Sunday, December 9, 2007

Typical Seattle Homeless Encampment Scene

The image at right, if you've been reading local press accounts of Seattle homeless encampments, is the sort of scene that takes place hundreds of times a day in the wild frontier of criminality and filth that exists in our greenbelts.

First, Nicole Brodeur plays the dead baby card in her sensationalist "reporting" of last month. Then Craig Thompson, whose recent fantasy genre op-ed in the Seattle PI connected homeless encampments to organized crime and the Asian heroin trade, took the smearing of homeless people to heights that none of us could have foreseen.
"A violent, well-organized, Asian heroin gang took over the forest on the west side of Beacon Hill. They beat up most homeless people they found, especially women, and set up shop. Their command and control center was a camouflaged bunker made of concrete blocks, a wooden frame and a door that could have stopped a round from a service revolver. It was a hobbit hole for junkies, with a killer view of the mouth of the Duwamish."
Ergo, we must eradicate homeless campsites in the enlightened best interest of those with nowhere else to go.

Reinforced concrete bunkers? Weapons? Heroin cartels and meth manufacturers in the greenbelts? Was a shred of evidence presented that these issues have anything what-so-ever to do with the current controversy. No. This is sensationalism at its worst, and is an unconscionable libel on those whose only documented crime is to attempt survival in a city that has gone to war against its most vulnerable.

Thompson's vaguely racist scare journalism — with its visions of Asian gangs running the greenbelt heroin trade — brings to mind another war of several decades ago. In this war, we destroyed villages to save them. In shorthand, this tactic was referred to as "draining the sea." If we attack the places where they live, all those frightening homeless people will have no choice but to go somewhere else.

At least in Vietnam we offered Strategic Hamlet concentration camps as an alternative. Today in Seattle, with shelters well over capacity, we're offering nothing.

If this is what "ending homelessness" has come to in this city, I want no part of it.

14 comments:

Craig said...

Hi, Tim! Read your response to my piece in the PI. Would you like to go for a walk in the Jungle? I asked Bill Kirlin-Hackett from the Interfaith Taskforce twice, but he won't go.

You might also check out the follow up piece I wrote for the Beacon Hill News/South District Journal. That gets into more detail on the drug gangs who are attacking homeless people in the woods.

The "typical scene" you show isn't an encampment. It's a camp. They're two different things, but we can talk about that when we meet.

Propose some times to the email address below. Maybe next Sunday, Jan. 20?

Kind regards,

Craig Thompson

Tim Harris said...

Craig,

I briefly considered accepting your offer just so I could get you alone in the woods so a group of homeless people could kick your ass for denying them the right to survive, but my core beliefs in non-violence rendered that strategy unfeasible.

Believe it or not, I too have seen lots of outdoor encampments, and they in no way resemble the scare tactic fantasies you describe in your self-aggrandizing editorials.

Your deft combination of pseudo-compassion and stigmatizing hate speech — how do I put this — makes me nauseous. So, thanks but no thanks. I can think of about 4,000 ways I'd rather spend a Sunday afternoon.

Bill said...

I also declined MR. Thompson's invitation to walk anywhere with him, indeed I did. I wrote a letter to the newspaper in response to his hysteric Op-Ed, as did others. Then Mr. Thompson hunted my email down and began a mild cyber-stalking campaign implying as he does here that I, like Tim and others, are uninformed and likely not truly interested in what homelessness involves; to wit, crime, an international drug cartel, and who knows what.Flying saucers, maybe? After answering Mr. Thompson's emails, at first civilly and later more vigorously because it was clear the man doesn't listen to anyone else, he had a brainfart and blocked my emails, which is curious since I had no plan to send him anything else and my last email to him told him to get lost. I appreciate people watching out for their neighborhoods. That said, I tire of self-promoting opportunists like Mr. Thompson. What sealed it all for me was his telling me the Mayor had given him an award, which for me amounts to saying the Mayor left a dump on City Hall Plaza. Mr. Thompson has his role in the City and he can keep it. I hope he does it better than he communicates. What is true is that he's doing nothing to better the situation of the homeless, despite his current and past rhetoric, which includes his initial efforts to battle Tent City, his conversion (sic), and his current Hunter Thompson - like campaign. I think he should move into the Jungle, get his mail delivered there, and set up a fortified camp, maybe using paintball markers. Tag those drug dealers one color, the homeless another, and then when SPD comes in like Cheney's troops, we can all sort out the very bad guys from the just undesirables.

Tim Harris said...

I regard the previous post as a libel to the memory of the great Hunter S. Thompson.

Bill said...

You must know that due to sleepiness, I didn't catch the linking of Thompson and Thompson and retrieved Hunter from the blue (now with apoligies to a journalist who could write, compared to the lesser of these two who simply says he can write), although it did make for an interesting association; that is, the hunter with a paintball marker in the jungle tagging friend from foe, and the same last name. I do need to report that said subject who invites people to the jungle is now near libel in calling leadership in our homelessness organization, in fact colleagues and fellow worshippers of leadership in our homelessness organization, to report that what was written about him (by me, in the prior blog posting) is akin to a mild death threat. Re-read, can't twist it that direction no matter how hard I try, so clearly, NOT MY INTENT. Although, I do wonder if Dick Cheney(aka W) considers sending troops to Iraq a "mild death threat." In any case, I'd hardly issue any personal injury threat to someone I have no desire to be within 500 feet of, pardon my preposition. In any case if the lesser known mr. thompson thinks that letting his fingers do the walking with falsehoods and intimidating phone calls (oh yes, and emails), then perhaps he is exposing himself in public for what he is. Y'all decide. And Tim, I hope you are well. I was in a jungle last night counting the homeless,.. of course it wasn't THE JUNGLE, so I guess it doesn't count.

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Doug said...

Hey Tim,
I just read the Craig Thompson op-ed you linked. In it Thompson advocates for cleaning out the criminal elements that are preying on homeless people and making their lives even worse. He points out that without better housing alternatives the homeless are forced to live in conditions where they can be taken advantage of. He also points out that when camps are cleaned out their occupants need someplace else to go, and criticizes the city of Seattle for favoring developers like Paul Allen over finding opportunities to provide more affordable housing.

None of this seems to me like a smear against the homeless. Your piece doesn't make it clear why it seems that way to you either, and your high-handed refusal to meet with Thompson doesn't add to your credibility. If you were willing to talk with people you disagree with instead of just flaming them on the web, you might discover allies you didn't even know you had.

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