Saturday, September 27, 2008

Lending A Hand, And Pushing Back


Tonight Twin B started crying because she got shoved by Twin A. I didn't see the incident, but was called upon to dispense some daddy justice in the aftermath. She'd been walking around with a big pink ball, taking what I considered excessive joy in not allowing her sister to play with the thing.

"She pushed me," she wailed.

"Well, baby, when you play keep-away, one of the risks you run is that you might get pushed."

As soon as I said it, I realized the richness of the metaphor.

As Nickelsville continues this weekend in the state-owned parking lot adjacent to the original site, the Mayor is under increasing pressure to do something real to ease the pain of Seattle's homeless. He received a letter recently from a delegation of electeds who attended the Committee to End Homelessness in King County's legislative breakfast this week. The Mayor was there as well. He's all about ending homelessness. Just ask him. But when a few ministers asked him to meet with faith community leaders to discuss Nickelsville and his homeless sweeps policies, the Mayor replied, "Absolutely not. It's going down."

Fortunately, others are working to hold him accountable as well. Here's the letter.
Letter to the Mayor: September 26, 2008
The Honorable Greg Nickels Mayor of Seattle, Seattle City Hall

Dear Mayor Nickels,

As legislators representing districts in the Seattle area, we are calling on you today to enter into discussions with the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Real Change, Veterans for Peace Chapter 92 and other interested parties in order to craft a humane and productive path forward in regards to the real and urgent needs of the homeless and destitute people of Seattle.

The City of Seattle has been an important partner in the state goal to end homelessness. We know you share the desire to substantively address the complex and difficult issues affecting homeless people. As many of us discussed yesterday at the Legislative Breakfast for the King County Coalition to End Homelessness, you have put real resources on the ground to accomplish this goal, just as the state has.

In light of our shared commitment, we feel the positive path forward would be to negotiate with the Church Council for the removal of tents and to enter in to partnership discussions with these organizations to identify both short and long term solutions to help our homeless people, instead of the City of Seattle taking immediate action.

As we approach the winter months where homelessness becomes an even harsher and more difficult reality for many men, women and families, we hope you will quickly and urgently move to bring people together in partnership and dialogue. We appreciate your immediate attention to this request and would be happy to participate in solution-oriented discussions.

Thank you and sincerely,

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 36th District, Sen. Joe McDermott, 34th District, Rep. Eileen Cody, 34th District, Rep. Sharon Nelson, 34th District, Rep. Bob Hasegawa, 11th District, Rep. Ruth Kagi, 32nd District, Rep. Maralyn Chase, 32nd District, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, 36th District, Rep. Helen Sommers, 36th District, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, 37th District, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, 37th District, Rep. Frank Chopp, 43rd District, Rep. Phyllis Guiterrez Kenney, 46th District
Over the past week, I've seen some remarkable sights. The Chief of the Duwamish tribe standing in solidarity with homeless people. The Governor intervening to give the Church Council more time to find a solution for the encampment. Twenty-two people being arrested rather than give ground. Hundreds of supporters turning out to offer support and solidarity to homeless campers. A media frenzy unlike anything I've ever witnessed (and I was at UMass-Amherst for the Abbie Hoffman/Amy Carter show), with coverage that was almost entirely sympathetic to the campers. A neighborhood community council welcoming the campers into their midst. Homeless people managing a large encampment with what can only be termed grace under fire. People coping with extraordinary personal challenges acting with bravery and commitment, and many, many others pitching in with both hands to help their efforts succeed.

This past week, I witnessed much more than a homeless encampment. I saw a movement, in action, winning. The Mayor's Big Lie that Seattle provides shelter and services to anyone who needs it is less credible than ever, and the pressure is mounting for him to make those words real.

Just tonight, Linda Brill of King5, who has been on this story like white on rice, drove another spike into the Mayor's groin. Some of the Nickelodeans who accepted the city's "guarantee" of shelter, it turns out, didn't get it. The shelters were full. They were turned away from Operation Nightwatch last night with a bus ticket back to Nickelsville.

This, to anyone who is aware of the state of emergency shelter in Seattle, is completely unsurprising.

This afternoon, Revel and I took the girls to Kubota Garden, a magical 20-acre Japanese garden in South Seattle, and swung by Nickelsville on the way home. The Nickelodeons were awash in donated fruit so we were given a bag of pears to take home. The girls were given Dum-dums to suck on and I was handed a stack of kid books as well. Twin A wore her pirate hat and made "aargh" sounds at anyone who cared to listen. Several neighbors came by and let the girls pet their dogs. They had supplies to donate. One was handing out copies of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights that she'd photocopied onto pink paper.

"What do you think is going to happen," asked one of the neighbors?

"Hard to say," I said, "but the Mayor is under a lot of pressure to find a solution."

"I know what he should do," she snorted. "He should open that land back up and let them back in. They aren't bothering anyone."

"I know," I said. "You're right. But this is a guy who's driven by ego. He's not going to admit a mistake."

"Ooh yeah," she smirked. "It takes a real big man to beat up on people who have absolutely nothing."

I couldn't have put it better myself.

1 comment:

Bill said...

There's a point in all thjis where weeping is the only response, and yet there are as many tears of joy as there are of anguish. Hope is a remarkable thing. Maybe we are moving toward a country, county, even cities, where hope is allowed to live again.