The city “swept” the Troll’s Knoll homeless encampment this past Monday. The encampment has been a source of both frustration and sympathy for the neighborhood, but had been what passes for home for a few dozen people up until this point.
The city is required to give advance notice of sweeps, to hold any property removed in storage for at least 70 days, and to provide shelter for anyone displaced by a sweep. According to KIRO, when the city Navigation Team arrived on Monday, most of the 20 or so tents at the encampment were empty, the residents having moved on in anticipation of the sweep. As of Monday night, KIRO reports that only three of the people swept had accepted the offer of shelter. (The city apparently asked shelters to hold spots open for those displaced by this sweep in anticipation of the need.)
For many, the fact that most of the swept residents refused the city’s offer of spots in homeless shelters will be taken as evidence that they don’t want help. As Matthew points out on a Facebook post on the topic, though, there are a number of reasons people choose to remain on the street rather than take a bed in a city homeless shelter: there are no mixed gender shelters, for one, so couples must separate. For myself, given the choice, I think I would prefer prefer to find a place to sleep outside with my wife or on my own rather than take a mat in a gymnasium-style room of a hundred-plus people, many of whom are physically and/or mentally ill.
And, of course, drug abuse is a major problem, as well. There were reportedly four deaths from overdose (likely fentanyl) at the encampment recently, and the city reported cleaning up hypodermic needles from the encampment. No surprise to anyone living nearby.
I anticipate a lot of folks cheering the removal, as I’ve seen that it has been a source of concern for neighbors for a while: there were fireworks going off at all hours, loud music, rising crime rates and, of course, needles. I also anticipate a lot of people decrying the city’s heartlessness in removing people who have nowhere else to go, regardless who’s “fault” it is.
It’s all true. There is no single cause of homelessness, and there are no obvious answers or solutions. We can all criticize the city’s policies, but it’s harder to come up with a solution that will actually make things better. Homeless people won’t magically become model citizens because they’re offered a place to sleep, nor will they just disappear if they’re pushed out of their tents. There is no single cause of homelessness (rising housing costs, drug abuse, mental illness, bleeding heart social programs, income disparities), all of these things contribute.
Please have some kindness in your comments and keep them constructive.