Puff Piece

April 29, 2017

In my years of trying to bring the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) to justice, I have been repeatedly frustrated by their slick public relations operation. Here’s an organization that engages in a number of deceptive or dishonest business practices, and yet not a week goes by that I don’t see an op-ed piece by LIHI director Sharon Lee in the Seattle Times or a flattering story about her operation on some national news outlet. A reader of the Safe Seattle Facebook page sent me this piece from the Wall Street Journal a few days ago. It’s an advertisement for LIHI, disguised as a news story on a new low-barrier encampment* in a struggling north Seattle neighborhood.

Here are just a few of the many problems with the video:

¶ Nearly all the time is given to Sharon Lee and a single happy camper. Video footage of squalid tent camps along the road is contrasted with shots of the charming “tiny houses” inside the LIHI camp, as if if those are the only two options: LIHI or the street.

¶ Licton Springs is a “low barrier” encampment, yet that fact is not mentioned. The one camper WSJ talks to, Sherie May Johnson, goes on and on about how wonderful her new home is. She doesn’t talk about why she was homeless or what the camp is doing to help her become un-homeless. Is she in a drug treatment program? Job training? –We don’t know. We can only assume that she isn’t or she’d be talking about it.

¶ LIHI Director Lee claims that the Licton Springs camp is “low cost” even though, at $250,000 per year, it’s actually the costliest of all the sanctioned camps she runs. She compares the Licton Springs camp favorably to tent cities, but she herself was in the tent city business just two years earlier. The original “Nickelsville” encampments run by her partner, SHARE boss Scott Morrow, were all tent cities. And the Dearborn Camp that she ran, and later had to shut down with the help of the police, was a nightmare for herself and the city. (See story here.)

¶ The only attempt at balance in the WSJ piece is a brief comment at 3:40 that refers to unspecified detractors, who are not even identified with the Licton Springs neighborhood: “Critics say the tiny houses are an unnecessary step and that cities [not Seattle, but just cities] should help the homeless find permanent housing. Some neighbors say the villages attract crime and blight, but cities around the West are testing tiny structures to ease the strain of homelessness.” That’s it. Fifteen seconds of unspecific “critics say” counterpoint in a five-minute story.

–David Preston

*”Low-barrier” means that active drug users will be allowed to stay in the camp. People without ID will also be allowed entry. That could mean that people with outstanding arrest warrants could get in. As long as they don’t have ID, their ID can’t be checked against police databases.

For more information on how LIHI, SHARE, and other organizations manipulate news stories, check out the Media Menu.

Posted in General, Homelessness, Nickelsville, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Call Me Reverend

April 11, 2017

Call Me Reverend:
The Bill Kirlin-Hackett Story

Mr. Mild

The first impression one gets of the Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett is of someone we’d expect to find singing kum-ba-ya around the campfire or handing out coffee and hugs at a 12-step meeting. A mild, genial, soft-spoken man in the mellow years, Kirlin-Hackett fits the image of the country parson to a tee. And he uses that impression to great effect, whether he’s meeting in backrooms with legislators or sweet-talking a donation from a church lady. But who is this guy, really?

 

I’ve been following the movements of the Good Reverend – whose name I’ll abbreviate to RBKH from here forward – for several years now on the corruption beat. I’ve encountered him at least half a dozen times testifying at public hearings, asking for government to give more money to advocacy groups and loosen regulations on homeless camps. State legislators tell me that he even writes legislation for them to vote on.

RBKH doesn’t have a congregation or a church. He operates out of rented office space at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church  in Bellevue, Washington, from where he runs a small foundation with a big name: the Interfaith Taskforce on Homelessness. The Web page claims it’s a three-man shop, but I’ve never seen anyone besides RBKH representing the group. No one knows how much money RBKH’s charity takes in, or what kind of salary he pays himself out of that. As a faith-based charity, it doesn’t have to make its financial records open to the public.

Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett leads a prayer in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.. Image: CSPAN

RBKH could be described as a homeless camp follower. He associates himself with various homeless-related organizations and causes around the county, takes donations, and “advocates” for tent camp operators like SHARE.* At public hearings of the Seattle and King County Council he urges the city and county not to remove illegal homeless encampments. He wants government to be more tolerant of RV campers living on residential streets as well.

He doesn’t appear to do much of anything to get homeless people into permanent housing, though. Nor does he advocate for that. In all of his public comments, I’ve never seen any concrete proposals for moving people off the streets. Strange as it sounds, he seems to be fine with leaving homeless people right where they are.

Being Somewhere

The homeless street newspaper Real Change News regularly carries a guest column by RBKH. His most recent piece is a muddled critique of the Seattle’s decision to step up the sweeping (removing) of illegal homeless camps. Here’s a typical passage:

In a state of emergency, or any emergency, like our house being on fire, we first carry — not sweep — the people to safety. Always. Because that is how we have been trained as “housed people.” When homeless, there’s stuff, possessions and self-worth, from which the person cannot be detached. This stuff gives a sense of belonging. The basic sense of a right to be somewhere. Being. Somewhere. Not just where one can be carried and set down away from the emergency. In a public state of emergency on homelessness, we’d expect to see, among other things, enormous policy changes, innovation and collaboration, such that business-as usual-dissolves. Instead we see what we have seen.
.
Being. Somewhere. A beautiful, worthy dream we can help to make happen. –Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett

Don’t push these people off the streets and out of camps, he says, because they’ve got “stuff.” Stuff from which they can’t be “detached.”

Here’s a sample of the kind of “stuff” he’s talking about:

I took the above photo on March 5, at a notorious Seattle encampment called the Triangle, where some 60 people were living. There had been arrests made at the camp several weeks earlier, following reports of a child sex-trafficking ring operating there. (The Triangle camp was swept by the city a week after I took the photo.)

The Triangle was one one of several such camps around Seattle that RBKH had been pressuring the City to keep open. Because the people here have “stuff” he said. Stuff that might get lost if they were placed in shelters or treatment programs. (RBKH isn’t alone in his view of the importance of stuff. See the ACLU’s take on it here and here.)

Contract to Nowhere

In late 2014, the King County government was having trouble with RBKH’s old associate SHARE, so they reached out to him for help. Or perhaps he reached out to them. In any case, given RBKH’s history with SHARE, he was a natural choice. SHARE is a homeless “advocacy” group that, like RBKH, focuses on expanding and normalizing tent camps. SHARE and RBKH go back several years and RBKH was once on the SHARE board of directors.

SHARE had been gaming the County on permit applications for years by letting their permits expire and overstaying their welcome at churches that had agreed to host them. In every case, SHARE knew exactly when their time in the church parking lot would be up; they had months to contact prospective new host churches and set up the next stay. But they didn’t do that. Instead, they would simply run the clock out and overstay their permit until the host would ask them to leave, thus creating a fake eviction emergency that they claimed entitled them to pitch their tens wherever they wish (church land or public land) without getting a “temporary use” permit that everyone else had to.** See a sample of a SHARE pre-eviction press release here.

The County, reeling from bad publicity created by a series of SHARE takeovers of public land, signed a $5,000 one-year contract with RBKH to scout new churches where SHARE and another group (an off-shoot of SHARE called Camp Unity) could set up. His job was simply to call around to churches in East King County that had already hosted a SHARE camp to see which ones would be willing to host another one. He would then work out a “transition schedule” whereby the camps could move in an orderly fashion from one host church to the next, without overstaying their permitted time and without squatting on public land afterward, like they had been doing.

A decrepit RV camper at the 2nd Ave S “Safe Zone” in Seattle’s SODO district. There are three formal, city-funded RV camps around Seattle and dozens of informal ones. Each year, several people living in these contraptions are seriously injured or killed when the propane tanks they use for fuel catch fire. RV camps were just one of Bill Kirlin-Hackett’s many ideas for helping homeless people. Photo: David Preston

But there was a problem. The Reverend had misrepresented himself when he told the County he could bring SHARE to the table. He couldn’t. And he didn’t. Three months after the deal was inked, SHARE moved its Tent City 4 camp once again onto public land (illegally), without even notifying either the County or transition planner RBKH. Once there, they demanded that the land simply be given to them. It wasn’t, but that didn’t stop them for hanging out on it for several months.

In this March 6, 2015 article from the Issaquah Reporter author Daniel Nash quotes a SHARE staffer saying that RBKH was “persona non grata” at SHARE. In the same piece, King County’s Adrienne Qunn says she had urged SHARE director Scott Morrow to work with RBKH but he had refused. (Why the County would have needed to urge Morrow to help a third party fulfill a contract is not addressed.):

Quinn urged Morrow to reach out to the Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett of the Interfaith Taskforce on Homelessness to find a hosting church. The Taskforce was hired by the county Dec. 1, 2014 to facilitate locations for encampments, county spokesperson Jason Argo said. But Kirlin-Hackett is “persona non grata” in the SHARE/WHEEL community, according to the organization’s correspondence with Constantine.

“I know him and that’s all I’m going to say,” [SHARE staffer Sam] Roberson said [ . . . . ] “To this day he has not approached us.”

But that’s simply not true, according to the reverend. “We reached out to them at least a half-dozen times and they refused our assistance — unceremoniously, I might add,” Kirlin-Hackett said. “They’ve pretty much declined, thinking everyone is just interfering with their process.” Morrow did not answer a question from the Reporter regarding the reasons SHARE/WHEEL did not wish to work with Kirlin-Hackett.

An e-mail chain obtained via public disclosure by Kirkland housewife Janice Richardson shows that by March 23 – less than three months into RBKH’s one-year contract – County staff had already given up on him and were trying to make contacts with SHARE on their own. In the e-mail, County employee Mark Ellerbrook is presenting SHARE boss Scott Morrow with a roster of churches Ellerbrook thought might be to Morrow’s liking. Ellerbrook is saying, in effect: Take your pick and I’ll try to set it up:

Click to enlarge

In other words, Ellerbrook was doing what the County had already paid RBKH to do.

Regardless of whose fault the breach between RBKH and SHARE was, at this point, RBKH should have returned the $5,000 he’d been paid for the contract, since it was clear he wasn’t going to be brokering any deals for SHARE. But instead, he kept the money. And he spent it. And he didn’t keep records of what he spent it on.

When I learned of the County-RBKH contract, I sent the Reverend a polite letter, certified, inviting him to meet so we could talk about what, if anything, he was doing for the County. That letter is here. RBKH got the letter but didn’t answer. In an e-mail to King County’s Ellerbrook on March 30, 2015, he claimed that he hadn’t gotten any requests from me but wouldn’t respond to them even if he did. He also told  Mark Ellerbrook that because I’d written “provocative” e-mails about him to government officials, he was “blocking” e-mail from me.

Don’t ask, don’t tell

According to contract provisions, RBKH was supposed to submit documentation on contract fulfillment to the County at the end of the contract year (2015). But by the end of January, 2016, he still hadn’t sent anything. When I notified County employee Adrienne Quinn about this, she directed RBKH to assess his own performance and submit any records he had. A week later, he sent his report and Quinn forwarded it to me. In the report he acknowledged, albeit indirectly, that he had failed to provide the primary service he’d been contracted for: making a transition schedule for SHARE and the other camp. He didn’t actually say he’d failed; he simply noted that the encampments “chose to maintain their own schedule” – as if SHARE moving onto public land and squatting there could be called “maintaining a schedule”

I spoke with a manager at the other homeless camp (Camp Unity Eastside) and asked him if Camp Unity had maintained its own “transition schedule” or whether RBKH had helped them do one. The answer: No. –My contact told me that RBKH had bought a couple bus passes for people in the camp and invited them to meet with churches on their own. That’s it, they told me. That’s all he did. –So the Reverend didn’t do anything for Camp Unity either, and unlike SHARE, he was still on good terms with them.

If RBKH didn’t spend the $5,000 making a transition schedule for tent camp, what did he spend it on? Answer: Gas “sustenance supplies,” “office costs,” and a lot of other miscellaneous items that might or might not be related to the work he was supposed to be doing. Here’s another excerpt from his report:

RBKH didn’t produce receipts for any of his expenditures. In the report, he says he outlined (note that word) the “sustenance supplies” in an Excel spread sheet, but the sheet he submitted has no useful detail and can’t be verified. In a note at the bottom, he refers to something he calls the “Release of Information guidelines” as justification for not documenting his purchases:

I asked Ms. Quinn at the County if she’d heard of something called the “Release of Information guidelines.” She hadn’t. After studying RBKH’s report I got back to both Ms. Quinn and King County councilmembers, asking them to apply sanctions against RBKH for not fulfilling his contract duties. They declined. This is a pattern by the County that I will be describing in a series of future posts.


A Law Nobody Wanted

Given the effect homeless camps and RVs have had on the communities of Seattle and King County, one would think RBKH would be the last person whom lawmakers would turn to for advice. Yet in fact he’s one of the first. And in some cases, the only. On November 13, 2014, the Reverend testified before the King County Council, which was then voting on renewing a ten-year homeless encampments ordinance (15170). He told the councilmembers that the existing ordinance was too restrictive. He didn’t like that there was a ban on children at the camps, for example, or that the camp operators were being required to do simple warrant checks before letting someone in. And he especially didn’t like that cities were still being allowed to make permitting rules reflecting what they felt was best for their communities. He wanted the ordinance expanded from unincorporated land to King County as a whole. In his testimony to the County Council, he praised the way Seattle was handling its own homeless program – by expanding church-hosted camps – and said he didn’t want cities and towns to be able to “micromanage them with legislation.” Tent cities are safe and responsible, he claimed. Therefore, they should be encouraged:

KCC_Public_comment_Kirlin-Hackett_10-13-14

At the end of his letter to the C0unty Council, he thoughtfully makes himself available to help the councilmembers “amend what is before them.”

As RBKH was telling the County Council about how safe and responsible SHARE homeless camps were, SHARE itself was already making plans to move its Tent City 4 onto public land. Illegally.


In the end, the King County ordinance passed and RBKH got some of the amendments he wanted. But he didn’t get all of them. After the King County Council balked at imposing an ordinance on the entire county he took his game to the next level: the state legislature. In early 2015, he sat down with State Representative Joan McBride Bellevue (D-Kirkland) to create a statewide bill (HB 2086) that would limit the ability of cities, towns, and counties to regulate homeless camps on church property:

Click to enlarge

I parsed the bill’s language, and, recognizing some key phrases from RBKH’s testimony at the King County Council and elsewhere, I became suspicious When I asked Rep. McBride about the bill’s provenance, she told me that RBKH had indeed authored it. McBride’s interest in the issue came from her experience with her own church, which had hosted a couple of SHARE’s tent camps. Like the Reverend, McBride felt that the camps were a good thing in and of themselves. She didn’t see them as being a path to permanent housing so much as a place for people to take a break and hang out while they were finding themselves. When I asked if she or other church members spent time with the campers, mentoring them or helping them look for jobs or apartments, she said that wasn’t her purpose. Or the church’s.

McBride feels there should be more camps like the one SHARE had at her church, and she agrees with RBKH that there would be more of them, if only localities could be prevented from over-regulating them. City permitting rules would need to be relaxed, or otherwise gotten around, and a statewide bill could do that. Hence her sponsorship of the bill.

State Rep Joan McBride (D, Kirkland) sponsored a statewide homeless encampments bill in the Washington Sate Legislature in 2015. She told me Kirlin-Hackett wrote the bill.

But was the problem really that cites were micromanaging and over-regulating? Or was something else going on? Some other reason why SHARE has a hard time finding hosts?

According to what many homeless people have told me, SHARE runs its camps on the authoritarian model, cutting church members out of the process. The group doesn’t encourage long-term mentoring relationships between church members and homeless campers. Like RBKH, SHARE sees itself an advocate, not a housing provider. This screen shot taken from the group’s “About” page is telling:

For their part, campers who want to interact with church members have to tread carefully. When they enter a SHARE camp, they are asked to sign a document acknowledging that they are giving up their Constitutional rights to free speech and association. They’re warned not to complain to the church host about SHARE’s management, on pain of expulsion. In this story about one of SHARE’s church-hosted camps in Seattle, I show how that worked in practice and why it was a problem.

There are problems with crime in around these camps as well, though the church hosts don’t like to admit that, for obvious reasons. But it does explain why many of the choose not to host the camp a second time. When it became clear to King County personnel that RBKH wasn’t going to be able to find SHARE another place to camp, County staffer Mark Ellerbrook began contacting east King County churches that had hosted SHARE camps before to see if any of them would be willing to host again and help the County save face by preventing another occupation of public land by SHARE. Ellerbrook wasn’t having much luck, though. Most churches turned him down with vaguely worded excuses. The pastor at the Woodinville Unitarian Church, Rev. Lois Van Leer, was more direct. In an e-mail response to Ellerbrook, she spelled it out:

Yes, WUCC has hosted Tent City and Camp Unity. We actually hosted Camp Unity for 9 months last year. Their presence did not endear us or them to the neighbors and businesses in the area. There was a huge drug problem that spilled over into the Cottage Lake Park area. We had at least 2 heroin overdoses in camp which the EMTs responded responded to successfully. When folks were barred from the camp, they took up residence and drug use in the park across the street and littered it with needles. They also consumed alcohol there. My understanding is that they have really cleaned up their act which is great. –Reverend Lois Van Leer

Now consider RBKH’s encampment’s bill again, in context. In February 2015, when the bill was introduced,  there were just two church-hosted tent camps in King County, and both were having trouble finding hosts willing to take them a second time. RBKH knew about the camps’ troubles better than anyone, because he’d been hired to solve them. And he’d failed. So if anyone knew the real reason the camps were struggling, it was him. And yet, there he was, telling state legislators that local codes were the problem, urging them to create a new statewide law to solve that problem. It makes no sense.

A group of Bellevue citizens who’d had bad experiences with a SHARE camp in their neighborhood got wind of the 2015 Kirlin-Hacket bill and testified against it at the state capitol in Olympia. Several people, including myself, told legislators that the bill should not move forward until it contained better protections for both campers and neighbors. The group also requested that there be more citizen involvement in crafting the legislation.

The citizen testimony hit home, and HB 2086 died a quiet death in committee. But that wasn’t the end of the story. A year later, the same bill resurfaced as House Bill 2044 (Senate Bill 5657), sponsored again by Ms. McBride in the House and Mark Miloscia (R, Federal Way) in the Senate. This time the bill was introduced through a different committee, possibly so it wouldn’t catch the eye of the Bellevue group. But the group found about it anyway and scrambled to oppose it. (Once again, I was one of the people testifying against the bill.) The bill was once again defeated, largely on the strength of our testimony. But who can saw whether we’ll be there to catch it the next time?

The bill will be automatically re-introduced in 2018.

The Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett testifies for the second time on a statewide homeless encampments bill he authored. The bill would have restricted the ability of cities and counties to regulate church-run homeless camps.

Reverend without a cause?

Even if the Kirlin-Hackett bill eventually passes, there won’t be a rush of churches wanting to sign up to host a camp, for reasons I’ve explained above. Some churches might be willing to step forward now – even without a state law limiting local permitting requirements – but not if it means having to deal with SHARE. RBKH knows that. He knows the problem is SHARE and not the law. So why does he persist? And why does he continue to maintain that the priority is to expand homeless camps and urban RV camping, when that policy is so clearly a failure?

Perhaps he really thinks he’s doing God’s work, but how do we reconcile that with the way he misrepresents himself to officials and the public? Why won’t he answer simple questions about how much money he takes in, or how he distributes it? And why does he skulk around, pushing this church encampments bill that neither churches nor homeless people are asking for? That nobody seems to be asking for, in fact, besides himself and SHARE? There must be to the Reverend than meets the eye.

Two years ago, I gave the Reverend a chance to tell his side of the story, but he declined. As he did so, he told me never to contact him again. His parting words to me were an admonition. I’m not a “Mr.” he scolded. I’m a Reverend. And not just any reverend either, mind you. But THE Reverend…

The Reverend Bill Kirlin-Hackett.

Remember that name folks, because you’re going to be hearing it again.

–by David Preston, with research by Karen Morris

Dedicated to Janice Richardson

*SHARE is an acronym for the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort. SHARE is a corrupt organization whose history and relationship to Seattle politics I have explored thoroughly in several blog posts, including this one.

**King County’s Temporary Use Permitting process allows for private property owners to convert their property to a number of different temporary uses that would not normally be allowed under zoning laws. (Examples: a Christmas tree sale on a church lot, a traveling carnival on an unused parcel in the business district.) The process is designed to mitigate impacts to the neighborhood while assuring the safety of those using the property under the new permit. Since hosting a homeless camp involves issues of human health and safety, the County has an interest in requiring churches and private hosts alike (should any come forward) to show that they will make reasonable efforts to assure the campers will be safe and won’t become a burden to the surrounding community. A formal application is required and a fee is usually charged to cover the cost the County incurs in reviewing that application. (For a sample application, go here.) That fee is typically waived in the case of SHARE, and over the course of some 20 years, SHARE has been given tens of thousands of dollars in free permit service.

Posted in General, Homelessness, Politics, SHARE | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Margin Dwellers

April 4, 2017

A word of advice to aspiring reporters: Don’t ever volunteer for the poverty beat. It’ll tear the heart out of you.

Meet Jennifer Allison (on the left). She’s the manager at the Georgian Motel on Aurora Ave N. in Seattle. She’s lived there for ten years, managed the place for seven. On the right is her good friend and tenant, Myrna. On the far right is Myrna’s dog, Nala.

The Georgian is in arrears on power and water, and unless a $20,000 miracle happens by 5 PM on April 5th, Jennifer, Myrna, and the Georgian’s 26 other tenants will have to leave. What will become of them? Some will find other places, maybe. Another motel within their means. A few might leave town for cheaper pastures. The rest will likely wind up on the streets. If not this month, then the next.

An SPU shut-off notice from last summer, with Jennifer’s notes showing how much she’d paid on the account and when. In March od 2017 SPU  accepted several payments but told Jennifer they were going to shut the water off anyway if she did not pay the full amount. They mentioned a payment plan as an option but did not follow up with her on that.


The government was out to the place in full force Monday, Jennifer told me. There were inspectors from the State Department of Health, the Seattle Fire Department, the Police Department, the Department of Facilities and Services, and the Department of Construction and Inspections, as well as two aides from Councilmember Juarez’s office. The DCI left a notice about the impending eviction. There have been verbal threats and letters before, but you can see they mean business now:

Click to enlarge

Jennifer says that between the first verbal deadline she got on Friday, March 31 to the one she got on Monday, April 3, the amount the City told her she’d have to pay went up by almost $9,000. (They decided to throw in the outstanding light bill too.) And the eviction date was also moved up a day, from Thursday, April 6 to Wednesday, April 5, at 5 PM. Other than the eviction date, they didn’t give her any of the numbers in writing, she says. And indeed, in all the material she sent me, which was considerable, I never saw a document that said: “Pay this amount by this date… or you’ll be evicted.”

It’s been a frightening experience for Jennifer, who’s already in fragile health, and has had no one to help her through this, besides Myrna and a couple other tenants, and some folks from the neighborhood who came by to show their support. It might help if the Georgian had some friends at City Hall, but these folks aren’t what you’d call “connected.” They don’t have a radical pal on the City Council, for instance. They can’t marshal throngs of protesters to form human chains across the road.

Where’s the owner in all this? Good question. Jennifer says he’s the biggest part of the problem, and I’m sure the City folks would echo that sentiment. He wasn’t there when the inspectors showed up with their eviction notices, for example. He let Jennifer take the heat for him, she told me. Same as always.

You’d think the guy would worry more about his investment, considering the place is valued at a million-two. But no. It’s mortgaged to the hilt. And the property taxes are in arrears now, too. Between the overdue utilities and all the other repairs that need to be be made (new roof, new walls, new floor) the Georgian is not going to in the black any time soon. If it ever was.

Click to enlarge

It would be easy to make the City out as the heavy here, but that wouldn’t be fair. Yes, they’ve made mistakes along the way, but you could also make a case that they’ve given Jennifer plenty of time to get the landlord straightened out. Maybe too much time. Others who know the back story can relate, about the landlord. “Stop enabling him!” they tell her.

Receivership might be something to pursue. I asked Jennifer whether anyone had spoken with her about putting the property in trust and fixing it up, removing the owner for any responsibility for upkeep until the property can be sold. She said she’d offered that, but it never went anywhere.

“Did they talk to you about an emergency payment plan for the utilities?” I asked. “No,” she replied. “I told them they could have the rent for the few months. All the profits. Until the bills were paid off. Haven’t heard back from them on that. I think they just want to take the place over.”

Image: Seattle Channel

Sola Plumacher is the “Strategic Advisor” at the City’s Human Services Department. She’s she’s been involved with the Georgian situation. Yesterday I phoned and left a message asking her what kind of payment plan, if any, the City had offered to the Georgian. Haven’t heard back from her.

Jennifer and Myrna told me about how Plumacher had been out there a few days earlier, offering tenants move-out expenses of about $4,000 each (which is about four months’ rent at the Georgian’s rates of $980 month). It’s not easy to find a place like that in Seattle anymore, though. Especially with a pet.

And then there’s the hassle over credit checks, not to mention criminal ones. As Jennifer explained, certain people like motel living because they don’t do background checks or ask a lot of questions. If things get hairy, a tenant can just pick up and move on, without giving notice and without sacrificing a security deposit.

I asked her whether the motel was on SPD’s radar and the City was trying to close it down on that account. “No,” she insisted. “We don’t have any drug dealers here right now. We do have hookers here sometimes,” she said, “but they don’t bring the Johns to the room. We don’t have any hookers here right now. We get some DV [domestic violence] and Sound Mental Health stuff, but we rarely get a visit from the cops. We have fewer problems than a lot of other places around here.”

“At least four the tenants who will lose their homes are veterans,” she added, via e-mail. “Most of our tenants work steady, decent jobs. The others are disabled.”


While HSD has been dangling checks in front of the tenants, social workers from Union Gospel Mission have been contacting them about the possibility of emergency shelter, just in case there are some who can’t get set up in another place even with money. Other tenants might sign up for the buy-out, but Myrna and Jennifer insist they’re hanging tough. “If everyone would delay, if they would refuse to sign, we could stop this thing,” she said. I’d like to believe that, but it strikes me as magical thinking. This is not Kshama Sawant at City Hall, smashing capitalism with a swing of her fist. This is real life.

Thinking about what might happen to Jennifer and Myrna, and the other people at the Georgian, I’m uneasy. These are not model citizens, clearly. They are, however, living within their means. And they’re not living in parks or under bridges. Given the scope of the homeless crisis now, you’d think the City would be doing more to help these one-score-and-eight people stay off the streets.

The Georgian Motel in better times. Source: The Cardboard America Archives

I spoke with Jennifer at length about why Strategic Advisor Plumacher never sat down with her to work out an alternative plan. On the one hand she felt that the City was trying to sabotage the Georgian so it could get its hands on the property. On the other, perhaps it was a failure of imagination.

“I just couldn’t get Sola to think out of the box,” she said, wistfully. “I’m a great thinker out of boxes. But I guess she’s not.”

–By David Preston

Postscript: Penciling It Out

The Seattle Human Services Department are offering Georgian Motel residents moving assistance at about $4,300 per person. If you do the math (28 people times $4,300) it works out to $120,400. That’s more than six times what the Georgian Motel owes for utilities. For that amount, the utilities bills could be settled and power and water paid up for a few years in advance, the roof could be replaced, and receivership costs covered for the indefinite future.

Meanwhile, just down the road from the Georgian is a new “low barrier” Nickelsville encampment that will house a maximum of 70 homeless people. Compared to the Georgian Motel, life at Nickelsville is going to be primitive. Each resident will be lodged in a 200-square-foot shack without electricity or running water. Cost to the Seattle taxpayers to run Nickelsville: $250,000. For one year.

Posted in General, Homelessness, Nickelsville, Politics, Stories | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Encampment Complaints: A suspicious pattern

March 23, 2017

The document in the link below was produced by Seattle’s Customer Service Bureau (CSB) in response to a public disclosure request from Safe Seattle. The document shows how many citizen complaints the City got in a six-week time period. The report is a whopping 37 pages long with hundreds of individual complaints. And remember: that’s for just six weeks. And this list does not even reflect all the encampments that were in existence around the city at that time; just the ones that one or more complaints came in on.

https://tinyurl.com/illegal-camp-complaints

So, what can we learn from this report? A couple of things jump out. First, we can deduce that the number of complaints reflects the actual situation on the ground — relatively speaking. In other words, there is a correlation between geographical regions and relative numbers of encampments in those regions.

It is clear from a quick scan of the data that the north side of town is bearing the brunt. At 148 complaints, the North has more than twice the number of complaints than the next highest region.

So why should this be? Is it because there are twice as much greenbelt and park acreage on the north side? –Doubtful.

Is it because the population density is twice as high on the north side? – Again, not likely. Yes, the north end is denser than some other parts, but not THAT much denser.

So is there some OTHER reason why those tents are all popping up in the north? Could there be any connection between the mess in the north and the fact that this is encampment advocate Mike O’Brien’s district? Or the fact that there are two large, city-sponsored encampments already there, thanks to CMs Mike O’Brien and Sally Bagshaw?

Hmmm…..

If you’d like to report an illegal encampment or similar issue to the City, you can do that through the Customer Service Bureau, here.

–David Preston

Postscript: It would be interesting to do some longitudinal GIS mapping to see how the illegal encampment clusters in other neighborhoods have developed in relation to the Ballard and Interbay encampments is. I’d also be curious to compare this period to the same time last year, and the year before that, and so on.

Posted in Complaints, General, Homelessness, Nickelsville, Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Thin Veneer

March 13, 2017

In my time, I’ve been in some pretty bad places. Figuratively and literally. I was raised in an affluent home, but as a young man, I traveled to an embattled Third World country because I wanted to see how the other half lived. I was stranded there for a time, and I became so immersed in the poverty – and so shocked by it – that I went into a profound depression, which worsened when I came home to the “shock” of affluence. I later became impoverished myself, living for years in a series of filthy, vermin-infested flophouses in the poorest quarters of town. Even after I came to Seattle, I lived for several more years in the “projects” on the south side, before finally pulling myself out of my funk and moving on to better things.

In the course of my years among the down and out I became a student of misery, sensitive to its many moods and incarnations. I’ve heard Seattle tent camps compared to the slums of Bangalore, and I can tell you that that statement is, in the main, false. But not in the way you might think. In some ways, the Bangaloreans have it better than our homeless. They’ve not fallen as far for one thing, most of them. And they have a sense of community that comes from a universally shared misery. People can maintain social norms there, even amid the despair, simply because there is no better option them. And they know it.

I’ve seen people in our camps trying to recreate that community, telling themselves they’ve got it. It never lasts. These squalid tent camps and corner lots crammed with prettified shacks they call “tiny houses” will never be the stable, self-managing villages that the poverty pimps say they are. The briefest visit will disabuse the outsider of that idea. Drifters and malcontents, damaged souls with a history of anti-social behavior . . . These poor souls can be corralled for a while, kept in line under the whip of a single dominating personality (the camp boss). But left to their own devices they will never do any better than they could under the regime of brute force. And they will usually do worse. Which makes the “sanctioned” camps actually look good in comparison to the unsanctioned ones. Thus, when homelessness and homeless camps are presented to us as an inevitability, and these two options (sanctioned or unsanctioned) are offered to us as the **only** choice, the sanctioned ones suddenly don’t seem so awful any more. And as for the unsanctioned ones, even THEY are better than the street, aren’t they? To my mind there’s little difference, since none of the three options gets people any closer living in a real home. And none is very far above the level of a brute struggle for survival. It’s just a question of whether you spend most of your time fighting the local camp boss . . . or fighting the streets.

I was chatting candidly with the head man of an unsanctioned encampment the other day. This fellow had been there for a year or more, and he was telling me of his aspirations to get sponsored by a willing non-profit and blessed by the city leaders. He was duly frustrated that his efforts weren’t bearing fruit. City officials weren’t leveling with him, he said, but I could see in a trice what the problem was. “We had a lot of stealers in this camp a few months back,” he explained. “But we dealt with ’em, and now we’re good.”

“How did you deal with them?” I replied.

He leaned over and gave me a knowing grin.

“Jungle law.”

–David Preston

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The tarnished halo of Rob Ferguson

March 12, 2017

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is exulting in his successful court challenge to President Trump’s immigration ban. Ferguson obviously cares about immigrant rights, but has he been as diligent in protecting people who already live here? What about homeless people, for example? Or taxpayers? That’s his job, after all. Or it’s supposed to be.

In 2004, when Ferguson was a King County Councilmember, he was cozy with Scott Morrow and SHARE. He even stayed overnight at one of Morrow’s tent camps in Lake City, speaking warm-and-fuzzily of his experience to a Seattle Times reporter afterward. Ferguson naively told the Times that the majority of campers at this camp were getting up early in the morning to scoot off to work. The “working poor” he called them. (They may have been leaving the camp alright, but they were not going to work.)

Ferguson was later instrumental in helping SHARE get their hands on a free County-owned vanpool van, and his office has not responded to requests to investigate the SHARE organization. SHARE’s roots run deep in the political soil of Washington State. And its branches reach to the sky. Given that, how likely is it that any Ferguson or any other government official here would push for an investigation into SHARE’s operation?

Oh, Rob. You sly devil you.


 

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Beyond the Pale: A neighbor’s view of the Ballard Locks homeless camp

March 10, 2017

The Ballard Locks (also known as Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) are a system of mechanically controlled channels that allow watercraft to travel between the inland waterways of Seattle (Lake Washington, Lake Union, the Ship Canal) and Puget Sound. Located on the edge of Seattle’s historic Ballard fishing community, the Locks offer close-up views of both wildlife and marine traffic. The US Army Corps of Engineers, which built and operates the Locks, also manages the adjoining fish ladder and museum, where visitors can spend an hour or two after strolling the spacious, tree-covered grounds. Needless to say, the Locks have been a tourist magnet in the century since they opened. In the last few years, though, their luster has tarnished. Not because of anything the Corps has done on the property, but because of what the City of Seattle is allowing to happen . . . just outside the fence.

U. S. Government Locks – Seattle, Washington. Second largest locks in the world. Both mighty ocean liners and pleasure craft pass through these locks connecting Lake Union with Puget Sound. Color by Cal Harbert.

Continue reading

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Hello this is my daughter…

March 6, 2017

Seen in a Portland shop window in August 2017. It may have been there for some time, given the reference to winter clothes:

Click to Enlarge

HOMELESS IN DWNTWN PORTLAND
Please help my ill daughter

Hello this is my daughter H_______
She is Bipolar, not on meds 🙁
This is her 3rd relapse and the worst yet
She is HOMELESS in downtown Portland
She has no money, no friends or family there
She came from Hawaii, doesn’t even own winter clothes

She hangs in ____ Ave and _____St.
No cellular and VERY vulnerable
In Psychosis, semi-manic and very disoriented
I’m her mother, looking for angels with arms and legs
Looking for anyone who wants to take time to reach out and talk to her
I’m not asking for money, just a human caring heart to help her realize she needs help
She has a membership at _______________

If you go there, you may find her
I can be reached on my cell if you want to hear her story
My name is Bea, her desperate mom, pls call me at __________
I’m praying for you to help today, since I can’t, she rejects me while ill 🙁


I called the number on the flyer and left a message, but it was never returned. I believe the flyer is genuine, but the person who wrote it was probably ill advised to give so much identifying info on her vulnerable daughter. (To be safe, I smudged out the identifying info.)

This family’s tragedy is all too common. A vulnerable, mentally ill person goes off her medications or refuses treatment and winds up on the street in another city where her chances of being harmed or killed are several times greater than they would be if she’d stayed at home. I understand why a young person might refuse treatment or flee a situation where she feels that her family is trying to “control” her, but if mental illness is involved then it will probably not end well.

This situation points up the inadequacy of our “involuntary commitment” laws. Even where you have a loving family that wants to help, it is often not enough.

How many of our homeless folks in Seattle started out like this young woman in the flyer? You might be surprised. Or maybe not.

–By David Preston

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Anything helps. Or does it?

Click to enlarge

February 20, 2017

This snapshot of a Seattle panhandler was sent to me by a reader who inferred that because the woman was sitting in a comfortable chair sipping a pricey coffee, with a dog and a cushion, she’s not genuinely needy but merely lazy.  In fact, we don’t know what this woman’s life is like. If we give her a buck, she might do something good with it, or she might do something bad with it. The money might help tide her over till her housing application comes through. Or it might go toward her next fix. Continue reading

Posted in Homelessness, Panhandling | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Brandie Bright and Dark

February 13, 2017

Oh the irony! Seems that one of the ACLU’s two homeless plaintiffs – a woman who is crying foul over City crews removing her stuff from public land without due notice – is apparently quite the little thief herself. According to court records, Brandie Osborne has broken into people’s homes to steal their things. And she didn’t even given them the same 72-hour notice that she’s demanding of the City. Nor did she store the things she’d stolen so the rightful owners could later claim them.

Below is a picture of Ms. Osborne “speaking out” against the City’s plan to clear out “the Jungle” in the summer of 2016. Before moving ahead with that plan, the City teamed up with Union Gospel Mission to visit every illegal camp site and offer the residents a warm, indoors place to stay, along with adequate food and case management services. Many people accepted the offer. But not Ms. Osborne. It appears that she and the ACLU already had a plan of their own.

Jungle resident Brandie Osborne speaks out against Seattle’s plan to clear the area of illegal homeless encampments. Click to listen to the KUOW radio program about this.

Continue reading

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ACLU vs. the People

*** TBQ Readers, your help is needed. Please read to the end to find out how you can help make us all safer. ***

We were cautiously optimistic when we learned that the Mayor was moving ahead to clear dangerous homeless encampments from city sidewalks and green spaces. Unfortunately, the Washington chapter of the ACLU has also moved forward on its threat to sue the city for a restraining order. Their grounds? –That the clearing operations violate Constitutional prohibitions against due process and “unreasonable search and seizure” of property. This, despite the City’s reasonable, good-faith efforts to notify campers at least 72 hours ahead of time beforehand and to sort out and store their property so they can reclaim it.

Lisa Hooper has been homeless for several years and has been living at many sites around the city. With the help of the ACLU, Hooper and another camper filed a lawsuit against the City for removing her belongings from public spaces. Image: KING 5 [Click the picture to see a news report.]

Continue reading

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Tent Cities: Not a way out but a way to HANG out

February 8, 2017

Except for the misleading headline, this article from Pacific Standard Magazine is a more or less honest view of a SHARE-run tent city. Based on my own experiences, I can say that the interview subjects are a representative cross-section of homelessness, not just in the camps but on the street as well. Of the six homeless people interviewed, only one of them became homeless here in Seattle. One couple came here several years ago, trading a relatively stable situation in Alabama, where they had shelter, for the streets of Seattle. This couple would certainly be counted as “local” by the standards of Seattle politicians. But would that be honest?

Click on the picture to read the Pacific Standard article.

The subjects were probably coached by the camp boss on what to say in the interview, but their comments are no less accurate for all that. The quote below crystallizes the message SHARE wants to broadcast to homeless people around the country. It’s one I’ve heard SHARE people say many times over the years:

Yes, they don’t make us get into housing. They don’t make us get into counseling. That’s our choice. But they do provide us a safe, comfortable place that we can stay where we don’t have to move all of our shit with us every time we go somewhere.

SHARE and it’s confederate organization, LIHI, are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to run their Seattle camps. How does this “they don’t make us get into housing or counseling” line gibe with Seattle’s official motto that homelessness should be a “rare, brief, and one-time occurrence”? Think about it.

–by David Preston

This story originally appeared January 29, 2017 on the Safe Seattle Facebook page.

Posted in Homelessness, SHARE, Tent City | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Politics and privilege in the Emerald City

January 20, 2017

What do Sally Bagshaw and Donald Trump have in common? More than you might think. I’m not talking money here; I’m talking attitude. See, when you’re rich, you can’t help having one. An attitude, that is.


A friend linked me a blog post from last spring that summarizes reported assets of Seattle councilmembers. Combined assets for the nine CMs are about $25.8 million. (Washington is a joint property state, so assets reported include property owned by the CMs’ spouses.) That works out to about $2.8 million per CM. Salaries are around $120,000, which is half again as much as the median income of $80,000, as reported by the Seattle Times. Continue reading

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The Great Enablers

January 12, 2017

Quick: What do you call a Detox Center, without the “De-” part? You’d call it a Tox Center, of course. And that’s just what it would be: a place where addicts could keep poisoning their bodies, free from the medical intervention that is a hospital’s reason for being. And yet the harm reduction crowd see Tox Centers as a good thing. Let addicts keep poisoning themselves if they want to, they say . . . ‘cuz withdrawal hurts.

Click for New York Times Editorial

Continue reading

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Ballard Bridge Status: 1/10/2017

The Ballard Bridge spans Salmon Bay to connect Seattle’s historic Ballard neighborhood with points south. The bridge and surrounding environs have been a long-term site of homeless camps at both ends. These camps, particularly the one on the north end, have been the cause of much strife between local residents and Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien who represents the Ballard area. O’Brien has taken a hands-off approach to the camps, and this has filtered down to Seattle police, who have repeatedly told residents that there’s nothing they can do, that their “hands are tied.” In recent months, Ballard residents have taken to social media with their complaints, using the Safe Seattle Facebook page* to post dozens of still shots, videos, and personal stories illustrating the danger the bridge situation poses to the community. The posts are then shared around on the Internet – along with CM O’Brien’s contact information.

Click for Google Map View

Continue reading

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Squatters | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Hidden Persuaders

Dedicated to Larry Kaminsky

December 27, 2016

Even as Seattle voters enact a flurry of laws designed to “get money out of politics,” the insinuation of paid political advocates into local government continues apace. This article looks at how that works with one politician: Mike O’Brien. But what goes for O’Brien goes for many others. The piece is part of a series on how advocates use – and get used by – politicians in the Emerald City.

The Crusader

In May 2015, Seattle Councilmember Mike O’Brien and dozens of other “kayaktivists” paddled their armada across Elliott Bay to do battle with an oil rig they didn’t want hanging around their city, even for repairs. The kayaktivists won the day: the oil rig skulked back out of the harbor, and O’Brien had another jewel in his crown of largely symbolic actions against the global menace of fossil fuel. Meanwhile, in O’Brien’s backyard, there was rising a two-headed monster that makes an oil rig look like a wind-up Godzilla toy. That monster is homelessness and addiction. But instead of confronting the beast head-on, as he did with the oil rig, O’Brien is trying to appease it.

Slaying dragons: Seattle District 6 Councilmember Mike O’Brien gets ready for the Paddle in Seattle. Photo: KUOW

Continue reading

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C is for Vengeance: A blogger and politician team up to punish critics

December 21, 2016

Have you ever written an angry letter or e-mail to a government official? Most of us have at one time or other. God knows I have. But did you ever think, when you dropped that letter in the mailbox (or hit the SEND button) that the person you were writing it to would hand it over to someone who would use it to threaten you? Well, that’s what happened to north Seattle resident Jennifer Aspelund. On December 13, Aspelund sent this two-page e-mail to the Seattle City Council (press the PAGE DOWN button at the bottom to see second page): Continue reading

Posted in Crime, General, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Seattle Burnin’ Down

December 11, 2016

Last month I began collaborating with Harley Lever on his Safe Seattle Facebook page. The Blog Quixotic and Safe Seattle share many concerns about public safety, but Safe Seattle has a much wider audience and is more of a news-and-analysis outlet, whereas TBQ is more into investigative journalism. The focus is the same, but the presentation is different.

Here’s a video I made for Safe Seattle using materials that I gathered myself and some that were provided by Safe Seattle readers. I hope you enjoy it. If you live in or around Seattle and are on Facebook, please visit the page. Thanks.

–David Preston


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Audit This! ~ Bringing Seattle’s Human Services Department to heel

December 7, 2016

The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) dispenses city, state, and federal money to a hundred-odd contractors that provide various services to Seattle’s poor and homeless. HSD has regulations requiring the contractors to track and submit financial tracking data, and the level of scrutiny goes up with the amount of money involved. Contractors getting above $300,000 per year, for example, are expected to submit annual audited financial statements prepared by a CPA. One contractor, the Seattle Housing and Resource Effort, or SHARE, gets well over $300,000 annually but has not been submitting audited financial statements to HSD. This is troublesome in light of SHARE’s history of questionable expenditures and accounting practices. See a long investigation of SHARE’s practices here.  HSD has made no effort to bring SHARE into compliance, and when I and other citizens asked HSD to explain why they failed at this basic task, they simply refused to answer.

Continue reading

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Kshama Town

November 25, 2016

Photos of anti-Trump protests in Chicago and Seattle tell two very different stories about political culture. The Chicago crowd (above) is large, varied, and rowdy. The placards there are hand-made, and each one bears a different message, unique to its creator. Chicago is typical of the country, as you’ll see if you read this story in the Atlantic.


Now check out the Seattle “anti-Trump” crowd (below).

The Seattle folks are much more disciplined, and you can see at a glance that most everyone is carrying a slick pre-fabricated placard. Though there are several different messages on the Seattle signs, they all come from the same source: Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative party. The signs, while purporting to be about Donald Trump, racism, or whatever, are really nothing more than ads for Ms. Sawant. And that’s what the whole rally is, really. Just one big ad for Sawant.

Sawant was portrayed on local TV as the chief organizer of Seattle’s rally, which also speaks to her influence on the local scene, which is huge. Since getting on the City Council three years ago, she has pushed the Mayor and other councilmembers decidedly to the left. If local politicians dare cross her in public, she denounces them on social media, in press conferences, and even right from the Council bench!

The same people toting the Sawant signs in this picture can be counted on to turn up at public meetings to “testify” in favor of Sawant’s legislative program – just as if they were honest-to-God concerned citizens instead of party hacks. And of course, during their “testimony,” they never fail to put in a plug for Ms. Sawant and her party.

It was never like this when I was growing up in politics here, in the ’80s and ’90s. Back then we had dozens of parties and movements on the left. Now we’ve just got Kshama. You can either line up behind her, or get out. This is Kshama Town now.

–David Preston

horse

Photos ~ Chicago: Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters  |  Seattle: Ted S. Warren / AP

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Sex, Lies, and the Seattle City Council

November 21, 2016

The presence of transient sex offenders in Seattle points up why the city’s current approach to illegal encampments is so dangerous. In 1998, the man pictured below was convicted of sexual assault on a child. (Reference RCW 9A.44.083). Since then, he’s been convicted of violent felonies, in addition to failing to report his whereabouts. In November 2015, “Washington’s Most Wanted” showed him classified as a LEVEL II sex offender. Curiously, since then, he got bumped down from a LEVEL II to a TRANSIENT LEVEL 1.

Click to Enlarge

Continue reading

Posted in Crime, Homelessness, Politics | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Anatomy of a Failure: Why Seattle isn’t solving its homeless crisis

November 18, 2016

Seattle’s disastrous homeless policy has resulted from a combination of three things:

-Ideology
-Paid advocacy
-Lack of accountability Continue reading

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Childhood’s End: Rape at a homeless camp

November 3, 2016

Warning: Disturbing content.

Narrative

In late 2012, a just-turned-16-year-old girl whom I’ll call Angel was staying at the Nickelsville homeless camp in Seattle’s Highland Park neighborhood, along with her mother and two younger siblings. One evening, she and two older male campers went across the road to a convenience store where one of the men bought some beer. The three of them then went under a nearby bridge to drink it. Angel soon got drunk, and one of the men then forced her to perform oral sex on him. He also tried, unsuccessfully, to vaginally rape her. Shortly afterwards, Angel returned to camp, still in an intoxicated condition and covered with dirt from being forced onto the ground by the man who’d assaulted her. Continue reading

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Homeless Policy Questions for the WA Gubernatorial Candidates

November 3, 2016

Below is a list of ten questions that I and my friend Harley Lever of  Safe Seattle devised for Washington gubernatorial race candidates Bill Bryant and Jay Inslee. The document format is QUESTION followed by ANSWER from Bryant and then ANSWER from Inslee. The Q & A was also sponsored by the Neighborhood Safety Alliance. The Blog Quixotic does not endorse political candidates or parties. I am posting this information to promote voter awareness of the candidates’ stands on homeless policy issues.

The document is eight pages long. You may find it easier to read the document by clicking on this link for a PDF version.

 

2016_wa_gov_race_homeless_policy_questions

 

horse

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Tunnel? What Tunnel?

October 28, 2016

A friend whom I’ll call Sally is into good government. Like me, Sally is bafffled by the unending Tragedy of Errors that is Seattle’s Deep Bore Tunnel (aka the Alaskan Way Replacement Project). Sally recently sent a concise list of questions to Seattle government officials relating to why the project is taking so long and how much it’s going to cost when (and if) it’s finally done.

This is a letter the Seattle Times should have sent, not some housewife. (Oh, excuse me. I meant homemaker.) Local media should be charging hard on this. It’s the story of the year, worthy of an investigative series, a Pulitzer maybe. Instead, they’re virtually ignoring it. Oh, they’ll cover once every few months, whenever there’s some new glitch or announcement of a delay. But that’s it.

I’m telling you, it’s wrong. Ol’ Man Tunnel, dat Ol’ Man Tunnel . . . he must know somethin’, but don’t say nothin’. He just keeps stoppin’ – he keeps on stoppin’ – along.

And nobody learns a thing. Continue reading

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What’s the matter with Kshama Sawant?

October 21, 2016

Meet Kshama Sawant: Seattle councilmember. Socialist firebrand. Enfant terrible. For as big a hit as she’s been in Seattle, I’ve never felt that she really got this town. Oh she gets a part of it, all right. The young part, certainly. The tech part. The hip part.

But not the human part. Not the part that’s who we really ARE.

She says she’s for The People. She keeps using that word. I do not think that word means what she thinks it means. The People is not some big blob that always acts or thinks or feels a certain way or can be predicted according to some theory. It’s not even a bunch of blobs. Ultimately, it’s just a collection of more or less like-minded individuals, each of whom has his own worldview and his own unique set of needs, abilities, and aspirations.

But when Sawant she says she’s The People’s Councilmember, she doesn’t mean “people” as in the actual human beings living in District 3, or even in Seattle generally. What she means is The Poor and Downtrodden People. You know. The Wretched of the Earth-type people – as she defines them. In a word: The Masses. That’s her demographic. Don’t believe me? Google her. Or ask her yourself. Her phone number is 206-684-8587 and her e-mail is kshama.sawant@seattle.gov.

In Sawant’s universe – that is, the socialist universe – politicians represent the socioeconomic class from which they come, whether they acknowledge that fact or not. That’s not merely the way it is, that’s the way it has to be. At least for now. The socialist model holds that until we arrive at a classless society – which is what all socialist fantasize about – the rich and poor must keep slugging it out. Whether the slugging takes place in the halls of government or behind the barricades doesn’t matter: The class struggle must go on! Continue reading

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Seattle Shelter Contracts

October 18, 2016 – The document below is a summary report of Seattle’s homeless shelter and outreach contract payments for 2015. It was sent to me by one of my readers (Thanks, Deena!) who got it from Seattle’s Human Services Department (HSD) through an informal public disclosure request. What it shows is a vendor-by-vendor, program-by-program list of monies that City of Seattle paid for specific services related to homeless services. Have a look!

2015_csa_contract_totals

You can also download the original Microsoft Excel spreadsheet document here. The Excel document has more data and is also in a different format that the report above. Note: You must have MS Excel to view this document on your computer. Continue reading

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If you see something, trash something.

October 10, 2016

IRONY ALERT! This ad on a Seattle bus tells people to call in if they see trash dumped on the street or sidewalk. I’ve called the number myself, many times; however, the trash I called in about wasn’t taken care of until several weeks later, after I’d followed up with calls directly to the mayor’s office. Meanwhile, the city council is debating legislation that will effectively prevent the City from removing homeless camps from public land. These camps are already the #1 source of trash piles on city streets, and this is certain to get worse if the legislation passes.

Photo: Pamela Staeheli

Below is a sample of photos taken by government clean-up crews as they moved about the city this past year. There’s already a months-long backlog on clean-ups, and the problem is getting worse by the week.

You can find many more such pictures here.


Six months ago, Seattle councilmember Lisa Herbold – who happens to be a good friend of Mr. Scott Morrow of SHARE fame – came up with the idea for the city to distribute trash bags to homeless camps. (More on that story here.)

The assumption was that campers really want to be tidy and that they would gladly pick up their own trash if only they had some bags to put it in. When the bags filled up, campers could just set them out on the curb and trash trucks would pick them up on a regular schedule, just like they do on residential streets. This seemed like a good idea to me, but I guess it didn’t pan out. At the start I saw that a few bags had been filled up and set out on the curb, and the areas where this was happening were cleaner for a while. Things soon got back to the way they were before, though, and I haven’t heard much about the program since then. So I guess we can scratch that idea . . .

–David Preston

horse

Posted in Complaints, Crime, Homelessness, Photos (Stuff), Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Risky Business: Is Seattle’s Encampment Bill un-Constitutional?

October 7, 2016

A hot mess gets hotter

In each of the past several years, ever greater numbers of homeless people have been camping out on publicly owned land in Seattle. Conditions around the encampment areas have steadily deteriorated, and in February of 2016, the situation reached a head when five people were shot (two fatally) in a no-man’s land area around downtown Seattle known as “the Jungle.” In response to the Jungle shooting, Mayor Ed Murray began stepping up removal of the camps. In August, the American Civil Liberties Union (the ACLU), worried about the campers’ rights, threatened a lawsuit. The ACLU and some self-styled progressives on the City Council then proposed a bill that, if passed, could effectively tie the Mayor’s hands. See the text of the bill here.

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Posted in General, Homelessness, Nickelsville, Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ask the Experts

September 24, 2016

Seattle’s Task Force on Homeless Encampment Clean-up had one of its weekly meeings at City Hall Wednesday. I attended at the invitation of a friend who’s on the task force. It was not encouraging. But it was enlightening.

Background

This summer Mayor Ed Murray directed Seattle police and sanitation workers to begin “sweeping” a group of homeless encampments along the I-5 corridor, collectively known as the Jungle. In response, homeless advocates, backed by the ACLU, appealed to the City Council to make him stop. The Council sees encampments not so much as a matter of law as a human rights issue, so their collective arm didn’t need much twisting on this. They proposed legislation requiring the City to provide 30 days of social service “outreach” before it could remove any camp of five or more people, and after the 30-day outreach period, the City would have to provide “adequate housing” to campers before moving them.

There are a couple of concessions to common sense in the ordinance, such as that camps will not be allowed at public schools or on sidewalks. Also, if conditions at a camp are found to be unsafe the camp can be cleared immediately, subject to the “adequate housing” provision.

Send in the Experts

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Posted in General, Homelessness, Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments