Sunday, March 1, 2020

Out Of Sight

South, and a bit East, of downtown Seattle, in the International District (sometimes also called Chinatown), Interstate 5 is above ground level, but not by much. There is a parking lot there. And there are tents. The number varies, but there are usually a least a half-dozen. It's one of the smaller of the many encampments that homeless people have created around the city. And this one is particularly visible. There are more tents further south, but they're scattered among the trees along the side of the expressway, and so while they are somewhat visible in the Winter if you look up, when the foliage is out, they're much more hidden.

These tends are out in the open. I don't go to the International District all that often, so I don't know if the residents rotate in an out, or if there are some people who are always there. Their tents are memorable only in the aggregate; I doubt I'd recall one if I saw it again, unless I had a picture, like this one, to compare it to.

We've come to treat homelessness as some sort of intractable problem, which really isn't true. The intractable problem is how to end homelessness, without imposing costs on people who a) don't want to pay them and b) can vote out of office anyone who attempts to make them pay. As a region, there is a desire to have the cake of big employers with well-paid workforces yet eat the cake of having land-use restrictions that prevent housing from scaling as quickly as hiring can. And since those land-use restrictions have resulted in a lot of legacy homeowners being very "house-rich," policies that negatively impact their home equity will be enacted over their dead bodies.

And so there are tents. For the simple reason that more people want to live here than there are homes for. And no-one has found a way to solve the problem that doesn't change one of those things.

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