“People didn’t use to use the word embarrassing about Seattle, but they use it a lot now,” the narrator to a new KOMO News special titled “Seattle is Dying” says. The focus of the special is homelessness and the ways in which it has changed the city.
There’s a section featuring angry residents of one area of the city who are screaming at their representatives for action. They want the tent cities managed and they’re tired of calling the police only to find out the police can arrest people but those same people will be back on the street, sometimes within hours.
As I noted last month, just 100 homeless people in Seattle were responsible for 3,500 criminal cases. This special references that story. It also asked Seattle police officers to comment anonymously on what was happening and those responses are enlightening. One officer told KOMO, “People come here because it’s called Free-attle and they believe if they come here they will get free food, free medical treatment, free mental health treatment, a free tent, free clothes and will be free of prosecution for just about everything; and they’re right.”
The special also addresses the reasons this is happening. One homeless woman named Melissa Burns tells KOMO, “I have not met anyone else on the street who is not in some phase of addiction, I mean of use, of serious use and I think that’s the starting point. You just have to address that.”
The special isn’t without compassion for the homeless. As KOMO’s own reporter covering the beat says, he wouldn’t wish this life on his own worst enemy. It’s a miserable existence. But he agrees that substance abuse is the driving factor and the reason people stay on the street rather than accept help.
This is definitely worth a watch. Something similar is happening in Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. This is a major problem that won’t be going away soon and which could be getting worse because of the approach currently being taken to deal with it along the west coast.
The last third of this special is about an alternative being used in Rhode Island which partners tougher law-enforcement with treatment that is focused on keeping addicts off opioids. It seems to be working there.