True Humanity

Author: 
Ann LoGerfo, Directing Attorney, Basic Human Needs Project

The Seattle Times Editorial Board published an editorial earlier this month, Fences are necessary in homelessness humanitarian crisis, extolling the virtues of using spiked fences (see the photo) to block people without homes from finding some shelter in Seattle's rainy winter.

We disagree. Ann LoGerfo, directing attorney with our Basic Human Needs Project, submitted a letter-to-the-editor in response to the editorial, but received no reply from the editorial board. Instead, the board ran a letter applauding their position while listing problems with allowing people to "choose this lifestyle." Ann's letter is below:

In the heart of a Seattle winter, should we be using spikes, fences, and cement walls to block covered places from people without homes? The Seattle Times editorial board rightfully applauds public and private efforts to increase indoor shelter space and housing, but presently, these scattered shelters and tiny houses fail to meet actual demand. So where should people live? Providing no answer, the board appears to believe those without housing will simply vanish.

The city did not pass the proposed 2016 ordinance which would have allowed those without housing to sleep outside, in certain areas, when they must. Instead, despite promises of improved treatment, the city has continued to sweep those who are homeless from all areas of the city. Statistics reported by the Seattle Times' Project Homeless demonstrate the deeply disproportionate rates at which people who are not white face housing insecurity, and yet race equity is shamefully ignored in conversations about how we as a city view those without stable shelter. The board does as well.

It is an incontrovertible fact that there are not places for everyone to live inside at this time. Regardless, the board argues that humane policy means banning sleeping near bus stops, greenbelts, under bridges, behind industrial buildings, and really anywhere the unhoused might find cover, no matter how out of the way. Yet, these individuals and families will not and cannot just disappear. How inconvenient it is when people desperately impoverished and often with physical or mental disabilities insist on remaining alive, and living somewhere, while the region addresses the housing crisis. What is really disrespectful to the public is the belief that closing our eyes and our streets to those with nowhere to go is the essence of humanity.