As a student of the social sciences, my understanding of the nature-nurture controversy — whether character, personality and behavior are determined by individual nature or the environment — is that neither alone is fully explanatory; both work together. Applied to the problem of homelessness, this means that what individuals bring to the table is just as important as economic factors like affordable housing.
Real Change, however, is having none of it. According to Director Timothy Harris (Dec. 27 – Jan. 2 issue), “Our focus is on system change. Real Change isn’t here to ‘reform’ anyone. We leave the victim-blaming narrative of fixing broken people to others.” Staff reporter Ashley Archibald chimes in (same issue). Addiction has nothing to do with homelessness. “This suggestion … ignores the main cause of homelessness: a lack of affordable housing.” Indeed, Real Change chants this mantra, focused outside of the individual, perpetually both to explain and to resolve homelessness. To get a more complex view, you must turn to such sources as The Seattle Weekly and The Seattle Times.
The same attitude extends to the debate about “safe-consumption” sites. Per Archibald, the criticism of such sites as “enabling” or any suggestion of “brains … hijacked by drugs” is off the mark. Homelessness begins — and ends — with affordable housing.
With such a one-dimensional focus, Real Change does a disservice both to the issue of homelessness and to the homeless themselves. A more nuanced approach would enhance Real Change’s credibility and, more importantly, perhaps contribute to the fullness of real change.
James Morgante | Seattle
Mythbusting issue articles:
If You Give a Moose a Muffin...And other stories we’d all be better off without
Despite the data, the ‘Freeattle’ myth persists
More than a statistic: Everyone has a unique story about how they became homeless
False equivalencies: Homeless people can’t shake the stereotype that they’re all drug users