Homeless in Seattle - Societal Problem

posted May 17, 2018, 9:39 AM by Andrew Chadick   [ updated Apr 10, 2019, 8:23 AM ]
There are many different ways to look at the problems associated with homelessness.   First and foremost, one must understand what it means to be homeless, and what it is not. 

Many find themselves in this situation for a number of reasons, loss of a job, family disowns them, run away from home, abusive relationships, addiction, mental illness, and even natural disaster.  

Being homeless means that you are dependent on only yourself for survival.  Being homeless can be embarrassing, can make one feel as less than, and can be emotionally devastating.

Friends and acknowledgement by others, including conversation or any social interaction becomes more valuable than things.  When one has lost everything, those that make connections, and are kind, mean more than any thing.  
Maintaining hope is paramount.  For those that want to help a homeless person that is willing and able, and wants to reintegrate back in to society, there are both short term needs and long term needs.  
Basic necessities that need to be met are food, shelter, medical aid, and clothing.  Any and all of these help. 
Note: too much of any of these can make the situation worse if there is no where to store excess items.  You just end up with waste and excess scattered around, which eventually needs to be dealt with, and probably will end up in a landfill as garbage.

Homelessness has many faces and many problems, especially in the form of healthcare.  There is a distinct lack of resources available.  No insurance, means no way to pay bills, embarrassment about the situation and appearances, lack of knowledge or where to go or how to apply for help.  Lack of transportation.  All of these are huge barriers to helping get people back on their feet.  
Even when getting medical help that was sought by the individual or family, there are issues with that healthcare, some medical practitioners don't understand the conditions that may be present in the every day environment, poor hygiene, frequent infections from living in areas that aren't ideal, abuse, and not being able to come back for future appointments on a specific schedule are all big issues.

There are those that are homeless, whom simply don't want help, or are too sick to care about being part of society.  There is a chunk of the homeless population that has a mental illness, schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and low functioning anxiety are just a few.
Many also self medicate, and have a problem with substance abuse - drugs and/or alcohol.  
Disease is also an issue, everything from AIDS/HIV and Hepatitis, to heart, liver, kidney, and cancer diseases.  There are also side effects of being homeless that one must deal with, heat exhaustion and frost bite are huge.  Then there is the normal stuff that most take for granted, asthma, digestive disorders, and even diabetes.

When dealing with the homeless, many have stereotypes that have been introduced to them while growing up, movies, television, even the radio has projected what is and what is not homelessness.  Homeless are characterized as not wanting a job, they choose to be homeless, they don't want help - they just want money for booze and drugs, they are uneducated, they are lazy, and they all have addictions.  These are all hurdles that have to be overcome.

There ARE many different types of homelessness; but remember, just as there are those that don't want help, there are those that want and need help, whom want to be back on their feet, they want a home, and be part of society; there are whole families and individuals with kids living and trying to get by, doing everything possible to get back in to a home. 

But what about the others? What do you do, how do you help those that are too sick, or so mentally ill to either help themselves, or others, and see a helping hand as anything more than a temporary crutch to just get by and maintain the status quo? How do you help them?  How do you get them the healthcare they need, the medication they need to stabilize or get their mental clarity back?  What do you do if they refuse help?  How do you deal with them? Where should they go?  Who will want them living outside their house, or on the sidewalks in their neighborhood?

For Seattle, and society in general, there are the obvious issues, people on the street with 'help me' signs, and tents on the sidewalks and under bridges, in our proverbial back yards.  There are homeless living next to streams, in parks, on public property, even private property.  Everyone walking by feels for them, but doesn't want them there.  

What choice do you have?  Help the homeless or ignore it and hope it all goes away?  

Handing a homeless person a dollar or two isn't helping.  It's enabling the problems to extend further and go on longer.

Help needs to come as a package deal, a place of shelter, food, clothing, and medical care - with NO STRINGS attached to that help.  There are non-profits that help.  There aren't enough however.  
How do you get them the funding so they can make more of an impact?  How do you get more non-profits to help in this effort?      

I can tell you this, hoping it, homelessness, will all magically go away, isn't working.  We as a society need to act.  

In regard to Seattle specifically;  It has been suggested that Seattle just has a "culture of homelessness", which is why the homeless population is one of the highest per capita in the nation, and that our problems revolve around this culture of acceptance. 
It has also been suggested in the media that our local government is just enabling the problem and making it worse.  
Is Seattle just enabling the problems of the homeless and further just seeking more funding through taxation just to make the problems associated with homelessness worse?  

I guess this really depends on how you look at it.  While I don't agree with everything that is going on, there are things that are being done that are interesting.  And, who knows?  Maybe those efforts will actually help someone.

Seattle is spending a lot of money trying to help, and they are floundering, trying to come up with results. 
The local government is trying to do something.  Is it effective? Are they making a difference?  
Komonews.com reports that Seattle spent $53 million in 2017 on homelessness and related problems, with a return of helping just over 5,000 people get back on their feet; get back in to permanent housing and rejoin society.  Among the figures released, 35 Tons of waste has also been shipped off to landfills. All of these numbers are just growing as time goes on.  Ask yourself, what price is worth the end result of ending homelessness?  What amount of money is worth the return?  This is an open ended question.  There is no right answer.  There needs to be an answer, and we need to put our minds together to come up with a few, not just one.  

Then there is THE big question: Let's say you build it, so they will come, you have all the housing, places set up, medical ready, food banks, services, and anything someone would want or need to get back on their feet... What if they don't come? What if they refuse to come?  What do you do then?   
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If you haven't done so already, watch the video put on by KOMO News (it's called, Seattle is dying):
https://news4sanantonio.com/news/nation-world/komo-news-special-seattle-is-dying
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b53uiRFq4Ds
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HEADLINE  04/03/2019 Seattle dying? Crime rates tell story
SOURCE  https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/data/is-seattle-dying-not-if-you-look-crime-rates-from-the-80s-and-90s/
GIST  Is Seattle a city in its final throes of life?
By now, you’ve probably watched, or at least heard about, last month’s special report “Seattle Is Dying,” produced by local TV news station KOMO. It tackles the city’s crisis of homelessness, from the point of view of city residents, business owners, tourists and police officers — folks who are fed up with the city’s handling of the situation, and who feel the squalor, drug use and crime have ruined the high quality of life here.
The show really touched a nerve, and I’m not surprised. I get an awful lot of reader email about homelessness that strikes a similar tone. In fact, one such email popped into my inbox as I was writing this column: “These drug using criminals are destroying what was once a very beautiful city,” it reads.
I hear this a lot. Many readers who write to me recall an idyllic Seattle, now lost. Whereas once locals proudly showed off downtown to visitors, they now feel embarrassed by it.
I can’t help but wonder if folks are romanticizing Seattle’s past a bit.
Former Seattle Police Chief John Diaz, who retired in 2013, shares many people’s concerns about the homeless situation. “I don’t think leaving people out there to die slowly is compassionate,” he said.
But Diaz, who joined the police force in 1980 as a patrol officer, agrees that the city was in overall worse shape a few decades ago.
“In the ’80s, a lot of downtown was just in disrepair. The economy was in the dumper, there were drugs to some extent — there was just this sense of seediness,” he said. “It looked like we might lose downtown.”
He recalls a First Avenue near Pike Place Market that was lined with peep shows, adult bookstores and pawnshops. Today that same stretch boasts the Seattle Art Museum, the Four Seasons hotel and a slew of upscale shops, restaurants and galleries.
Even just 10 years ago, who could have imagined that a luxury apartment tower and a boutique hotel would stand on the (formerly) sketchy corner of Second and Pike?
Something else that a lot of folks seem to think has gotten much worse in Seattle is crime, but the data tell a different story. The rate of violent crime today remains well below the levels seen from the 1980s into the early 2000s.
The worst year overall was 1990, when the rate hit about 1,500 reported violent crimes per 100,000 Seattle residents. In any recent year, the rates are less than half that. In each of the major categories of violent crime — homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — rates were much higher in the past.
It’s remarkable to think that in 1994 there were 69 homicides in Seattle, more than twice the tally of any recent year. And 1994 wasn’t a fluke. It marked the third consecutive year that Seattle registered at least 60 homicides, and this was at a time when the city’s population was smaller by about 185,000 people.
One of those 69 victims in 1994 was 16-year-old Melissa Fernandes, who was shot in the head outside Ballard High School in a gang-related drive-by.
Yes, there were gangs in Ballard back then.
“I was in the gang section in the early ’90s,” Diaz said, “and there was just a lot of gang violence going on in many parts of the city.”
Property crime has become a huge issue in Seattle in recent years, and some folks have linked it directly to the rise in homelessness. So it might be surprising to learn that the rate of property crime was also more than twice as high in the ’80s and ’90s as it is now.
The worst year was 1987, when there were more than 13,000 reported property crimes per 100,000 Seattle residents. In 2017, the rate was around 5,300 crimes per 100,000.
“Property crime is pretty directly tied to narcotics, and our property crimes have always been high, and at times incredibly high,” Diaz said. “There was a point where I didn’t think there was a car left to be stolen in the city.”
That point would have been in the early 2000s, when motor-vehicle theft was at its highest. The peak year was 2005, when there were about 1,650 auto thefts per 100,000 residents. That’s triple what the rate was in 2017. Burglaries and larceny-theft (car prowls, shoplifting, etc.) were at their highest in the late 1980s, and are also significantly lower now.
A major downtown revitalization effort that began in the mid-1990s proved to be tremendously successful. The city cleaned up a lot, and as violent-crime rates started to fall, more city neighborhoods began to gentrify.
“People here were lucky enough to see a city that got resurrected,” Diaz said.
Even as crime rates decreased in Seattle and many other big cities, for a variety of reasons, the perception is that crime continues to rise, he says. Diaz attributes that partly to the 24-hour news cycle and social media.
“You can’t get away from it,” he said. “Every time there’s a shooting or a stabbing downtown, you’re going to hear about it countless times.”
                                      So is Seattle dying?

There’s no debating that we have some big challenges, and people’s frustrations are real. But Seattle is more than the sum of its problems. It’s also a thriving, vibrant place. Frankly, it strikes me as bizarre to describe the fastest-growing big city in the nation as “dying.”
On average, more than 1,000 people move to the city of Seattle each week, according to census data. Many are relocating for high-paying jobs. Others come just because they love it here, warts and all.

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