"As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of demand." — Josh Billings

SCRUB THIS CITY! The Plan to end homelessness in Seattle, by Bruce Brown

Fenynal Firebombin in Seattle
The scene of the Fentynal Firebombing between the Freeway and Harborview Hospital in Seattle on July 21, 2023. The bombs were intended to kill 20 people who were smoking fentynal in a downtown homeless camp. (KOMO-TV image)

Scrub This City! The Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in Seattle by Bruce Brown

  1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle
  2. The impact of homeless on everyone else in Seattle
  3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!
  4. About the Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle
  5. The Seattle Plan

September 1, 2023

1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle

DO YOU ACTUALLY know any homeless people? I do. Let me tell you about my friend Brad.

I’ve never met a more talented guy than Brad. He had his own nationally televised series on NBC-TV before he was 30 years old, and his debut album was released on a major label with backing by a bunch of L.A. music heavy weights.

But it turned out that Brad is a cocaine addict and an alcoholic – and he has some unexamined and unaddressed emotional problems as well — so he lost it all, meaning everything except his residuals. And yet, at times, he seems fine, maybe even better than fine.

The last time I saw Brad was in Seattle, but he wasn’t homeless then. In fact, he was renting a very nice upscale waterfront bungalow on the Ship Canal between the Locks and Shilshole. He had a girlfriend 20 years younger than himself and a new yellow Fender Stratocaster, and he was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings daily. But it all fell apart for Brad again, and he was on the street and homeless within a year.

I was there (in a manner of speaking) when Brad stumbled and fell. It was the middle of the night. The phone rang. Although I was still asleep, I felt Lisa stiffen in the bed beside me. Lisa was my partner — and Brad’s mother – and this was her absolute worst nightmare scenario.

It always began with a phone call in the middle of the night, with Lisa waking to find her son, Brad, on the other end of the line. He was ebullient and had a great idea for a new song. Brad really loved his mom, and he wanted to sing his new song to his mom over the phone in the middle of the night. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could clearly hear the tone of Brad’s voice. Brad sounded tremendously up.

His mom, however, was not up, either literally or figuratively. In fact, she had just been plunged into a dark, icy pit of despair because she instinctively knew that her son had relapsed, which meant he would be kicked out of the halfway house (if that’s where he was living at the time), or he would lose his lease (if he was renting a place of his own at the time).

Either way, Lisa knew her son would soon be on the streets again as the wheel spun ‘round and ‘round for him with no end in sight.

* * *

THEN THERE’S A homeless woman I know named Beth, who has a Ph.D. in microbiology and is also schizophrenic. Beth was living on and off the street like Brad until her mother purchased a very nice view home for her to live in, rent free. Beth’s mom, Susan, also gives her daughter a monthly allowance, but frets that the money goes to drugs and bad boyfriends.

Susan has succeeded in getting her daughter off the street, but one of Beth’s delusions is that her mother is her worst enemy. So Beth heaps loathing on her mom in repayment for buying her a house to live in free and giving her a cash allowance.

No good deed goes unpunished, as my mother used to say.

* * *

Life in the huge Seattle homeless camp, The Jungle, the day after a shooting spree there killed two and seriously wounded three more in January 2016.

AND HOW ABOUT Ace? Ace was the younger son of a friend of mine named Don. Ace grew up in a real home (although his parents divorced when he was in high school), had a girl friend, and got along with others pretty well.

After he graduated from high school, he had a series of unskilled jobs culminating with the one he held for a half decade before he died — working in the kitchen of a very popular upscale Italian restaurant as a dishwasher.

His real passion, though, was fast motorcycles, especially fast dirt bikes. In fact, he became something of a collector, with a storage unit in the South End stuffed with motorcycles. Then in his late 20s, his attention turned to street bikes and he got an ultra fast Kawasaki crotch rocket.

It was on this bike, in the middle of the night, on a twisty road in the foothills of the Cascades, that he died.

His mangled body lay off the side of the road near the bike for 36 hours before anybody found him. No one knows exactly what happened, but afterwards my friend Don learned several things about his son, Ace.

The biggest discovery was that Ace had been homeless for years. Even though he worked full time as a dish washer in a fancy restaurant, he didn’t make enough money for the motorcycles he wanted and the storage unit for them, and an apartment too.

So he lived with his girlfriend for awhile, and after they broke up he lived in his car a bit, and often crashed on the sofas of friends.

And his parents, who both talked to him at least once a week, didn’t even know he was homeless!

Ace is not alone. King County statistics indicate that 20 percent of the homeless population in the Seattle area is working full time, but doesn’t make enough to pay rent for housing!

This is the 21st century definition of “working poor” in America.

* * *

FREDDIE WAS ANOTHER homeless friend of mine. He was a sort of homeless pioneer, living on and off the street in Seattle before there was any significant “homelessness” in America as we know it now.

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Freddie was two years older than me, but we were really good buddies through our early teenage years. We were in different grades and different schools, but we played baseball and water skied together every summer. I was better at baseball and Freddie was better at water skiing.

Then in the summer he was 16, Freddie hit a submerged log while water skiing off the Laurelhurst Beach on Lake Washington, and suffered a serious head injury. We drifted apart after that, but I heard he didn’t finish high school, and then every few years I’d run into him in the U District or on Capitol Hill. He usually asked me for money, and I usually complied with the small change in my pocket.

Freddie’s mom, Laurel, supported Freddie for the duration of her long life, and she also established a trust fund to care for Freddie for the remainder of his life, but she never did what I did — never gave her son cash money. Instead, she gave clothes and other items he could use. She also lived in a gated community with 24/7 security, and never let Freddie know her address or even the part of Seattle where she lived.

Freddie could get wild when he’d been doing drugs, so for her own safety she felt she had to control the rules of engagement with her beloved son, and what’s what she did for 30 some years.

* * *

FAMILIES HAVE ALWAYS been the life ring for many people facing homelessness in America.

When the Joad family lost their Dust Bowl farm in The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the Great Depression, all the Joads had left was family, and the collective strength of the impoverished family was what got them through to California.

Similarly, in Tennessee Williams 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire, when “emotionally fragile” Blanche DuBois got fired from her teaching job for sleeping with a student, and she had nowhere to turn, her younger and poorer sister, Stella, took her in.

And when my maternal grandfather’s Birmingham, Alabama, business failed during the Great Depression and the family literally lost everything – the business, the house, the cars, the servants, and most grievous of all, my grandfather, who died of a heart attack in 1931 – the thing that saved my mom’s family was that my grandma had a sister who — praise be to God! — had a JOB teaching at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, Washington.

So my grandma made a long distance phone call from Birmingham to Seattle (back in the days when a transcontinental phone call was about as big a deal as a visit from the President), and explained the situation to her older sister, Adeline. Family legend recounts that Adeline’s immediate response was a merry laugh.

“Of course you can all stay here!” she exclaimed. “Come to Seattle and stay with me.”

Whereupon, my grandma sold everything she could in Birmingham, packed what was left in four suitcases, and took the train to Seattle with my 19-year old mom and her 17-year old brother. My mother, who had to drop out of Bryn Mawr when my grandpa died, told me she didn’t even know where Seattle was. “I thought there were igloos there,” she told me years later.

Once my mom’s family arrived in Seattle, they discovered to their dismay that my Aunt Adeline lived in a very small studio apartment in the University District at 42nd and Brooklyn and slept on a Murphy Bed, which folded up into a closet when not in use during the day.

So the four of them (my grandma, her sister, my mom, and her younger brother) slept in shifts on the one bed, while my grandma and her kids tried to get jobs as fast as they could.

An unemployed man with a placard
An unemployed man standing on the street with a placard during the Great Depression. (Wayne State University image)

* * *

THERE ARE SOME fortunate homeless people today – like my brain-damaged friend Freddie, and my friend Susan’s schizophrenic daughter Beth – who have family to fall back on the way my mom’s family did during the Great Depression.

Freddie and Beth’s families weren’t torn apart by divorce, drugs, careers, culture, and all the rest, so their situation is better than most, and in Beth’s case – she isn’t even homeless anymore! These are real homeless success stories — success stories created by the homeless people’s own families! — but you don’t hear much about them because they’re not wandering around in their underwear muttering to themselves on Broadway.

However, as you know from walking the streets of any American city today, many Americans today are not as fortunate as Freddie and Beth. The American family has been under assault for a long time from many directions, and now, during the 21st century, we’ve come to a phase where the dysfunction and decay in the family that was once most associated with black families in America is now found commonly in white American families too, especially in the lower socio-economic strata.

During his Congressional testimony in 2017, Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, said: “The white working class family is today more fragile than the black family was at the time of the famous alarm-sounding 1965 ‘Report on the Negro Family’ by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.”

Similarly, an article by Ashton M. Verdery and Rachel Margolis in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences observed in 2017: “Evidence is accumulating that the legacy of divorce and remarriage has a long reach straining inter-generational relationships and suppressing the support that divorced parents, stepparents, and remarried biological parents might expect from their children in later life.”

“The upshot of all of this is a growing subculture of loosely bound or even isolated adults,” Kay S. Hymowitz wrote in the Washington Times in 2019. “No wonder so many of them lapse into despair. Humans have always depended on close kin to love and care for them, especially when times are tough. The dismantling of kin networks is proving to be especially hard on the weak, ill, and elderly.”

Plus more and stronger drugs are available everywhere, many now legal and as easy to obtain as aspirin.

The result? Many more people are on the street, and many more of them are seriously dysfunctional, as we are now seeing in every major American city, particularly in (formerly) attractive West Coast cities like Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and San Diego where the garbage, drugs, violence and appallingly bad public behavior of the homeless population have degraded urban life.

* * *

This was once a popular U District day spa, located next door to the Seattle Audi dealer and across the street from the Seattle Fire Department station and the University Branch of the Seattle Public Library. (Bruce Brown image)

BUT AS UNPLEASANT as homelessness can be for people living near a homeless camp, the worst aspects of homelessness are actually reserved for the homeless themselves, who must live every day with fear and violence and drugs and privation and disease and humiliation. And aloneness.

Despite the fact that many homeless people have cell phones, they are frequently cut off from people who were once friends and family to them, by their own bad behavior in the past and/or or their depression or unclear thinking in the present.

Let me tell you a story from the black side of my family. I remember a big, boisterous Thanksgiving dinner at Mollie’s place in South Seattle. Mollie was the matriarch of this large, extended, mostly black clan. She and her late husband, Fred, had moved to Seattle, Washington, from Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1944 because Boeing was hiring, which allowed Fred to get a good job, buy a house, and raise the family that was largely gathered together for Thanksgiving Dinner that evening, the year after Fred’s passing.

There were a lot of people at Mollie’s that evening, maybe two dozen including the grandkids, and the room smelled like a lot of really good food was about to be eaten. I was in the kitchen talking to Mollie, when a stir suddenly ran through the room. Then Mollie’s youngest daughter, Macy, a large and assured woman who worked as a clerk in the King County Courts, came to her mother and said, “it’s Suzette. She’s at the door.”

Suzette was Mollie’s black sheep granddaughter, the daughter of her middle daughter, who had started getting in trouble with boys and drugs pretty much as soon as she was able.

Suzette was also the biological mother of my wife and my adopted daughter, so there was a lot of emotion hanging in the air as Mollie turned to Macy and asked, “have you spoken to her?”

Macy nodded. “She’s loaded,” Macy said.

Mollie’s mouth tightened, and then she let out a big sigh. The Green family had a rule – it was Fred’s Rule — that you couldn’t come in the house if you were loaded. It didn’t matter if you were dirty or deranged or didn’t have a dime. The door was open. But you couldn’t bring the drugs into the house, which meant you couldn’t come in the house yourself if you were loaded. So Macy went to the door and delivered the verdict, closed the door in Suzette’s face, and locked it.

And so… where did Suzette go when Mollie and Macy turned her away that nippy Thanksgiving night? She probably walked to a homeless camp along the freeway south of the Albro Place exit off I-5. Suzette didn’t drive, so she probably walked to Mollie’s, and then walked back to the homeless camp in the dark with the memory of that bright room full of the happy voices of her family, and how the door was closed on her and she was left standing alone in the dark and cold. Fuckers didn’t even let her use the bathroom.

The contrast could not have been more stark. On the one hand, the happy family, the smell of Thanksgiving dinner (with both stuffed turkey and ham), the brightly lit room with the long table; and on the other hand, the darkness, the hunger, the cold, the lack of a bathroom.

And I wonder if Suzette thought of the now adopted child she had borne just six months before as she walked down the dark street, thought about how own family wouldn’t let her see her own child on Thanksgiving.

I wonder if she realized that she would never know this child whom she had borne.

* * *

Sabrina Peckham, home;ess woman eaten by alligator
Sabrina Peckham, 41, a homeless woman who was killed and then partly eaten by an alligator near Largo, Florida, in September 2023, two months after been warned by the County Sheriff not to go into the area where she was killed. (New York Post image)

IT’S SAFE TO say that most homeless people are not happy campers. Failed job opportunities, failed relationships and failed individual encounters are big themes in many homeless people’s lives.

And generally speaking, homelessness is not working out very well for them, either.

As a report on homelessness issued by King County in 2022 noted, “No one wants to be homeless — it’s dangerous, stressful, and humiliating. Being homeless is not easy or comfortable [with] desperate people living in tents or in cars without water, heat or sanitation.”

And the homeless are prey to indignities beyond imagining — like Sabrina Peckham, a homeless woman who was killed and then partly eaten by a 13-foot, 8.5-inch alligator in Largo, Florida in September 2023.

Peckam, 41, is also a Darwin Award nominee. As the New York Post reported:

The homeless woman was caught by Pinellas County deputies around 6:30 a.m. July 14 for trespassing on county wetland just half a mile from where she was found dead Friday, court records show.

Peckham ignored posted signage warning against unlawful entry.

After pleading no contest to the misdemeanor, she was released by the county Sept. 8 and was fined $500.

Two months later, she was killed and partly eaten by an alligator while trespassing again nearby. So you could say Sabrina Peckham committed suicide by alligator, which on the face of it seems Darwin Award-worthy.

History shows us many examples of holy men — such as Jesus Christ and the Buddha — who were homeless wanderers, but the reality of 21st century homelessness in America is squalid and mean, not uplifting and enlightened.

In homeless America in the 21st century, even the simplest things in life can be difficult or impossible. And you are completely alone and on your own in this world.

“We don’t use the ‘f-word’ or the ‘t-word’ here,” I heard a homeless person say once about living on the street.

“The ‘f-word’ is friendship and the ‘t-word’ is trust.”

Asked why she was living on the street, the 30-something white prostitute continued with a quick smile, “it’s a magic, non-stop carousel of drugs. You can get anything you want any hour of the night or day.”

Another homeless woman prostitute was asked why she smoked fentynal. She replied, “that way I don’t care if I get robbed or beat up or raped.”

As a father with two daughters, I have to say it is beyond appalling that this sort of thing is happening in America today.

Scrub This City! The Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in Seattle by Bruce Brown

  1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle
  2. The impact of homeless on everyone else in Seattle
  3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!
  4. About the Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle
  5. The Seattle Plan

2. The impact of homelessness on everyone else in Seattle

THE SEATTLE I grew up in was a bright-eyed, inventive city: enthusiastic, talented, and eager for its own future. It was not a lay-about city, but it loved recreation, especially outdoor recreation. It was not an ostentatious city, but it was a notably beautiful, clean and polite one.

When I was a kid growing up, Seattle strenuously enforced litter laws. You’d get a ticket for dropping your candy wrapper on the sidewalk in Seattle if a cop saw you do it in 1962. Similarly, Seattle strenuously enforced anti-j-walking ordinances. If you didn’t walk across the street in a crosswalk, they’d nail you with a ticket and a fine. It was only years later when I got to the East Coast that I learned many American cities didn’t care about j-walking at all!

And the famous Seattle politeness! I remember driving through the Arboretum in my dad’s VW bug with my East Coast college roommate, David, who was visiting for Christmas vacation 1971. We passed a VW bus going the other way, and both the driver of the bus and I waved at each other. David turned to me and asked, “do you know that guy?” I said, “no, but VW drivers wave to each other in Seattle.” David just shook his head, marveling at the strange customs on Mars.

The Seattle I knew was an imagine-something-that-has-never-been-done-before (commercial aviation, the personal computer, the global coffee shop), and-then-make-it-happen-with-elan city! Boeing, UPS, Peterbilt, REI, Safeco, Washington Mutual, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon are American mega-corporations that came out of Seattle during the 20th century.

So Y2K was an exciting and prosperous time in Seattle with Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon all rising with the new century, but it was also then that I began to notice something different about Seattle. I noticed it first along Interstate-5 on the approach to the city from the north. Squalid squatters’ camps began appearing along the sides of the freeway, in the plantings and under the trees on public land. As time passed, the camps grew, as did the impressive piles of physical garbage in and around them, and the garbage graffiti scrawled on the freeway signs and just about everything else.

The number of homeless people was still relatively small then, but their impact was disproportionately large because they were so visible. Homelessness changed what Seattle saw when it looked in the mirror. As you viewed it on the freeway approaches to downtown Seattle, the city that had been beautiful was now squalid, and the city that had been so bright-eyed and polite had now lost the gleam in its eye because it smoked meth and defecated in public.

But that is just the beginning of it. The homeless problem in Seattle goes far deeper than self-image.

* * *

Seattle Police deploying on January 26, 2016, the night of the mass shooting in the The Jungle homeless camp, January 2016
Seattle Police deploying on January 26, 2016, the night of the mass shooting in the The Jungle homeless camp that left two people dead and three others seriously wounded. (Gena Martin / Seattle P-I image)

MUCH MORE CRIME. That’s the three word answer to the question, “what is the biggest result of homelessness in Seattle?”

Study after study in city after city has found the same thing, and it makes plain sense. Like all desperate people, homeless people are more likely to commit crimes than the rest of the public:

  • In Portland, OR, in 2020, a Portland State University study by Kortney Lynn Russell studied “crime concentration… within one-block of [homeless] camp locations. Results indicated that crime was 2.9 times more concentrated within this area, as compared to the city.” In other words, crime reports were nearly 300 percent higher near homeless camps in Portland than elsewhere in Portland during 2020.
  • A 2022 study of the Los Angeles Police Department Open Crime Database led by Grace Matheny revealed that homeless people are involved in far more violent crimes than the general population of Los Angeles, committing 15 percent of all violent crimes in Los Angeles in 2020 and 2021. In other words, less than 1 percent of the population (the homeless) committed 15 percent of the total violent crimes in Los Angeles in 2020 and 2021!
  • Meanwhile, in San Diego, CA, in 2022, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan released a report detailing crime rates in homeless versus non-homeless populations from 2019 to 2021. For felony-level offenses, the DA’s office reported that homeless individuals were up to 514 times more likely to commit crimes. In other words, homeless people were much, much more likely to commit felony crimes than people in the general population in San Diego during 2019-2021.
  • San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan’s report also indicates that homeless offenders have nearly a 100 percent recidivism rate! According to Stephan, 98 percent of homeless individuals cited for a crime in San Diego during 2019-2021 had two or more cases already filed against them. In other words, almost every criminal homeless person in San Diego committed numerous crimes during 2019-2021!
  • In Seattle, WA, in 2022, data released by the Seattle Police Department showed a 144 percent increase in gun related crimes by homeless people over just a three year span, 2020 through 2022. In 2020, approximately 18 percent of all shootings incidents in Seattle were associated with homelessness. Three years later, the number of shootings reported to the Seattle Police Department involving the homeless had jumped to more than 42 percent.

These numbers have gotten some attention in Seattle. Seattle City Councilman Andrew Lewis, who chairs the City Council’s committee on homelessness, told the Seattle Times in 2022: “it is blatantly evident that a significant amount of the city’s crime and disorder is attributable to conditions in homeless encampments.”

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat wrote that Lewis “was shaken by this data — not because he didn’t know the unauthorized encampments were dangerous, but because his own committee hadn’t grappled with the extent of it.

“Probably nobody on his committee would have guessed that homelessness and the encampments were a bigger associating factor with Seattle’s shooting epidemic than gang activity (though there’s also some crossover between the two).”

* * *

Jordan Neely, left, a homeless schizophrenic who was screaming, “I want to die” to other passengers on a New York subway car on May 1, 2023, moments before he menaced a recently retired U.S. Marine, Daniel Penny, right. Penny killed Neely in the ensuing fight. (ABC 7 Chicago image)

YOU FREQUENTLY SEE stories in the press about attacks on homeless people carried out by the general public.

The most recent example is the sad story of Jordan Neely, a mentally ill homeless man and Darwin Award nominee who was screaming “I want to die” moments before he committed suicide by menacing a recently retired U.S. Marine on a New York subway train on May 1, 2023.

The 24-year old former Marine, Daniel Penny, wrestled Neely to the ground and held him in a choke hold while others in the subway car tried to grab Neely’s flailing arms and legs. When the struggle was over, Neely was dead of asphyxiation. The New York Prosecutors Office has charged Daniel Penny (who is white) with Second Degree Manslaughter in the death of Jordan Neely (who is black), but one witness in the subway car at the time said she thanked Penny.

“I hope he has a great lawyer, and I’m praying for him,” the 66-year-old woman, who did not want to be identified, told the New York Post. “And I pray that he gets treated fairly, I really do. Because after all of this ensued, I went back and made sure that I said ‘Thank you’ to him.”

From the broad play in the press that stories like the death of homeless people like Jordan Neely receive, you might conclude that homeless people are frequently the target of attacks, but this is not the case. Statistically speaking, criminal cases with homeless victims are rare compared to criminal cases with homeless suspects.

The 2022 study of the Los Angeles Police Department Open Crime Database led by Grace Matheny cited above also found that in 2020 about 12,000 crimes were reported where the suspects were homeless, as opposed to 3,300 crimes where the homeless were victims. In other words, homeless people were the perpetrators of crimes nearly four times as often as they were victims of crimes in Los Angeles in 2020!

And in those instances where a homeless person may have been reported as the victim of a crime by a person from the general public, there is frequently some sort of extenuating back story between the people involved. I don’t think it will shock anyone if I say that homeless people generally make very bad neighbors — with lots of garbage, dead cars, drug use, rude behavior and trespassing and crime in general – which inspires animosity among the general population toward these uninvited guests, animosity that would not be directed at the homeless if the homeless behaved decently and didn’t degrade the neighborhood around their homeless camps.

Let me tell you about another friend of mine named Larry. Larry is not homeless. He’s a mechanic and a Christian musician, and up until last year he owned a very nice house in Port Angeles. He sold his house and moved out of Washington State, though, because he was prosecuted for first degree assault in Port Angeles when he physically booted a homeless guy off his place after the homeless guy defecated on his property. The homeless guy was trespassing and literally wasting the place that was Larry’s pride and joy, but when the dust cleared Larry was the one who was charged with a crime!

So Larry had to go through the whole trauma and expense of preparing for trial, only to have the Port Angeles Prosecuting Attorney drop the charges the day before the trial was set to start. Six months later, Larry and his wife moved to upstate New York, and “the hassle with the homeless guy and the Prosecuting Attorney” was “absolutely” the reason why. So in Larry’s case, what the metrics of crime counts as a crime against a homeless person is completely inaccurate. Actually, the opposite is true. The crime was committed by the homeless person, not Larry!

Furthermore, the unprosecuted criminal behavior of the homeless in Port Angeles had a significant impact on Larry and his wife Mallory’s lives. There is no measure of this in crime statistics, but here’s the blunt fact of the matter: the unprosecuted crimes of a homeless stranger completely upended the lives of my friends Larry and Mallory, two decent, law abiding, property tax-paying American citizens who were well liked in the community.

This is part of the cost of homelessness.

* * *

The City of Seattle Budget Office calculates that homelessness has cost the City of Seattle almost $1 billion over the last decade, but the actual cost could be six times that, or $6 billion, if you include public costs not calculated by the Budget Office and the equally huge cost to the private sector through loss of business, loss of property values, criminal theft, etc.

OK, NOW let’s talk DOLLAR cost! According to the City Budget Office, annual spending on homelessness by the City of Seattle increased from $33.3 million to $153.7 million between 2013 and 2023, down from an all-time high of $167.4 million in 2021.

That’s nearly a 500 percent increase in the cost of homelessness to the City of Seattle over a decade! Altogether, the City of Seattle spent nearly a $1 billion on homelessness during the decade, 2013-2023, again according to the City Budget Office.

As shocking as these figures are, they actually represent an incomplete accounting of the cost of homelessness to the City of Seattle. In addition to municipal expenditures, homelessness also cost the City of Seattle revenues through loss of property values – and hence property taxes — adjacent to homeless camps.

This is hard to quantify, but nonetheless very real. Let me express it in personal terms. I own a condo across the street from a homeless center, and I estimate that homelessness costs me 15 percent a month off the rent I could otherwise charge for the same property in the same location.

Speaking personally again, I think homelessness probably costs me a little more than that off the sale value of the property in the market, maybe 20 percent. Multiply this loss times all the property owners affected by homelessness in Seattle, and you can see that homelessness costs both the City of Seattle and Seattle property owners a lot of money.

* * *

AND THERE’S ANOTHER major cost of homelessness that is not accounted for in the City Budget Office’s report on the cost of homelessness.

That’s long term nursing home care for the homeless. Sure, the City is spending a lot for social and health services, but it doesn’t pay for long-term nursing home care that is mandated by State law, and neither the State nor the Feds pay for it either.

So in this instance, what is an authentic public and publicly mandated expense is actually forced on the private sector, which of course passes the cost along to its customers as best it can, which in this case means all patients in nursing homes. But since nursing home billing rates are effectively capped by Medicare and Medicaid, the only thing left for nursing homes to do is cut their overhead by cutting their level of care for ALL patients.

I have a friend who is a retired Seattle nurse and former Director of Nursing at an extended care facility who explained to me how the system works: “The lucky ones [among the homeless people] get put in the hospital, and then automatically discharged to a nursing home to complete their recovery.

“State law prohibits nursing homes from discharging people who can’t pay, though, so once a homeless person gets into a nursing home, it’s impossible to get them out. They remain in the nursing home, at public expense, for the rest of their lives.

“We’re not talking a few isolated cases here either. We’re talking a lot of homeless people on a taxpayer paid nursing home vacation for the duration.

“This, in turn, places a great deal of financial stress on the nursing homes, which are forced by the State of Washington to become permanent repositories of the sickest portion of the homeless population without receiving adequate funding to pay for it!

“So,” my retired Nursing Director friend continued, “the nursing homes cut services and staff across the board as their load of unpaid homeless patients increases. What else can they do? Nothing, really, if they want to stay in business.

“But this means chronic short staffing, and maybe no one is available to answer Mrs. Jones’ buzzer immediately when she falls off the commode, so Mrs. Jones – who IS paying her bill — dies alone on the floor, and her family never gets to pay its last respects…”

This too is part of the cost of homelessness.

* * *

SADLY, HOMELESSNESS FRAUD is also a part of the cost of homelessness in Seattle.

I have a friend who is a day laborer. He’s known as Curly because he shaves his head, and let me tell you, this guy works for his money. You think you’re working hard. You try making it on day laborer wages with a family and kids and two cars and a home!

Curly’s also pretty sharp, even though he didn’t graduate high school because his family was so poor. I almost always learn something when I get together with Curly.

So the last time I saw Curly, he said, “you’ll never guess what.”

I said, “you’re right.”

He said, “yesterday I was driving by the Mall with Delores (his wife) and I saw I guy I know from the Labor Hall sitting on the corner in a lawn chair with a sign in his lap that said, ‘Homeless. Please help me. God bless.’

“This guy isn’t homeless!” Curly exclaimed. “He lives in a single-wide on his son’s property. And he can work! I’ve worked with him, although he’s always the guy who finds a way to fxxk off.

“Why would he just sit there and beg?! I can’t understand that at all. Why would you just sit and beg when you can work for money?

Curly concluded vehemently, “I don’t want no handout from nobody!”

And Curly isn’t homeless either. In fact, he owns his own house. It’s the oldest, most beat up house on the street (it was condemned by the City at one point), but he fixed it up and now he’s buying on a private contract deal.

* * *

NOW BACK TO the true dollar cost of homelessness. The City of Seattle Budget Office calculates that homelessness cost the City nearly $1 billion in expenditures over the last decade.

If you add in the cost of lost property tax revenues and the cost of state-mandated long term nursing home care for the homeless, the total cost of homelessness in Seattle could easily triple to $3 billion over the last decade.

Then if you add in the major private sector costs from homelessness such as loss of property value and loss of business, it is entirely possible that the total public/private sector cost of homelessness in Seattle could total to double that, or $6 billion over the last decade!

An estimated six billion dollars over the last decade in Seattle for an utterly failed homelessness policy? People, we simply must do better than this!

John Robert Charlton, a homeless man who murdered and then dismembered Ingrid Lynn, a nurse and single mother, after they went on a date to a Seattle Mariners game on April 8, 2016. (Montana Dept. of Corrections image)

Scrub This City! The Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in Seattle by Bruce Brown

  1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle
  2. The impact of homeless on everyone else in Seattle
  3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!
  4. About the Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle
  5. The Seattle Plan

3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!

FOR ME, THE homeless problem in Seattle is bookended by four infamous Seattle crimes — in two pairs of two — which display an odd symmetry, although separated by seven years.

The first (in chronological order) is the notorious January 2016 shooting spree in The Caves “neighborhood” of The Jungle, a sprawling 150 acre homeless camp on the west side of Beacon Hill in South Seattle, during which two homeless teenage brothers killed two other homeless people (one man and one woman) and wounded three more. Prosecutors said their motive was to rob a small-time drug dealer of about $100 worth of heroin and several hundred dollars in cash.

The second murder in this rogue’s gallery of notorious Seattle homeless crimes is the Mariners Game Date Murder. (Or I should say, the FIRST Mariners Game Date Murder, because there was another Mariner’s Game Date Murder earlier this year, under somewhat similar circumstances.) But here I’m referring to the utterly tragic death of Ingrid Lynne, a nurse and single mother, who was murdered and dismembered by a homeless laborer named John Robert Charlton after they went together on a date to a Mariners game on April 8, 2016. The brutality of this murder, and the fact that body parts kept turning up for a week or so, really put Seattle on edge at the time.

For me personally, and many others as well, I think, the ghastly murders committed by homeless people in Seattle during early 2016 were a big signal that Seattle had capital H, capital P, Homeless Problem, and this homeless problem was no longer a scenic issue of broken and drugged out people lazing about on the otherwise gorgeous landscape with limited fallout that was localized to the tourist industry. It was now apparent that Seattle’s homeless problem was actually a broad public safety issue of the highest order.

In fact, then Seattle Mayor Ed Murray had declared a Homeless State of Emergency in Seattle a couple months before the 2016 shooting spree in The Jungle, and a few months afterwards the City of Seattle razed The Jungle. Nonetheless, homeless population growth, the soaring cost of homelessness, and homeless violence have all continued unabated in Seattle and King County in the years since.

The homeless population growth? In 2016, 29,462 people experienced homelessness in King County, the county that contains Seattle, according to King County’s Homeless Management Information System, a database of people who requested homelessness services. By 2022, six years later, the number of homeless people requesting services from King County had swelled to 53,500. In other words, the number of homeless in the Seattle area came close to doubling in the last six years.

And the violent crimes by homeless people? Let’s proceed to the third of the infamous crimes that bookend the homeless story in Seattle to this point. It was the morning of June 13, 2023, and Bell Town restaurant owner Eina Kwon, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was stopped in traffic with her husband, Sung Kwon, in their white Tesla at the corner of Fourth and Lenora.

Suddenly, a schizophrenic drifter and sometimes homeless man named Cordell Goosby stepped off the curb and – without any warning at all — emptied the magazine of his stolen pistol into Sung and Eina Kwong. Both Eina Kwon and her unborn child died at Harborview Hospital a short time later. Sung Kwon was badly wounded, but he survived.

A police report described the killings as an “execution,” and Seattle police said the attack came without any warning. Surveillance cameras showed there was no interaction at all between the Kwons and Goosby prior to the sudden attack. Goosby is a convicted felon from Illinois and is black. The Kwons own the nearby Aburiya Bento House in Seattle and are Korean.

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell condemned the killings, and Seattle seemed genuinely stricken by this tragedy. I saw YouTube videos and discussion board posts like this:

Pregnant woman killed in Seattle downtown shooting

This is fxxking sad. A homeless psychopath with a gun wandering near Seattle downtown Pike’s public market… Are we all used to this now? Who the fxxk voted for the current government and defunding police?

Despite the comment above, I want to stress that Cordell Goosby was NOT homeless at the time he murdered Eina Kwon and her unborn child. He was carrying a Washington State ID card with a flop house address when he was arrested. But one must assume Goosby has a history of homelessness because his extreme schizophrenia must make it difficult for him to obtain a residential rental, or to continue it. You might say Cordell Goosby is a homeless drifter who wasn’t homeless at the time of the murders.

And Goosby’s murder of Kwon closely follows the pattern of many murders and non-fatal assaults by mentally ill homeless people on the general public all over the country, including Seattle. I’m speaking of the sudden, utterly unexpected nature of the attacks.

A schizophrenic, sometimes homeless drifter from Illinois, Cordell Goosby is charged with the murder of Eina Kwong, who was 8 months pregnant at the time she was shot to death in downtown Seattle traffic on June 13, 2023. (KING-TV image)

* * *

HERE IS A brief list of just a few of the unprovoked attacks by homeless people on the general public in various parts of the country since 2020:

Los Angeles
January 18, 2020

70-year-old nurse who ‘went above and beyond’ killed in random assault by homeless man at bus stop

Sandra Shells was hit in the face by a homeless man while at a downtown LA bus stop at about 5:15 a.m. Thursday, the Los Angeles Police Department said. Shells died at a nearby hospital shortly thereafter. The murder was apparently random and out of the blue.

New York
January 15, 2022

Woman killed after pushed onto NYC subway tracks in unprovoked attack, police say

A woman died after she was pushed onto the New York City subway tracks and struck by an oncoming train, police said. The incident occurred around 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Times Square-42nd Street subway station while she was standing on the southbound R-Q train platform. A homeless man “suddenly pushed” the victim while she was waiting… New York Police Department Commissioner Keechant Sewell… call[ed] the attack an “absolute senseless act of violence.” Authorities identified the victim as a 40-year-old Asian woman and New York City resident.

April 11, 2023

A homeless man attacked a family after being given food at a Seattle public park

A 69-year-old man was hospitalized after being stabbed by a homeless man at a public park. The incident happened near The Center for Wooden Boats at Lake Union Park in the South Lake Union neighborhood after a family gave the homeless some man food. According to family members, the homeless man subsequently attacked for no reason and without warning. “He got my brother down, and he was kicking him in the ribs, so my son got on top of him and was pulling him off. I heard screaming, I saw a knife…” Leila Perez said.

New York
Jul 19, 2023

Grocery worker beaten to death by homeless man while sweeping sidewalk

A memorial is growing for an elderly grocery store worker who police say was beaten to death outside his store by a homeless man. Witnesses said he was “assaulted out of nowhere.”

* * *

AND SO NOW we come to the final piece in this homeless crime saga, the crime that provides the concluding bookend for our story about homelessness in Seattle.

This is the already infamous Fentanyl Firebombing, which occurred in downtown Seattle on July 21, 2023, just six weeks after Eina and Sung Kwong and their unborn child were gunned down by Cordell Goosby a few blocks away.

SCRUB THIS CITY! by Bruce Brown cover
Now available on Amazon Kindle!

According to Seattle Police, “multiple explosive devices” were used in this attack, an attempt to murder 20 people who were smoking fentanyl in a tent in a homeless camp on public land under I-5 and adjacent to Harborview Hospital. Police said the attack was part of an ongoing battle for control of the drug trade among the homeless.

Everyone in the fentanyl tent was able to escape without injury just before the bombs detonated, but the resulting fireball was visible from as far away as Alki and Magnolia Bluff. All parties involved – the attackers and the targets of the attack – were apparently homeless.

If the murders in The Jungle together with the first Mariner Game Date Murder were a wake up call on the serious homeless problem in Seattle in 2016, then the murder of Eina Kwon and her unborn child together with the Fentanyl Firebombing in 2023 are a call to action.

I believe this violence has got to stop, and since the homeless population commits more violent crimes than any other segment of the population – even the criminal gangs – I believe the homeless population is where we have to start to bring the violence under control.

It is imperative now that Seattle get a handle on its homeless problem, which does not just mean occasionally tearing down a particularly obnoxious homeless camp and then letting the former residents of said particularly obnoxious homeless camps relocate elsewhere in the city. That’s got to stop too because it simply perpetuates and propagates the spread of obnoxious homeless camps throughout Seattle.

Meanwhile, the current Seattle homeless crisis is playing out against a backdrop of the shocking economic collapse of downtown San Francisco over the last 24 months, which is being driven to a significant degree by appalling numbers of homeless people with appalling bad public behavior living on San Francisco’s downtown streets. Have you seen the YouTube videos? Check it out!

How bad has the urban rot gotten in 2023? In San Francisco, tourism has withered as many major retailers have fled the downtown, including Nordstrom, Saks 5th Ave., Crate & Barrel, Anthropologie and the entire Westfield Mall, plus the Cinemark, Centre 9 and XD movie theaters. Only one major retailer, Ikea, has announced plans to open a new downtown San Francisco store over the same period.

It has long been remarked that Seattle and San Francisco resemble each other in many ways, so the homeless crisis in San Francisco is particularly pertinent to Seattle. There is real danger here for Seattle, and all of Puget Sound actually, since the light rail system now under construction along I-5 will spread Seattle’s homeless problem everywhere in Western Washington, not JUST Seattle!

* * *

SEATTLE TENDS TO look beyond its own homelessness-blemished face, but others do not.

For instance, Tacoma (Seattle’s eternal political and economic rival on Puget Sound) has now reinvented itself as “the liveable Seattle”!!! So I think Seattle REALLY needs to get a handle on its homeless crisis!

This is a fight for the soul of Seattle, frankly, and business as usual — the public policies which got us here — are simply no longer an option. That’s why I am making this cry — this call to action for the sake of a great and glorious city that is also my hometown.

I say it’s time to scrub Seattle. Wash everything. Clean up the streets, the buildings, the freeway graffiti, the homeless camps, even the geese at Greenlake.

In the future, when people speak of Seattle, let’s make them say: “Seattle, that’s the city that cleaned itself up, and in the process turned the tide in America’s 21st century homeless crisis!”

I believe it’s time to make Seattle shine again!

Bruce Brown

Two homeless teenage brothers, Jerome and James Taafulisia, murdered two other homeless people and wounded three more in a shooting spree in The Jungle, a large Seattle homeless camp, on January 26, 2016. (Genna Martin / Seattle P-I image)

Scrub This City! The Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in Seattle by Bruce Brown

  1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle
  2. The impact of homeless on everyone else in Seattle
  3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!
  4. About the Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle
  5. The Seattle Plan

4. About ‘The Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle’

THE 1930s AND the 2020s are the two periods when homelessness has been most rampant in America, and not surprisingly there are some similarities between the two, including the widespread appearance of homeless camps in and around most major American cities, including Seattle.

But there are some significant differences as well, such as the availability of jobs. Unemployment rose to nearly 25 percent nationally during the Great Depression as hundreds of thousands of jobs disappeared with the Stock Market Crash and subsequent failure of thousands of American businesses, like my grandfather’s haberdashery in Birmingham.

By comparison, unemployment in America dropped under 5 percent early in the Trump administration, and today it stands at 3.8 percent.

Stated simply, work was very hard to find during the 1930s, but it is easy to find work today. So why are there more homeless people today than ever before?! Today’s robust labor market would have put a quick end to homelessness during the 1930s. Why do we now have 3.8 percent unemployment and the highest homelessness ever at the same time?

Part of the answer is apparent from a visual comparison of homeless camps, then and now. You can literally see the difference in the homeless populations with your own eyes!

When you look at 1930s photos of the huge Hooverville that once stood south of Pioneer Square near where the Seattle Mariners and Seahawk’s stadiums are now, you see row after row of fairly tidy tiny houses built of sawn lumber, roofed with tar paper or split cedar shakes, almost all with at least one glass window, and many with a stovepipe sticking up, indicating they had wood stoves for heating and cooking and boiling water. The general impression that this Great Depression squatters’ camp gives is one of tidiness and industriousness.

By comparison, when you look at contemporary photos of the huge south Seattle homeless camp called The Jungle, you see a chaotic and squalid welter garbage, scattered personal possessions, tents and ruined cars. Only occasionally do you see small lumber-built house, or any sort of orderly arrangement. The general impression that today’s homeless camps give of the inhabitants is one of deep depression shading into mental illness.

And this impression is accurate. With the closure of State of Washington’s Northern State Hospital, which represented one third of the State’s mental health hospital capacity, and the chronic under funding and short staffing at the State’s two remaining mental health hospitals, there are simply more mentally ill people on the street than ever before, many of whom are either “off their meds” or “self-medicating.”

These people badly need help, and are visibly wallowing in their inability to help themselves in the homeless world.

Leaving them on the street is an act of cruelty to everyone concerned.

* * *

BUT THAT’S NOT the whole story of the Seattle homeless population by any means. Data collected by King County indicates that something like 20 percent of the Seattle area homeless population is working full time, and as many half the homeless may work at least part time.

There are many reasons why these full-time employed people don’t have homes. It can be an expensive drug habit, compulsive gambling, a bad divorce, legal problems or simply that they aren’t making enough money to afford an apartment, like my friend Don’s son, Ace.

No matter what their individual story may be, however, these homeless people are in a much different situation than the homeless who are mentally ill. They have both the desire and the ability to pull themselves out of the gutter. They don’t need help getting on their meds regularly! They need help with job counseling, training, a new laptop, new software, new work clothes or boots, a decent set of wrenches, a decent haircut, etc.

They aren’t wallowing. They’re trapped by circumstance and choices they made in the past.

Leaving them on the street is an act of cruelty to everyone concerned too.

* * *

I BELIEVE THE time has come to get control of the homelessness situation in Seattle.

The homeless themselves desperately need help, and the citizens of Seattle need a prompt end to the epidemic of violence: the Fentynal Firebombing and the murder Eina Kwong and her unborn child in broad daylight being recent examples. Seattle taxpayers also need the outrageous public and private costs of homelessness in Seattle to stop ASAP.

And since cause of these costs, the homeless population, also commits more violent crimes than any other segment of the population – even the criminal gangs – I believe the homeless population is where we have to start to bring the violence under control.

This Plan is intended to help the homeless, stop homeless crime, and clean up the beautiful city we call Seattle. It is based on the twin principles of Humane Treatment and Municipal Responsibility.

With regard to Humane Treatment, this Plan recognizes that every homeless person is a human being with feelings, needs and abilities. This Plan aims to treat homeless people with respect, and improve their situations.

With regard to Municipal Responsibility, the Plan will make Seattle take responsibility for its own people among the among homeless population now residing in Seattle, and get them medical assistance, mental health care and job training as needed or appropriate.

Seattle will likewise ask other American cities and towns to assume Municipal Responsibility for their homeless people, who will be returned to them by Seattle after screening.

It is hoped that the Seattle Plan will provide the seed pearl for a national clearing house to reduce homelessness everywhere in America by “sending the homeless home.”

Seattle’s ‘Hooverville’ homeless camp with Elliott Bay in the background circa 1933. It is striking how neat and tidy this huge homeless camp was compared to huge homeless camps today like The Jungle on south Beacon Hill. (Seattle Engineering Department image)

Scrub This City! The Plan to Eliminate Homelessness in Seattle by Bruce Brown

  1. The human face of homelessness in Seattle
  2. The impact of homeless on everyone else in Seattle
  3. It’s time to make Seattle shine again!
  4. About the Plan to eliminate homelessness in Seattle
  5. The Seattle Plan

5. The Seattle Plan

THE PRIMARY GOALS of The Seattle Plan are as follows:

  • to eliminate virtually all homelessness in Seattle
  • to improve the lives of the Seattle homeless by getting them medical care, mental health care and job training as needed or appropriate
  •  to establish a nationwide system to repatriate homeless people, to “send the homeless home”

Step 1 – Assessing the homeless population

Every homeless person in Seattle will be be identified and interviewed.

* As quickly as practically possible, every homeless person in Seattle will be arrested under vagrancy laws.

* Every homeless person will be interviewed/examined to determine (1) their identity, (2) whether they are wanted for any crimes, (3) their physical and mental health, and (4) their job skills and experience.

Step 2 – Sending the homeless population home

Based on the results of the homeless assessments, the homeless individuals will be apportioned on the following basis:

* All homeless people needing medical attention will receive out patient care.

* Homeless people who are facing charges or are wanted by the Police will be turned over to the appropriate authorities.

* Homeless people who were born in Seattle or attended school in Seattle or have proof of five years continuous residence in Seattle will receive job training or treatment for their mental illness, whichever is appropriate.

* Homeless people who were not born in Seattle, or did not attend school in Seattle, or cannot prove five continuous years residence in Seattle will be transported back to their parents or their hometown.

* All homeless camps in Seattle will be destroyed and all the garbage will be removed!

* Finally, this apparatus for the elimination of the homeless population in Seattle will remain in place so that new homeless arrivals to Seattle can quickly be transported out of the City. This will prevent a large homeless population from returning to Seattle in the future.

Step 3 – Making Seattle shine again

Once the homeless population in Seattle has been dispersed, the citywide cleanup of Seattle will begin! I was talking to a farmer recently about the actual physical process of scrubbing Seattle, and she replied, “nothing to it. You just lay down a grid, assemble the needed tools, and send the work parties out.”

In addition to largely eliminating homelessness in Seattle, here are a few of the things that will happen to make Seattle shine again:

* Every street and sidewalk in Seattle will be washed.

* Every building in downtown Seattle will be washed to a height of 20 feet.

* All graffiti will be removed from downtown Seattle buildings, freeways and freeway signs.

* And all the ducks and geese at Greenlake will receive a serious talking to.

Bruce Brown

The Jungle homeless camp in Seattle, 2016
This is the infamous South Seattle homeless camp, The Jungle, where two homeless teenage brothers, Jerome and James Taafulisia, were arrested after they murdered two other homeless people during a January 26, 2016 shooting spree. (Genna Martin / Seattle P-I image)

NOTE: I have changed the names of a few of the individuals described here to preserve their privacy. — Bruce Brown

19 thoughts on “SCRUB THIS CITY! The Plan to end homelessness in Seattle, by Bruce Brown

  1. This is an excellent description of the homeless problem… Really brings it home…. It is excellent, that is, until the solution..i.e. send them home. Every city is struggling w this issue and many of the homeless have no “home town”

    What’s good about the solutions id’g homeless is good and Understanding their issues so they can be addressed: ….druggies, families w children, mentally ill, violent/nonviolent, potential rehab etc.

    #2 assess city for empty buildings . Can empty spaces be quickly converted to off-street housing? Maintain security.

    #3 people used to be sent to the country to work farms and grown own food. The inmates at Western State Hospital used to work the farms and harvested large amounts of the food for the residents. Maybe: Create. “organic” farms run by homeless people (if they stay off drugs)

    1. I am certain that we need to open state hospitals again. Why cant all these big ass malls be retrofitted and made into living spaces complete with drug intervention, mental health and job assistance programs? Seattle, one of the most pro labor cities on the west coast, should have no problem asking carpenters, electricians and laborers to donate time to make this a reality.

  2. In your solution section, the ideal of a comprehensive profile of who is homeless would be a useful and essential data piece to take things forward. What are the percentages and the profiles? I don’t know that the comprehensive view has been done: the police can give their info on current crime statistics, Harborview can give their data on who is treated for what, public works can provide information on the frequency of grafitti reapplication ,etc.

    But, data gathering is easy compared to knitting together the family. I”m not sure it is possible to mend some of the essential broken-ness that would help us all.

    Thanks for thinking and taking time to write your perspective.

  3. My solution:
    Interview and triage every homeless person.
    For the mentally ill-get them into the proper faculty and the care they required.
    Physically handicapped-as above.
    Able bodied:
    Establish temporary housing.
    Establish a system such as WPA or CCC (remember the Great Depression?).
    Give folks a choice:
    Job training and a job.
    Community service, WPA, CCC

  4. Empty storefronts: bigger problem than just Seattle. These empty buildings are great possibilities for renovation into homeless shelters and apartments. Of course, building codes might be a problem….but, these buildings have plumbing and electrical available and can be divided into living space presumably a less cost than taking them down and building new. At a minimum, they can get people off the streets. Gospel Mission and other groups have shown that warehouse type living sleeping quarters can help get people off the streets. Of course, need security.



  5. Found your blog randomly from Craigslist.

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing your thoughts elegantly. I’m thinking of ways I can help in my own way…

  6. The plan is to keep the homeless away from the city council members homes and neighborhood and other city officials and neighborhood and to keep lining their pockets with the money that’s supposed to help the homeless.

    Ask yourself this Seattle spent over 1 billion dollars for the homeless… why did it get worse?

    They won’t do anything except have the homeless people moved out of their neighborhood!


    1. Hey P. I agree that the City of Seattle’s “plan” to deal with homelessness is a non-plan, except that the homeless are generally not allowed in Seattle’s upscale neighborhoods or where top City officials live.

      And I agree that the $1 billion the City spent on homelessness over the last decade did not accomplish anything because it was NOT intended to accomplish anything except apply a series of small bandaids to a large festering wound on the body of Seattle.


      P.S. As this article demonstrates, when you attempt a full accounting of the dollar cost of homelessness in Seattle over the last decade, the cost of homelessness in Seattle could actually run as high as $6 billion!

  7. OMG! I was just on YouTube searching for Philadelphia Phillies games when I came across some videos of homelessness on Kennsington Ave. in Philly! Really shocking. I’d say a national program to “send the homeless home” is an idea whose time has come!

  8. Great analysis – so much to think about.
    A friend who is recently retired from her job of working with the homeless told me about a book co-written by a UW professor. I’m going to copy-paste here –
    “Why does King County have a larger number of people living homeless than nearly everywhere else in the U.S.? The answer lies with housing market conditions, according to “Homelessness is a Housing Problem”, a new book by Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldern.Colburn is an assistant professor of real estate at the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments.”
    Danny Westneat has written several columns about the failure to get people into tiny houses. I knew people in “Tent City 4”, a well-organized group in the burbs. When the tiny houses were first announced I gave a ST article to a leader in that very cohesive group. He choked up – “It’s the cold that gets you.” That the tiny houses are going unused is so frustrating.
    A new low-barrier shelter for men was just completed below Bellevue College. Multi-story, close to a park and ride and stores. Hopefully it’ll help.
    Huge problem. Thanks again.

  9. Bravo! You’ve taken a important and complex subject and made it possible to understand whats really going on. Thanks…

  10. Put them all out on a farm away from town and feed them once a day. Make it illegal to live on the streets in town.

    Otherwise they will destroy the city. The good people will simply move out to the country and tele work.

    The city will have no revenue from taxes and die if this happens and the businesses will die.

    It’s pretty obvious.

    1. Hey John. Work farms are in fact a traditional American way of dealing with homelessness, as Sue notes in the first comment in this thread…

      “[P]eople used to be sent to the country to work farms and grow their own food. The inmates at Western State Hospital used to work the farms and harvested large amounts of the food for the residents.”

      Sue suggests, “Maybe: Create. “organic” farms run by homeless people (if they stay off drugs)…”

      I also think you are absolutely correct, homelessness will destroy the Seattle we all love if we don’t take action now to SCRUB THIS CITY!

  11. I think you’re correct that the solution to the homeless problem requires looking at each homeless person individually. One size does not fit all in this situation.

  12. Mandatory reading for all King County politicians. Thank you for taking the time and effort to create such a cogent and thoughtful report.

Comments are closed.