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.
*”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.