Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Smart, Brave, and True

Just when I was beginning to despair that no Seattle reporter would ever really get the sweeps story right, along comes Angela Galloway in today's PI with Seattle Homeless Camp Policy Under Fire: critics see loopholes in rights protections. Galloway deserves major props for taking a second shot at a story the City buried in last Saturday's paper and hitting all the right points.

Broad exceptions to the application of the protocols mean that campers will be evicted without the benefit of rights or process.

This plan has little or nothing to do with ending homelessness, and is punitive and arbitrary.

And then, my favorite quote. Alison Eisinger, on the unfortunate sartorial habits of the Emperor: "It is facile in the extreme to pretend that the 10-year plan is a solution to a problem that affects thousands of people tonight."

Thank God someone finally said it. Anyone who's really paying attention knows that the plan holds few immediate solutions, and that its long-term prospects are dicey at best. To hide behind the Ten Year Plan while criminalizing survival activity is the height of lying hypocrisy.

Eisinger goes on in her reasonable way.
All homeless people have the rights to shelter and services. Further, some people might unwittingly set up camp in recently swept locations, she said.

"When the city puts forward a protocol that is supposed to be designed to help people get off the streets, what we expect to see is a protocol that doesn't punish people for going places where they believe they will be safe," Eisinger said.

Whenever a Nickels administration person gets called on the inconvenient math of very limited space for a large number of unsheltered homeless, the answer runs something like this: "Well, we have a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, because we believe that housing connected to services and not shelter is the answer. It's a Ten Year Plan, not a Two Year Plan. Seattle spends more than $40 million annually on housing and homelessness. 1811 Eastlake ... Plymouth ... blah blah blah. We're committed to ending homelessness and believe we're on track."

This is the rhetorical equivalent of fairy dust. Just a small sprinkle magically makes homeless people disappear.

The key issues of when the protocol applies are now out in the open, and the city is defending their right to take people's stuff without offering warning or services.
Patricia McInturff, director of the city's Human Services Department, said the rules were intended to apply to encampments that hit a "critical mass" of people, not small groups or single individuals illegally camping.

"Certainly, these people are welcome to go to a shelter," said McInturff, who is leaving the department this week. "But it doesn't trigger me calling an outreach team to go out to a neighborhood and post advanced notice for one person."

"How we deal with individuals is something that can be discussed in another setting -- and may or may not be," McInturff said. "But this policy is about encampments."

This is all quite clarifying.

Tim Burgess appears to have closed ranks with the Mayor on this one, despite the fact that none of the issues that once concerned him have been resolved. At least we now know where people stand.

McInturff''s retirement begins today, and her quotes are those of someone who is a) tired of lying, b) a good soldier to the end, and c) already ceasing to really give a crap. Most people I've talked to think there's a straight line between her taking the heat for Greg on this policy and her precipitously announced retirement plans. Many think that the good stuff that exists in this plan is her work, and that she stood up to the face of true evil, as represented by Tim Ceis and Marilyn Littlejohn.

As Patricia heads off into the sunset toward her Hawaii lanai, it scares me to know that, at some deep, carefully submerged level, she was what passes for an ally in this administration.

Serendipitously, the story appears online next to the Dalai Lama photo gallery.

Galloway got it right. She is my new hero. Journalism with integrity lives at the PI.


Pastor Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

yes, angela for the pulitzer! in any case, she did justice to quotes, mine included, though without truly surprising me there was a reply or two afterward about what I said that causes me to wonder just why when we are on the same side with each other we sometimes see fit to think offering better ways to say words is actually worth the air that carries such "advice." Wow! if we are needing to channel into the straight and narrow to stand up against injustice and folly, then maybe we need to take a long trip into the woods and talk to some campers. again, kudos to angela for her second take on getting the point across!