At RV Meetings, Compassion for the Homeless Is Still in Short Supply

t10After sitting through what feel like countless meetings about density on the one hand (no renters in MY neighborhood!) and homelessness on the other (no tents/unsheltered homeless/RVs in MY neighborhood!), I’ve started to come to some conclusions about the “sides” in the debate between a small but vocal contingent of homeowners who want to return their neighborhoods to an imagined halycon past and everyone else. Here’s one.

t5For people who believe they should not have to look at homeless people with visible problems (addiction, inability to fix up their vehicles, lack of receptacles for their trash and human waste), no action by the city short of banning RVs and, ultimately, arresting everyone in them (because let’s be real: People with absolutely no money cannot pay the fines homeowning residents consider minor inconveniences, and jail is the ultimate punishment for that), will be satisfactory.t8

And, though they may yell (yes, yell) that they want the city to “fix” the problem of homelessness, any talk of new taxes to make inroads toward that solution is met with even louder yells and jeers. This is not my opinion; it’s my experience, based on what I’ve seen at meeting after meeting about “fixing” the RV “problem.” What is demanded t9of city officials, again and again, is that they (and we, as a city) behave with less compassion toward our homeless neighbors–that we act more like Shoreline, or Mercer Island (two areas held up as exemplary at recent meetings) in our attitude toward the homeless, with the aim of shoving them somewhere else where we don’t have to look at them.

Property crimes are a real problem. When I had a car, parked on the street on Capitol Hill, it got broken into all the time, and now that I have a scooter, my trunk and tank area get rifled through on a regular basis. Trash is a real issue: t4I see used condoms and needles and bottles on my street and in my neighborhood all the time, and I don’t want them there. Drug dealing is a huge issue in my neighborhood, so I sympathize with the concerns of Magnolia residents who are now starting to see it in the industrial areas near their neighborhood. Human waste is a real problem, although I would argue that the human waste produced by 300 people living in RVs in a city of 600,000 is hardly the imminent threat to salmon some concern trolls would have you believe.

t11But what gets lost in complaints about car break-ins and needles and trash on the street are the human beings that are the source of those issues, human beings whose humanity gets lost in discussions that often equate them to animals, or actual garbage. I’m starting to believe, unfortunately, that there are some people, mostly property owners, who will simply never acknowledge their common humanity with the people they would have arrested or sent out of town (big cheers for that notion last night, as well) simply because they suffer from visible addiction, or because they can’t keep their tabs up to date.t3

(One sign that the housed people who applaud and yell at these meetings acknowledge their homeless neighbors’ humanity would be understanding that homeless people, like housed people, have autonomy and desires, and those desires may not include being herded into camps and told to follow special rules, like curfews and bans on alcohol consumption, that housed pet2ople are welcome to ignore.)

I applaud the city for continuing to show up and serve as a firing squad for people who are only there to yell at them, but I encourage policymakers to consider the actual size of this uncompassionate contingent when making decisions that impact our homeless population. There were, on the outside, 300 people at last night’s meeting. According to the latest One Night Count, there are now nearly 5,000 people sleeping outside in King County in the winter. Which is the larger constituency?

7 thoughts on “At RV Meetings, Compassion for the Homeless Is Still in Short Supply”

  1. Erica, Thank you for caring about our homeless neighbors. Last September as I was setting up the cake and plates for my daughter’s birthday party at Greenwood Park I noticed a couple of junkies camping in the public restroom. I knew I had a choice– to view them as a threat, or to have compassion. I told them we were about to have a party and they left (it was after noon) then explained to my kids that capitalism means some people cant afford rent, because capitalism cares more about money than people. Each of us have a choice and I applaud you for choosing love.

  2. Erica, each and every time I am up in front of the microphone, I make the distinction between the homeless and the criminals who prey upon them and us. I will remind you that we fought for, and were able to get 2 RV parks established for the legitimately homeless RVers that want help. I will fight for more if the need is there. It always seems to not make it into your posts.

    I do recognize the RV-based crime rings… I have literally watched them. SPD cited over a dozen RV-based crime rings or criminals that they have arrested in the last 3 weeks. Everything from 2.2 pounds of heroin to escaped DOC prisoners from Ohio. As the brother of a homeless vet who is now a homeless heroin addict, I know allowing his dealer to live next to him unchecked is a death sentence. I know every time he shoots up, it is a game of Russian Roulette. I recognize the humanity of every homeless person, but also know there is nothing I can do to help them until they decide to help themselves first (mentally ill excluded).

    We have now spent $52 million, and we found out today homelessness went up another 19%. The Mayor readily admits we do not track data or outcomes. This is largely due to the fact that some homeless service who receive millions in contracts do not want to track outcomes or demographic issues. Why do you think this is? Could there be a “Homeless Industrial Complex” who cares more about funding than refining their strategies to produce better outcomes? Throwing money at a problem may feel good, but if it does not resolve the issue, it only creates harm.

    We currently spend $290,000/homeless housing unit. This is more than the current value of my condo. However there are companies like One Build Inc. who use shipping container technology and can build an entire village including studios with private bathroons, kitchens, offices for health care and outreach services for $50,000/unit. Why is it that this wasteful spending is never highlighted? How come wasting millions of dollars a year on horrible outcomes gets a pass? The Mayor is asking for $290 million dollars for affordable housing, but chooses the most expensive and wasteful contractors to implement it. Who does this serve? Certainly not the homeless.

    I pay almost $400/month in taxes alone and each and every year the bill goes up hundreds of dollars. We hear about the complaints of housing affordability, but fail to recognize the tremendous burden the city adds to the problem with never-ending levies, regulation after regulation, and simply poor oversight of projects (Bertha will cost us billions extra, the Sea Wall overruns of $71 million and counting, and the countless other wastes). How come you never go after the city for their part in both wasting billions of dollars and failing the homeless? We are just left with the wreckage and are blamed for complaining about it.

    PS 4,000 people pooping and peeing outside produces 1,460,000 lbs. of feces and 486,666 gallons of urine. 🙂


  3. Had to get your in a “property owners” bash in your latest rambling, Urbanism Bingo!

    1. Michael T-J, Highland Park has had a mixed experience with (and mixed response to) homeless camps in our neighborhood. Nickelsville overstayed its welcome here (2 and a half years) and when the camp was finally evicted, the operators left a mountain of trash for the city to clean up. See my blog story here:

      Also, as you know, I’ve complained to you and others at the City about mistreatment of campers at SHARE-run encampments. I’ve asked the City to set up independent appeals bodies to protect the rights of the campers, and you’ve refused, saying that you trust the camp operators to handle the appeals process themselves.

      The City maintains the pretense that the sanctioned camps are democratic and self-managed, when they are in fact run as a dictatorship by a single man who is answerable to no one.

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