Friday, May 30, 2008

Letter to Seattle Times

I witnessed the recent Queen Anne campsite clearances and would like to point out that the photograph of a picture on top of garbage bags that ran with Charles Brown's story was very misleadingly captioned. It said some items are bagged and tagged for retrieval for up to 60 days. This sounds quite humane.

A well-maintained campsite was entered at 7 a.m. and its resident of three years was ordered to leave. His valuable tent, which he’d carefully closed completely before going, was opened with a machete. Of his possessions, three bags were marked for retrieval. Twenty were defined as garbage. A gallery quality drawing was declared trash and placed among the items for disposal featured in the photo.

I know. I asked. “It’s trash,” they said. “Take it.”

A civilized society doesn't say to a man who has made a home in the woods for three years, "You have 72 hours to go or your life goes into a dumpster." You learn who he is, build a relationship, and find the right solution. Mayoral press flak David Takami got the close quote: "This is not a punitive thing." Oh really? Then what would you call it?


Anonymous said...

This is a delicate issue, that is for sure. But it has never been fair or equitable to choose to live in a city park. To allow someone to do so, friend or stranger, healthy or ill year after year shows how cold and heartess our civil society is. Sure there is no crime in being poor, sick, or disenfrantized, but to act as if it is some sort of civil right is misguided. To be honest, people living in parks make me feel very afraid and unsafe and very sad.

Sally said...

Just think how "very afraid and unsafe and very sad" this situation is for people who are living in parks right now, Anonymous. The only homes they have are being thrown in the garbage. I assume you have a home to live in since you haven't said that you don't and your words have that definite "I'm sorry for you but..." tone to them.

No, it's not be a civil right to live in a city park. But it should be considered a human right to have a home, meaning a roof and four walls and a door with a key.

Again--as many, many people are asking you and others who say what you say---where should these people go? Don't bring up the "20 new shelter beds" (which weren't really new and are filled every night), unless you've actually slept in a shelter where you must get there by 5-6PM, wait in line, sleep on a mat close to many other mat-sleepers, and then leave at 5-6AM, You haven't? You "choose" to sleep in your house instead of a shelter or a tent in a park? What a surprise. I guess your choice is "fair" and "equitable" since you have the money to exercise it.

Anonymous said...

Please don't minimize the issues here.

It is exactly a human right to have a home. The people who choose, and they do choose to live in a park, have many issues. We do not, as a society serve these issues well. I don't know what they feel, but I assume it is a variety of feelings at different times, just like the rest of us.

It is cruel and heartless to be advocating for a right to sleep in a park. These aren't homes, they are tents and shacks and cardboard and yes, trash. This is public space, taken by private individuals. I think creative activist minds can do more than say "bad city" or point out how inadequate the shelter system is as a point of contact to engage our fellow, sometimes very ill, citizens.

And yes, I choose to spend my money on housing and food and other basics as well as many uneccessary items - I was raised thinking that I had a civic responsibility to do so. Money is not the evil here, nor does it make choices more fair and more equitable.

Sally said...

I invite you, Anonymous, to join those of us "cruel and heartless" advocates in raising our voices for more low-income housing, better-financed shelter, and more services. Most of the time that's what we're doing. Only a small proportion of our time is spent showing our dismay and anger at what the community as a whole is NOT doing for its members. And yes, we're willing to be taxed to provide these things.

Again -- you did not say where you thought these people should be instead of parks. Jail? Prison? Puget Sound? The ether? Miraculously transformed into clones of Bill Gates? Where...Should...They...BE?

Anonymous said...

I invite you to look around and welcome some of us who are already working on these issues, and have been for years and are not satisfied with this response.
How fast you assume that you understand me and my objections. I am so weary of the same old song and dance. Sorry if that offends you.

Tim Harris said...

I don't understand you, anonymous. How could I? I don't even know who you are.

I've been around awhile myself, and don't offend easily. You think I'm "misguided." Fine. Care to elaborate? My opinions are elaborated in this blog in five part harmony and are quite clear. What I know about you is murky at best.

Bill said...

no matter what one says, rightly or wrongly, being "anonymous" makes it useless. If one's name is not good enough to use, then that means duplicity is the intent in one shape or another. Having to protect an identity means this cat has at least 2 lives in force. Both lives cannot be about truth,...