The homeless are bums and should get a job and get a life! That is the opinion of many throughout the country. But what kind of job are the homeless supposed to get? Occasionally a burger flipping job comes open. Sometimes there are day labor opportunities. Every once in a while a construction job is offered. And every blue moon or so, a job with a future emerges along with the waiting list of several hundred applying for it. So what job is it that the homeless should just go out and get?
And what kind of life? Are we talking an apartment and a spouse? Are we talking kids and coaching Little League? Are we talking the kind of life that can put away surplus for a rainy day or a vacation or the dream of the great big purchase of a house? What kind of life do we expect the homeless to get?
Mayor Nickels says that the homeless should follow the rules. When you're homeless the rules go something like this: Get in line for a shelter space and hope to make the nightly cut-off. Be given a mat and sleep in a room full of fellow distressed strangers with various medical and mental health needs. Get up in the morning, seek out breakfast and a shower. Hopefully your clothes smashed in a backpack are not too wrinkly nor too smelly. Then go forth to seek out that job that everyone wants you to have. But don't look for swing shift jobs because by the time you get off, the shelter spaces are gone. Don't take a graveyard shift because there are no day beds. And, to be blunt, once you find a job, flipping burgers, day labor or some sort, good luck saving enough shekels for the security deposit, first and last month's rent and, of course, a bit of surplus for a few furnishings, like a bed.
My point is this: Nickelsville, constructed with buildings not tents, on permanent public land not a mobile nomadic lifestyle, is about the safest, sanest, most responsible, most creative and courageous approach to solving homelessness that Seattle has. It offers the vision of a house -- humble yes, barely sustainable yes, but a house, a private space, a sanctuary in which a person might breathe, regroup, and come out of death into life. And, best of all, the community is self-managed, which means that the residents must get to know each other and communicate. From homelessness to neighborliness is a recipe for revival. What's the down side?
Public land is our land. If you, like me, want to step forward with a positive solution for the homeless, let us join hearts with minds, voice with vote, and get on the horn and insist to our politicians that they support Nickelsville as a permanent home for persons of sacred worth.