Defecating/urinating, trash, dirty needles, floodgates will open and more homeless will come, property values will go down, children are in danger, hookers will be next, businesses will lose business, why don’t they just get a job, why can’t we just send them some place else, why can’t we put the tents somewhere where they aren’t visible, this will ruin tourism – the shocking sentiments of the majority of attendees at the forum on homelessness.
The forum asked for constructive ideas/solutions for the increased visibility of homeless camps in Moses Lake. Bravo for asking, bravo to those that see people in need of a hand up, to the individuals who are currently homeless that spoke up for themselves, to the high school students who participated, and the people who shared possible solutions for a temporary fix, e.g., open the locked public bathrooms, provide port-a-potties/showers/trash cans, call a cop if you see illegal activity and so forth. But the real issue is how to get money for a shelter that transitions people to permanent housing (federal grants, community donations, more social services for people with disabilities, addictions, mental health issues, job training, an address, et cetera).
The lack of education in the community about who is homeless and why they are here was obvious. All of us are only about three paychecks away from being homeless. I would challenge every single person in that room to spend just one evening at the Warming Center to understand the circumstances of homelessness. Google the “Harm Reduction Program” and learn something.
Shame on those that laughed when someone joked about discretionary law enforcement, those that are teaching their kids to fear the unknown instead of what it means to have compassion and those that want to hide the tents. Understand why the Ninth Circuit made the ruling that it did and why Moses Lake must abide by it. To the businesses that spoke without compassion, you’ve lost my patronage.
We need to work together (advocacy, relationships, organizing and action for economic/social justice) to reach a solution that balances compassion and benefits our community. You can either be a part of the solution or a part of the problem.
Vaughn A. Blethen