A new Rasmussen survey says something that probably will not surprise residents of San Francisco, Portland or Seattle: Fifty-three percent of American adults believe “government policies and practices encourage increased homelessness in some cities and states more than others.”
A whopping 87 percent “think homelessness is a serious problem in the country today, with 52% who say it’s Very Serious.”
Out in Washington State, critics of the way Seattle and other Puget Sound cities deal with the problem have started calling people “the professional homeless.” Drug use and property crimes seem to be constantly associated with the homeless population, along with public defecation, urination, and mental problems.
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Seattle’s KOMO recently reported that King County Council Vice-Chairman Reagan Dunn proposed setting aside $1 million for a pilot program to buy one-way bus tickets to move homeless people out of Seattle. KOMO is the area’s ABC affiliate.
But three paragraphs into the story, a man identified as Stephen Sherrill offered a narrative that underscores the criticisms. He told a KOMO reporter that he had arrived in Seattle back in March via a three-day bus trip from Houston, “hoping to start a better life for himself.”
There was just one big problem with the story. Sherrill admitted that he is an “intravenous drug user.” He’s living in a homeless camp along Interstate 5, near the city’s Harborview Medical Center.
According to Rasmussen only 20 percent of Americans think homelessness should be a federal responsibility, while 37 percent think it’s a job primarily for the states and 16 percent are undecided.
Only 19 percent do not think the problem is with government policies and practices.
What happened in Seattle is an example of what not to do, perhaps. Last year, the city council passed an ordinance to levy a “head tax” on employees of businesses reporting $20 million or more annual income. It created an earthquake of negative reactions, not just from companies but from workers. The tax would have been $275 per employee, and the money ostensibly was to be used to deal with the homeless problem, which many believed had been exacerbated by city council policies. Long story short, nobody was keen on raising more money for the city to spend to solve a problem they believe the city created.
Adding to the melodrama, the city maintained that the homeless problem was local, but stories like that told by Sherrill put that argument in serious doubt.
One can debate the issue at length, but all the talk is not going to get derelicts off the streets, or bring sobriety to the drunks and drug addicts. Seattle Police Department data shows crime holding steady or declining from this time last year.
Whether Dunn’s proposal gets any traction remains to be seen, but the cold weather hasn’t yet begun. This time of year is when the homeless—“professional” or otherwise—might think about heading south for the winter. In an ideal world, they would leave and not return, having perhaps found something better at the other end of their trek.
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