Afternoon Fizz Part 1: Conflicts at KOMO, HSD Egged, Hotels for Homeless May be Delayed

It’s an Afternoon Fizz today, in two parts!

1. Scott Lindsay, a former public safety advisor to ex-mayor Ed Murray and a contractor for the pro-SPD lobbying group Change Washington, didn’t just appear in the latest piece of KOMO poverty porn, “The Fight for the Soul of Seattle”—he co-produced it.

Since losing a race for city attorney to incumbent Pete Holmes in 2017, Lindsay has transformed himself into a spokesman for the belief that homelessness is caused by drugs and drug addiction can be fixed by forced treatment and jail. This perspective is popular among many fed up with seeing the aesthetically unpleasing signs of visible suffering, such as the people unwittingly featured without their apparent knowledge or consent in KOMO’s latest “news documentary,” because it suggests an easy, obvious solution that politicians are simply unwilling to adopt. But as experts on homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction (alcohol being the most common street drug), and mental illness have documented for decades, mental illness and addiction are not conditions that respond to even the sternest talking-to.

Lindsay, a star of both “Seattle Is Dying” films and a co-producer of the most recent installment, strides quickly past tents in a segment from “The Fight for the Soul of Seattle”

Lindsay, whose on-camera contribution to KOMO’s simplistic narrative is to suggest that jail and mandatory treatment (of what sort, no one ever seems to say) will solve Seattle’s problems with homelessness, mental illness, addiction, and property crime, told PubliCola he was not paid for his work as a co-producer on the 90-minute film. Longtime KOMO employees, however, are reportedly unhappy that the activist received a producing credit for his behind-the-scenes work on a film that was presented as a piece of journalism.

2. As other media have documented (exhaustively—one wonders where all the cameras and helicopters were when larger encampments were removed over the past year, or why protesters haven’t descended on other long-term camps and walled them off with fortresses of junk), Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill was swept this morning. The Seattle Times has been covering the removal from the scene, as has Capitol Hill Seattle. 

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One incident that hasn’t been mentioned in the coverage so far is what happened when the city’s Human Services Department tried to set up a resource tent on the periphery of the scene. The usefulness of such outreach methods is questionable—setting up a canopy tent labeled “City of Seattle” in the middle of a protest against the city seems quixotic—but what isn’t in question is why the table is no longer there: According to HSD, protesters threw bricks and eggs at the city employees sitting under the canopy, leading them to make a hasty retreat. (PubliCola has reviewed a photograph of the scene, which show chunks of bricks and multiple broken eggs.) The employees included three social workers known as system navigators who were previously part of the Navigation Team.

3. Those social workers are now part of a new(ish) program called the Homelessness Outreach and Provider Ecosystem (HOPE) team. (Everything’s an “ecosystem” now.) In addition to coordinating outreach efforts that will be done by nonprofit providers, rather than by the city itself, the HOPE team is supposed to help direct unhoused people into shelter, including 300 new hotel units that are supposed to serve as short-term lodging for people moving rapidly from homelessness into either permanent supportive housing or market-rate units through rapid rehousing programs.

But the city may be running behind. Earlier this week, deputy mayor Casey Sixkiller told the city council’s special committee on homelessness that the mayor’s office would announce the name of the hotel or hotels, the service provider that will operate the hotel shelters, and the agency that will coordinate the rapid rehousing program by “the beginning of January.” The Request for Qualifications for the federally funded hotel shelter includes an “estimated start date” of December 2020 that assumes a one-month “ramp-up” period before people actually begin moving into the hotels. The contracts are funded with federal Emergency Service Grant dollars.

PubliCola asked the mayor’s office about reports that the city has had difficulty finding hotels that are willing to participate in the program. The mayor’s office did not respond to that question directly, though a spokeswoman for Mayor Jenny Durkan1 said HSD “is presently working with the Mayor’s Office to finalize the selection of agencies to move forward” and will be “notifying those selected agencies by the end of this week.”

3 thoughts on “Afternoon Fizz Part 1: Conflicts at KOMO, HSD Egged, Hotels for Homeless May be Delayed”

  1. You write: “one wonders where all the cameras and helicopters were when larger encampments were removed over the past year, or why protesters haven’t descended on other camps and walled them off with fortresses of junk”. Apples and oranges, and also, dubious. First, has there been any other large or symbolically important sweep in the past *two* years that got three days’ notice, as opposed to, say, two seconds? You yourself have voluminously documented this. Much easier for media and protesters to gather if they have notice. Similarly, which sweep in the last year dismantled a camp as big as Cal Anderson’s was on Sunday the 13th? The notice itself removed a lot of people. That’s supposed to happen. But I’m pretty sure the only larger encampment in North Seattle this year has been the sanctioned one at Woodland Park, and it hasn’t been swept. So where did that happen?

  2. Thanks for this. When I speak with folks about this they say, “Well, they (the homeless) were offered housing,” but I never can learn what is really offered to those camped at Cal Anderson. Is this true? Or is it just a promise of housing?

    1. In the case of Cal Anderson Park, most of what was offered was shelter space, but I don’t know the mix of old and new fashions. One tiny house apparently went to the woman with a lawyer. They definitely didn’t even have enough shelter space for everyone, probably one reason for the notice.

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