The battle lines are drawn in Seattle, a ferry ride and an hour or so away from where I live. On one side are those who wish to remove Seattle’s growing homeless camps. On the other side are those who argue for the camps as necessary in a city with sky high rents and inadequate resources for dealing with mental illness and addiction.
Some of the homeless are responsible citizens with jobs but inadequate salaries to afford the high rents. Others have lost jobs through no fault of their own, victims of medical misfortune or of jobs lost in a changing economy.
Others are homeless because they are mentally ill, suffering from diseases such as schizophrenia. The state of Washington, through budget slashing, has seriously eroded the state’s ability to care for victims of mental illness.
The most difficult homeless are those addicted to alcohol and other drugs. These are the homeless that neighborhoods fear: the addicts who shoot up, dropping needles behind as dangers to children and other innocents; who camp on public spaces, leaving them trashed and unfit for human use; who attract drug dealers and turn neighborhoods into drug bazaars and sometimes murder scenes.
Dealing with addiction is surely complex and difficult. Any person under the terrible pull of drugs no doubt needs a strong purpose to conquer their awful hold: Family? A place of service? A pet to love?
If I had a loved one on drugs, I don’t think I’d want them living in a homeless camp. I’d want them removed to a safe place with supervision to help them find a way, a purpose for choosing a better life.
Safe spaces to rehabilitate require money, tax money. Cutting taxes may be a campaign pleaser, but sometimes cutting taxes means we pay higher costs down the road in wasted human lives and neighborhoods.