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

Posted in General, Stories | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

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, been 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 it’s 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.


 

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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

Posted in Essays, General | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Politics, Squatters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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


Posted in Crime, Homelessness, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in General, Homelessness, SHARE | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Crime, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in Homelessness, Politics | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in General, Nickelsville, SHARE, Stories | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in Crime, Homelessness, Politics, Tent City | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Complaints, General, Media | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

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

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

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

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

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.

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Anatomy of a Swindle: How a Rogue Non-profit Captured the Emerald City

September 13, 2016

The Set-up

For four years I’ve been investigating a publicly supported non-profit homeless group in Seattle called SHARE. SHARE runs 14 indoor shelters around Seattle, for which it annually gets several hundred thousand dollars from Seattle’s Human Services Department. Most of these shelters are owned by churches. Besides the shelters, SHARE operates a network of homeless camps known as “tent cities.” The group says that “up to 450 people each night find safety, shelter, dignity, and respect” its “self-managed” shelters and camps, but it has never provided any documentation for that figure. The group resists attempts to monitor its numbers or performance as an “invasion of privacy.” SHARE views homelessness as a valid lifestyle – a lifestyle of choice – and while it does get a number of people off the street temporarily, it makes no claim of getting them into jobs, permanent housing, or addiction treatment programs. “We are not a social service organization,” they declare. “We are a self-help group.”

Together, SHARE and WHEEL educate our community about the causes and effects of homelessness, build bridges with homed people to address those issues, and actively lobby to change policies that oppress homeless people.

–from the About Us page on SHARE’s Web site (9/10/16)

If you visit a SHARE tent camp or shelter you will meet people who have been homeless for years. As a rule, these people do not have caseworkers, and many/most have no definite plan for transitioning into an apartment. When they leave one tent camp or shelter, they simply find another. Or they go back to the streets. Or they move to another state. You might ask how an organization that has nothing to do with getting people into housing, could bite out such a big chunk of the city’s housing budget each year. How could it enjoy the continuing patronage of a government that’s trying to end homelessness? There seems to be a contradiction there, but it goes away when you understand that politics is the art not of doing but of seeming. And SHARE gives local politicians an easy way to seem to be doing something about homelessness, even as the problem worsens. SHARE is to the government as the corner panhandler is to the average citizen. Deep down, we know that handing the guy a buck won’t make a difference in his life. But that doesn’t matter, because it still makes in a difference in ours. Continue reading

Posted in Crime, General, Homelessness, Media, Nickelsville, SHARE, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Tell the whole story please, Mr. B

September 5, 2016

On August 24, the Seattle Times ran a piece by columnist Daniel Beekman about the struggle between Mayor Murray and the city council over homeless folks collecting in hot spots around the city. In this post, I look at one aspect of how Mr. Beekman covered this story. Or rather, how he covered it up.

Beekman is usually a keen observer, but in this case he’s left out an obvious, and important, aspect of the homeless camp he visited. And in doing so, he misrepresented the story, not just for that camp, but for homeless camps generally. You can read the full article here; the part I’m concerned about is this:

The proposed ordinance could prevent officials from shutting down operations similar to Camp Second Chance. Since late July, about 20 people have been living together in tents on vacant city property near White Center.

The campers weren’t authorized to set up on the Myers Way South site, but their area is tidy, they’re out of the way and they have portable toilets.

Continue reading

Posted in General, Homelessness, Media, Photos (Stuff), Politics, Squatters, Tent City | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why I’m voting ‘no’ on the Housing Levy

July 29, 2016
Seattle

Proposition 1 is a tax levy on the August 2016 primary ballot for Seattle voters. The levy would double the total amount currently levied for “affordable housing.” See the King County Voter’s Guide description on this item here.

Untested Assumptions 

The assumption underlying Prop 1 is that homelessness exists because governments (read: taxpayers) aren’t doing enough to create affordable housing. It’s a classic let’s-throw-more-money-at-it approach.

Unfortunately, there is little to no research on the root causes of homelessness in this city and what the homeless demographic actually looks like. Among the many factors contributing to the problem – housing prices, unemployment, financial self-discipline, drug addiction, mental illness, government policy – no one knows how they interact to cause homelessness. In fact, nobody knows if it’s even possible to end homelessness in a place like Seattle, because it’s never been done under similar conditions. Seattle isn’t Spokane after all. Or Salt Lake City. This city is a magnet for people around the country. Lured here by the promise of good jobs, mild weather – or maybe even just cheap heroin – poor people are rushing here along with the “tech bros” and rich retirees, even as rents are zooming through the stratosphere.

Basic Questions Continue reading

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