Friday, November 30, 2007

“Cleaning Up” the Homeless

A rapidly evolving story in the City of Seattle has been the stepped-up campaign to rid the city's greenbelts and parks of homeless encampments by destroying or dumping the residents' personal belongings.

The Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness says it has received reports from a dozen sites where people's belongings were destroyed, sometimes without notice. Adding insult to injury, the notices that were posted at the camps had an non-functioning city phone number to contact for help.

Alison Eisinger, the Director of the Seattle King County Coalition for the Homeless said that "people who were camped out in several different locations had everything they needed for survival, their tents, their sleeping bags, cooking equipment, removed and destroyed. It is immoral to evict people from where they are struggling to survive without providing meaningful alternatives."

Real Change, Seattle’s street newspaper, is circulating a petition against the city’s “clean up” activities which they are going to present to the city council on Monday. Sign it here and pass it on.

On Thursday, City of Seattle Human Services Director Patricia McInturff clarified the city’s position. Sort of. “Until an new encampment abatement protocol, that incorporates existing city law, is finalized the City of Seattle will continue to address encampment complaints and removal in the same way that we have for the last several years…Abatement procedures will vary depending on the urgency of the problem and the campsite location. We will continue to evaluate each situation on a case by case basis.

In consultation with the law department we are reviewing all current laws related to encampments. Once that process is concluded [Dept of Neighborhoods Director] Stella Chao and I will invite a group of stakeholders to meet with us and provide input on an updated protocol. Sorry for the confusion --- the City is committed to a humane and consistent approach.”

In his typically smart and bitter manner, blogger Tim Harris responds by taking a poll on his website “apesma’s lament,” asking if McInturff is “high on crack” or “has the mayor’s back.” Vote here.

It is simply unconscionable that Seattle's homeless people should lose their few worldly possessions in the name of neighborhood “clean-ups.” Throwing away the sad remnants of someone’s life is cruel and heartless, offering no hope and no help for the people who need it most.

As this editorial in the Seattle P-I explains: “We hope the new plan of action will reflect that Seattle is better than this. After all, how a city treats its least fortunate speaks volumes about its true nature -- more so than an endless row of shiny skyscrapers, big-deal parades and the swankiest of amenities ever could.”

1 comment:

Ajlounyinjurylaw said...

Endless homeless issues.