness is rising doing, that the other 2/3 are not doing? Or vice versa; maybe we're not doing something we should be. Yet, I can't find the data the commenter was talking about.

But maybe it's more complicated than that. This report from the US Conference of Mayors says homelessness is up in 53% of 21 surveyed cities.

At crosscut.com, this comment is echoed:
The operation surely doesn’t account for everyone, but so long as it’s carried out in the same way every year, it should tell us whether the solutions and money we’ve thrown at the wall have stuck.
By 2016’s count, so far they have not.
And King County's numbers aren't the only ones rising:
Sen. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island, said “Homelessness is a crisis in this state. There isn’t a community in our state that is immune.”
Homelessness in King County is up by 19 percent from last year, and in Snohomish County it’s up by 54 percent. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction just reported that more than 35,000 students in Washington don’t have a safe place to call home.
The same gentleman who asked why in some states numbers are dropping and in ours they're rising, also mentioned that he doesn't believe that we should be allowing any unorganized, illegal encampments to exist.

Yet, the City of Seattle is playing "whack-a-mole" with the encampments. Take one down, two days later it's up in another location. It's a real waste of time and money, in large part.

Yet again, the City must respond to reports of crime in relation to those encampments, even if the residents are not the cause of it!

And the question rises: when there is nowhere they can afford to live, where do we let them sleep?

Not every homeless person can tolerate the rules in the organized encampments. They have to have rules to function. And many would say, "society is based on rules; so if you can't deal with rules, we won't help you." And there is something to that argument.

Yet human need demands a place to sleep. So where do we let them sleep?