A city that routinely destroys and disposes of homeless people’s tents and possessions has recently outlawed the act of singling them out for acts of cruelty.
That’s the cognitively dissonant tune City Council president Nick Licata called out in a Dec. 20 letter to Patricia McInturff, head of the city’s Human Services Department.
McInturff spoke to the Council on the city’s policy of clearing encampments of homeless people’s possessions Dec. 3, but Licata, as he said in his letter, had a host of questions that had been either evaded or needed further clarification. With the city examining the need for encampments on a case-by-case basis, asked Licata, what are the “specific public health and safety criteria”? How does the city plan to accommodate an influx of displaced campers when “there are not enough beds to meet existing emergency needs”? And how much are we paying for this?
Finally, Licata points out the new law adding homelessness to the list of protected categories under the city’s malicious harassment law, protecting people from, among others things, property damage and the fear of being harmed. And since the city continues their clearances in a legal black hole, “it seems the removal and destruction of this property is occurring because it is the property of people who are or are perceived to be homeless.”
Millions for housing?
Gov. Christine Gregoire and Democratic legislative leaders unveiled a 2008 legislative agenda Dec. 17 that would boost state funding for those who can’t afford a place to live — including victims of the subprime mortgage crisis.
The $58 million proposal injects $50 million into the Housing Trust Fund, nearly 60 percent of which goes to housing people who are currently homeless; $10 million is targeted for southwest Washington, where strong rains caused flooding that put whole towns underwater earlier this month.
The money, says Washington Low Income Housing Alliance director Ben Gitenstein, will still go to building affordable housing for those who can’t afford market rents. “The governor had a really good message on that, which was that the best way to prepare for disaster is to build community,” he says.
Gregoire also put forth $6 million for a one-for-one matching program paying for social services for newly housed families and $2 million for emergency debt relief and mortgage counseling for families caught in the subprime mortgage crisis. She also wants to raise the bond limit of the state’s Housing Finance Commission, which issues tax credits to fund construction of affordable units.
At an event Mon., Dec. 17 held at Greenbridge, the White Center mixed-income development, one couple spoke with the governor about how a subprime scammer sent them from homeownership to homelessness. The message, says Gitenstein: “It can happen to anybody.”