The new Real Change came in today. It's always a mob scene with everyone wanting to be first on the street with the new paper. I stood out on the sidewalk while Steve waited for the line to subside as he told me about last Friday.
"I was sleeping in Meridian Park in Wallingford, totally out. It was like 11 o'clock. Some guy kicks me in the hand, kicks me in the ribs, kicks me in the jaw, and says, 'I know where you live. I'm going to kill you.' And then he runs off. Never seen him before in my life. I called the police and it took them 45 minutes to show up. They took a report and left. Why does it take them 45 minutes?"
He was holding a cup of Ramen noodles. His lower thumb joint looked like a golf ball.
"That the hand he kicked?"
"Yeah, it's all swollen. It hurts. But I can move it. It's not broken." He twitched his thumb to demonstrate.
"Steve, it's fucking broken. There probably isn't much they can do, but you should have it looked at."
"That's all I need is to spend my day in an emergency room."
"Yeah, it sucks."
"I don't know what kind of shoes he was wearing, but it hurt like hell."
Then Steve told me about a couple of guys he knew who were attacked by three high school boys last summer while they slept out at Ballard Locks.
"They just started kicking them. Then they picked Pete up and threw him over the railing. The tide was out, so he hit the rocks. They were all covered with barnacles. He was all cut up. Split his head open. Busted his ribs and his leg. They caught a couple of them, but one is still on the loose."
As the City goes out of its way to identify homeless campers with urine, hypodermic needles, trash, and disease, there will be those who hear the not so subtle subtext loud and clear: These people are less than human. Do with them what you will. We don't care.
Last December, as the Mayor's moved toward the release of new protocols to justify sweeps of homeless encampments, the City Council passed hate crime legislation to increase penalties for malicious harassment of homeless people. This would include, causing physical injury, making threats which cause reasonable fear, or "causing physical damage to or the destruction of property of another person."
The Mayor's office has been quite clear that the ordinance does not apply to their routine practice of discarding homeless people's possessions. Given that this ordinance passed to "fight the dehumanization of the homeless by discouraging behavior that reinforces and promotes dehumanization of the homeless," this issue needs to be revisited.