Saturday, July 13, 2013

Hate to Love

Seattle, Washington has a problem with homelessness. A big one. For the most part, the solution has been people attempting to provide enough services to enable to homeless population to get back on its feet with dignity. But this has lead to the city earning a moniker of “Freeattle” and an enduring belief that other locations will send people here to access services. Unfortunately, for all that, we don’t seem to me making a dent. And that doesn’t even take into account a relatively clement climate that doesn’t punish being homeless as much as it does in other areas. For people coming from other places, even larger metropolitan areas, their sheer numbers can be a shock.

Walking around downtown Seattle, especially in areas such as the Pike Place Market or Pioneer Square, can mean running a gauntlet of people passed out on sidewalks, panhandling (sometimes quite aggressively) or relieving themselves in public. Not only is this bad for the homeless themselves and bad for visitors to the Emerald City but it’s also bad for business. Being unwilling to effectively criminalize homelessness - or to create the appearance that they have - the city had limited itself to handing out civil citations to a population that is basically the very definition of “judgment proof.”

While “bleeding-heart liberal” orthodoxy in Seattle declares that the only role of businesses in dealing with the homeless problem is to open their wallets, coughing up some of their “fat profits” so that people can feel the problem is being solved without having to actually cut checks themselves, many business owners and managers are fed up with a problem that seems to have spiraled out of control, and favor a greater role for law enforcement in dealing with it. And some of them are willing to go on the record saying so - especially those who have been left out of Seattle’s latest plans to deal with the problem, and are skeptical that they will work.

Which brings us to one Shari Druckman-Roberts. Stating a less-than-charitable solution to a problem faced by another business in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, she has given people yet another way of proving to themselves that they care about the homeless: reacting with umbrage to a social-media posting that attributes to her a bogus “solution” to the problem of homelessness in Seattle, backed by selectively edited comments. Because that’s easier than taking the time to read a 5,000+ word piece that presents a more complete, more accurate and more nuanced picture of the problem. Not to mention her comments and the context in which she presents them. The smug self-assurance that we’ve proven our compassionate bona-fides isn’t going to help a single street person to transition into more permanent housing, get the mental health or substance-abuse care that they require or return them to employment.


Steve Finnell said...

You are invited to follow my Christian blog

John McGuinness said...

You may have beaten me to the punch.

In my observation, so much of public "involvement" mainly entails getting off a zinger and feeling superior to another person of privilege.

I find myself completely unimpressed with so much of what goes by on my Twitter/FB feed. Oh, you're changing your avatar for the cause of the day? You're outraged by the Zimmerman acquittal? You #StandWithWendy? Good for you. Does that do a damn thing for anybody?

There are people who do follow up their umbrage with action. But I can't help but notice that after it started so much outrage, the Stand Your Ground laws remain on the books. We're happy to blame them, and demonize states and people who support them, but not actually, you know, work to repeal them.

John McGuinness said...

Here's a good takedown of the genre: