Opinion

Manufactured obstacles to ‘homelessness’ solution

Now, because of all the obstacles leftist leaders have put in the way of solutions, cops can only do one thing—nothing.

Image Credit: Unsplash/Nick Bolton

It’s hard enough trying to solve what is inaccurately described as a “homeless crisis” under ordinary circumstances. But it’s so much more difficult when you have a “homelessness” advocacy alliance of non-profits and leftist government that is constantly putting obstacles in the way of solving the crisis.

KTTH 770 radio host Jason Rantz recently interviewed Tiffani McCoy. She’s the lead organizer for Real Change, a Seattle homeless advocacy group. The truth is they don’t seem to be an objective homeless advocacy organization working to eliminate homelessness. They seem more like a leftist, political organization using homelessness as a vehicle to peddle a leftist ideology.

The organization has some caring individuals; I’ve met some. But don’t you have to question any group whose leaders refuse to even consider viewpoints other than leftist? No conservative solutions, no matter how effective, need apply.

For example, this is how they describe themselves on their website: “Real Change exists to provide opportunity and a voice for low-income and homeless people while taking action for economic, social and racial justice.” Need I say more?

After Rantz had written articles about the homeless and their uniquely risky status regarding the spread of the coronavirus (such as they cannot self-quarantine), he said, “Tiffani McCoy…thinks I hate homeless people after I said they’re high risk for catching and spreading coronavirus.” A perennial leftist go-to tactic: if you don’t agree with us, you’re a hater.

Incidentally, McCoy put the blame for spreading the coronavirus on those who have the “wealth” to travel. She said wealth as if it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

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McCoy came off as reasonable, civil, and thoroughly un-smarmy, which is strange for far-leftists these days. Rantz suggested the city can’t just build a bunch of shelters if people are saying “no.” Why should the city put all the money into shelters if people won’t go to them? I can only imagine the confused look on McCoy’s face as Rantz was making sense.

McCoy then performed a bit of verbal aikido, saying there is not enough of the “right kind of shelters.” Wait…that’s different than not enough shelters. She said people want to go to shelters where they’re allowed to be with their significant others, bring their pets, not be “triggered,” where those with PTSD won’t suffer, and where people don’t have to obey alcohol and drug bans, and curfews such as in by six out by six.

What a way to perpetuate a crisis. Create all the conditions that exacerbate homelessness and lawlessness by arguing shelters must cater to micro-specific “needs.” They criticize that most shelters are not the “right kind,” and then they complain “homelessness” is not improving. And the cycle continues.

Is Ms. McCoy suggesting the city should use public funds to construct an assortment of boutique shelters to address every single homeless person’s possible obstacle to getting help? With this view, there will never be a solution. Maybe that’s the point. You’ve heard of the military industrial complex wanting to perpetuate war to keep selling arms, right? Well, there is also a homeless industrial complex wanting to perpetuate…. As always, follow the money.

While there should be programs to deal with each legitimate issue for those who want help, there will never be the “right kind” of shelters for everyone. Remember, shelters are designed to be temporary and can only be so accommodating to specific needs. And it’s impossible to help those who flat out refuse any help at all for whatever reasons.

And if you maintain city policies where certain laws are not enforced against certain people —another obstacle— then the people most difficult to help will never benefit from any intervention that would force them to at least try to get the help they need.

Whatever happened to people taking personal responsibility for the bad actions that mire them in cycles of self-abuse, criminality, and homelessness? Oh, right, that would be people accepting individual responsibility. One of those effective conservative-libertarian solutions the Left wants no part of. This is also the position most cops take.

When I was still active on the Seattle Police Department, I saw firsthand how the “homeless” learned to play the system with the eager assistance of a city government that, in the name of helping them, often constructed obstacles to folks getting the help they need.

For example, due to successful lobbying efforts by groups such as Real Change, the city began mandating officers place all street folks’ “property” into safekeeping if they were arrested. If an officer failed to do so, he or she could be held personally, criminally liable for the loss of property. The problem is this applied even if the “property” was urine-soaked, feces-encrusted, or damaged beyond repair. A lot of the stuff was junk the person had fished out of Dumpsters and piled into shopping carts to become “unarrestable.” At least, for minor crimes.

This created multiple obstacles for the various affected groups. Cops were reluctant to arrest people who had too much “personal property” because of the unnecessary hassle and inconvenience. And the “homeless” person often could not get shelter because shelter staff could not accommodate the person’s excessive belongings. Also, again, not arresting a person who should be arrested is an obstacle to getting help.

Some street folk resorted to cramming shopping carts (wait…it’s supposed to be a crime to steal shopping carts, too, right?) to overflowing with whatever items they could scavenge. I saw some people who even filled and pushed around two carts.

Here’s another even more disgusting tactic. I remember a guy who refused to get a sickening, oozing, large, open abscess on his leg treated. He had been “treating” it himself with napkins from fast-food restaurants. The medics and I tried to convince him to go to the hospital, but he refused medical attention. He refused because, untreated, the abscess was an obstacle to the cops arresting him. And if they did arrest him, the jail would not accept him, and he’d be diverted to the hospital. The abscess stemmed from his heroin addiction.

Rantz told McCoy he believed the “homeless” should have three options: to accept help when it is offered, to move along if they don’t want help, or to be arrested if they are breaking the law. Often, the person contacted by police are illegally camping on city, state, or private property. Rantz’s lucid suggestion is what passes for controversial in Seattle these days. To the contrary, the city allowing people to break the law is not controversial.

McCoy replied, “We simply don’t have enough shelters to bring everyone inside, so that’s the issue I took with your claim.” She also said, “Look at what type of shelter is being offered [those with rules].” She then reiterated having more “enhanced” (low-barrier, i.e., few rules) shelters where people can store their belongings, stay with their significant others, bring pets, get drunk or high, etc. McCoy says those accommodations are almost always taken up.

What a way to perpetuate the crisis. By actively creating obstacles and barriers to effective strategies that could solve the problem. The city government won’t allow the police to arrest “homeless” people who commit misdemeanors. They won’t allow the cops to enforce trespassing and illegal camping laws. Cops can’t enforce shoplifting laws. They can’t enforce pedestrian interference and aggressive panhandling violations.

What’s ironic is while a cop’s job is to enforce the law —not be a social worker (different profession)— by enforcing these law violations, cops have the leverage to offer services as an alternative. Now, because of all the obstacles leftist leaders have put in the way of solutions, cops can only do one thing—nothing.

meet the author

Steve Pomper is a retired Seattle police officer. He's served as a field training officer and on the East Precinct Community Police Team. He's the author of four books, including "De-Policing America: A Street Cop's View of the Anti-Police State." He's also a contributor to the National Police Association.

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