Several people have asked me to share my thoughts about the homelessness
issue in our city.
I personally have several reactions when I see homeless people, depending on
the place and situation. Sometimes I feel revulsion when I see an unsightly and
unsanitary tent area alongside the Burke Gilman trail. Sometimes I understand
why parents and young kids walking by the Ballard Commons might feel
uncomfortable or fearful. Sometimes I feel compassion, and sometimes I feel
ashamed and upset about how we as a society and community have a long ways
to go to come to grips with homelessness in our city and country.
I propose to respond to homelessness by creating neighborhood teams of
outreach workers, community members, places of worship, local businesses, and
police and community service officers to provide services to homeless people.
We need to significantly increase shelter units, and both transitional and
permanent supportive housing. We need more funding for shelters and housing
and for behavioral and mental health outreach workers.
It is important that all people feel safe in parks and along sidewalks. That
includes people who are homeless. But parks and sidewalks are not places for
camping overnight. The teams can let campers in such places know that if there
is no shelter or housing available, then they need to move to places away from
parks or sidewalks.
I do not favor encampment sweeps or emergency FEMA style shelters.
Indiscriminate sweeps simply move people from one place to another. I do
support letting campers know they need to move from parks and sidewalks to
less public spaces if shelters or housing is not available. I think that mass camps
such as FEMA style shelters would have poor conditions to help homeless
people with mental health issues to get better. Being put together with people
who have a variety of conditions or issues seems like a recipe for unrest and
Homeless people are diverse. Some are LGBTQ youth who have been
abandoned by their families. Some are women who have escaped from a
domestic violence household. Some are young men who have experienced
sexual abuse by family members, bounced around in the foster care system, or
recently been released from incarceration. Some are people who have fallen on
hard times and can't make ends meet. Services tailored to circumstances are
what's needed, rather than creating a mass camp.
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