In North Seattle, residents have been dealing with a serial pooper or maybe two. No one has seen the person making deposits in the neighborhood but King 5 reports local residents suspect “a pair of people living in nearby woods.” In other words, this is probably connected to the city’s homeless problem.
Seattle and King County have one of the worst homelessness problems in the country. The Mayor and the City Council have vowed to do more to deal with the problem, including two new tiny home villages, turning city hall into a shelter at night, and more, but there’s no long-term plan to pay for all of this. From My Northwest:
Brian Callanan asked the council members about the plan to increase shelter capacity by 25 percent over the coming months. He noted that, in the short term, it will be paid for by revenues generated from the city selling some property. That revenue is $6.3 million. But how do you sustain the funding, Callanan asked, noting the revenue from property sales is a one-time thing…
[Seattle City Council Member Sally] Bagshaw repeatedly said that “we have a plan,” yet she never articulated how they’d pay for the plan. That means, no matter what she says, they don’t actually have a plan. They have a list of things they say the city needs, but not a way to pay for it. That’s the early stages of a plan. That’s not an actual plan.
[Teresa] Mosqueda answered in a similarly maddening way. She acknowledges that the $6.3 million “…is just a drop in the bucket.” Then argues we need to “…dramatically ramp up the number of dollars we’re investing into housing and shelters.”
What’s missing? Again: a plan to pay for the investments. They keep telling us what we need, without telling us how we’ll get it.
They don’t have a plan to pay for this. The head tax was the plan and that backfired in a matter of weeks, largely because people aren’t convinced the money would be well spent. That’s because many residents realize Seattle is already spending a lot to combat the problem and it has only gotten worse. Spending more might even make it worse in the long run if the wrong policies are pursued.
One reason there are so many people living on the street is drug and alcohol addiction. Those people don’t all want help, at least not if it means giving up their habit. An anonymous woman wrote a story about her brother’s addiction and homelessness on Facebook yesterday. It was titled, “Seattle…stop ‘helping.’”
Each and every person on the street is someone’s child. They deserve our help. They all have a story to tell. Their path to homelessness may be different, but we can see similar themes that need to be addressed: alcoholism, drug abuse, mental health issues, long-term housing, job training and counseling. Seattle has an opportunity to solve this problem. Let us support the City Council’s efforts, but also hold them accountable for investing our money wisely with proper oversight.
Most importantly, our approach must change. Choosing to stay on the street should no longer be an option. Seattle’s homeless problem will never be solved without enforcing laws that limit their choices. Until that time, they will continue to choose the street. If we continue to enable their poor choices, Seattle will never be able to solve the homeless problem, regardless of the money thrown at it. The homeless need to be given two options: accept the help offered or go to a detention facility. Perhaps being forced into an uncomfortable situation (with time enough to dry out) will encourage them to accept help.
Continuing to allow homelessness is destroying our city and the lives of the homeless themselves. We need to stop enabling their poor choices. Their behavior will continue as long as we allow it. At what point are we going to take the streets of our city back and require people to get the help they desperately need?
And that brings us back to the serial pooper. This person is probably not living in the woods and pooping along the street because they enjoy it or even because they can’t find work. It’s probably the result of other problems in their lives: drugs, alcohol, maybe both. In theory, the police could do something about the poop problem. The person responsible could be given a $1,000 fine if caught. But what they really need, most likely, is to run out of options to pursue their habit while living in the woods. What they really need is to run out of options to getting sober. And at the moment that doesn’t seem to be something that’s in the cards.
The North Seattle residents are taking the serial pooper in good humor. One person in the clip below jokingly says, “it’s pretty terrifying,” and then shakes his head and says, “No, it’ll be fine. There’s poop on the ground all the time.” Well, that’s true if we’re talking about cats and dogs, but humans? That’s not something I see on the ground all the time, though it seems to be more common in Seattle and San Francisco these days.
Maybe the real problem here is the degree to which residents are willing to tolerate tents on the sidewalks, people living in the woods, occasional violence and, yes, even poop along the road. Maybe the homeless themselves would be better off overall if the city was a little less tolerant of their self-destructive behavior. When people are reduced to pooping in someone’s yard like dogs, maybe more tolerance and understanding isn’t actually what’s needed anymore.
Of course, whatever solution the city pursues will still cost money. But maybe residents would be more willing to commit to a program of spending if it seemed to be more serious about dealing with the problem, rather than simply moving the homeless around or giving drug users and alcoholics sheds with no expectation that they change their behavior.