As we are all aware as residents of Seattle, homelessness is a very big and ever growing issue. As a formerly homeless young woman, I know how important it is to talk about it. Not only because it was one of the most eye-opening and difficult times in my life so far, but also because I believe it is not talked about enough. I also notice opinions are sometimes broadcasted as facts instead of as an individual point of view. I feel it is my responsibility to clear some things up.
I am housed now, but things are always changing. I have made myself at home, but I’m cautious to get comfortable because I know how fast things can be uprooted. I know that when it comes to homelessness, the sweeps of encampments are often seen as a good solution. Some Seattleites feel that it’s an eyesore to see people, young and old, in doorways, bus stops, and open fields with tents or even less, having to choose the least uncomfortable place to call their homes for the time being or in some cases the long run. When these sweeps come along, they are made to seem like a gift. I hear things like, “They should want those places cleaned up,” and “The city is doing them a favor.”
A lot of the time these sweeps sound great when they are explained to people who have a very clear image of where they’re going to lay their head at night. I personally do not believe that much good comes from them. While the grounds are being rid of garbage, waste, and needles, they are also being cleared of people and their belongings. People who have had to pack what they care for most in battered tents and backpacks are being pushed out of the community they have built for themselves. To go where?
The individuals at these different camps are pushed out into the public and it is an issue for the city, but where are the resources they need to do something other than that? I see the amount of people experiencing homelessness, including both youth and adults, growing constantly. It’s disappointing but also infuriating. I believe that when these sweeps started out, it was with good intentions. But when it comes down to it, the outcome after each sweep seems to be the same. The people at the camps are relocated and their belongings are missing or taken. They are disrespected, their voices aren’t heard, and they remain unsheltered.
There needs to be more preparation for what will be done to address city-wide homelessness while these areas are being cleaned up. If no one is allowed to go back to the camps, there needs to be a second and even third option available. Making up the solution as the issue progresses is not working. Ignoring it altogether is not a great idea either. Our community can’t continue to treat its residents like soil, shoveling it up and dumping it wherever it will disturb the least number of people. Homelessness needs to be targeted head-on and addressing the sweeps of encampments is just one very important piece of that bigger puzzle.