[Hpn] Most Seattleites are not cruel, but many are thoughtless

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Thu, 20 Dec 2007 21:53:52 -0500


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http://seattlepi.nwsource.com:80/opinion/344390_homeless21.html

December 20, 2007
Most Seattleites are not cruel, but many are thoughtless
By PAUL LEIGHTY
GUEST COLUMNIST

It is cool outside as I write and the weather report says it will drop =
into the low 30s tonight. Thousands of Seattleites are going to sleep =
outside tonight in freezing temperatures because they are homeless. A =
dialogue about the homeless is in progress and I would like to add my =
two cents' worth. As a three-year veteran of the streets -- now in =
subsidized housing -- I hope to inject some reality into the discussion. =


Homeless people are not gang members. Nor are we all of a piece. We =
mirror the rest of America. With one major exception we are citizens who =
have been overwhelmed by events beyond our control. No one grows up =
wanting to be homeless. We have simply reached the end of our tether due =
to some reason(s). Major causes are job loss coupled with medical =
problems, personal bereavement and mental health issues. Substance =
abuse, either before or after becoming homeless, is another cause or =
effect. The exception is the hard-working illegals who choose the life =
so they can send more money back to their homes and families.

Beware. It is extremely easy for this to happen to you or someone you =
know.=20

Let's use some common sense.


a.. Homeless people do not have much money. Hence they are not =
attractive to drug dealers; we don't improve their margins. Nor are we =
attractive sales people. In my three years living in the greenbelt east =
of 15th Avenue in the Interbay area, I never saw any gang operation or =
gang/dealers operating from there. I would guess that if they take over =
a small portion of the woods their outlook is outwards toward their =
customers, and all would prefer a warm, dry and covered place to do =
business. All drug activity that I saw was low level and personal.=20


a.. Recent articles have stated concern about homeless people having =
weapons, specifically knives. I had a knife that I had boosted from a =
local restaurant to use as a tool. I used it for the same reasons that =
all of us have knives in our homes. Try going without a knife for a few =
days where you live and see how it goes.=20


a.. Cleanliness and hygiene are often cited as public concerns during =
the periodic sweeps by Seattle police. I have seen the results of these =
sweeps. They take everything that is not nailed down and dump it in a =
pile to be trucked to the dump. These piles look pretty messy and make =
for good photos but distort the facts. If someone swept through your =
home it would look pretty messed up as well. The rest of the time most =
people keep a pretty clean camp. We don't like living in waste any more =
than the next guy. We use public restrooms just for that reason. And we =
carry out the trash periodically, just like everyone else. Many use the =
Urban Rest Stop on Ninth and Stewart for showers and laundry. But we are =
outdoors. It is not as pretty as someone's home.=20


a.. Any time you remove my personal property from my campsite you have =
condemned me to at least one night of cold and wet misery. It is too =
late to seek shelter anywhere else. It will take at least a day to =
replace my bedding so I can get some sleep at night. I twice had to go =
to the SPD property room on Fourth Avenue South to retrieve my stuff and =
it took all day to accomplish. Thanks so much! It could have been a much =
more productive day.=20


a.. We are harassed by the police on a regular basis. Why? Because they =
can -- and we are perceived as threats to others regardless of our =
diminished condition. I admit that a few are; most are not. Despite =
being a lifelong Seattleite I have been "invited" to leave town by SPD =
on two occasions. With what money and going where was not discussed. The =
why was obvious.=20

Most Seattleites are not cruel but many are thoughtless. The homeless =
need all the services and help that are available and much more. Don't =
move us out of the only home we have till we have some other place to =
go. Do not blame our society's problems with drugs on us.

We are American citizens. We are also taxpayers. Think not? We live in a =
sales-tax state. Think about it. We also vote. Listen to those of us who =
have had to live the life. We are the experts.

Paul Leighty lives in Seattle.
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<DIV><FONT face=3DArial size=3D2><A=20
href=3D"http://seattlepi.nwsource.com:80/opinion/344390_homeless21.html">=
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<DIV>&nbsp;</DIV>
<DIV>December 20, 2007
<H1 class=3Drdheadline>Most Seattleites are not cruel, but many are=20
thoughtless</H1>
<P class=3Drdbyline>By PAUL LEIGHTY<BR>GUEST COLUMNIST</P>
<DIV id=3DpiStorytext>
<P>It is cool outside as I write and the weather report says it will =
drop into=20
the low 30s tonight. Thousands of Seattleites are going to sleep outside =
tonight=20
in freezing temperatures because they are homeless. A dialogue about the =

homeless is in progress and I would like to add my two cents' worth. As =
a=20
three-year veteran of the streets -- now in subsidized housing -- I hope =
to=20
inject some reality into the discussion. </P>
<P>Homeless people are not gang members. Nor are we all of a piece. We =
mirror=20
the rest of America. With one major exception we are citizens who have =
been=20
overwhelmed by events beyond our control. No one grows up wanting to be=20
homeless. We have simply reached the end of our tether due to some =
reason(s).=20
Major causes are job loss coupled with medical problems, personal =
bereavement=20
and mental health issues. Substance abuse, either before or after =
becoming=20
homeless, is another cause or effect. The exception is the hard-working =
illegals=20
who choose the life so they can send more money back to their homes and=20
families.</P>
<P>Beware. It is extremely easy for this to happen to you or someone you =
know.=20
</P>
<P>Let's use some common sense.</P>
<P>
<LI>Homeless people do not have much money. Hence they are not =
attractive to=20
drug dealers; we don't improve their margins. Nor are we attractive =
sales=20
people. In my three years living in the greenbelt east of 15th Avenue in =
the=20
Interbay area, I never saw any gang operation or gang/dealers operating =
from=20
there. I would guess that if they take over a small portion of the woods =
their=20
outlook is outwards toward their customers, and all would prefer a warm, =
dry and=20
covered place to do business. All drug activity that I saw was low level =
and=20
personal.=20
<P></P>
<P></P>
<LI>Recent articles have stated concern about homeless people having =
weapons,=20
specifically knives. I had a knife that I had boosted from a local =
restaurant to=20
use as a tool. I used it for the same reasons that all of us have knives =
in our=20
homes. Try going without a knife for a few days where you live and see =
how it=20
goes.=20
<P></P>
<P></P>
<LI>Cleanliness and hygiene are often cited as public concerns during =
the=20
periodic sweeps by Seattle police. I have seen the results of these =
sweeps. They=20
take everything that is not nailed down and dump it in a pile to be =
trucked to=20
the dump. These piles look pretty messy and make for good photos but =
distort the=20
facts. If someone swept through your home it would look pretty messed up =
as=20
well. The rest of the time most people keep a pretty clean camp. We =
don't like=20
living in waste any more than the next guy. We use public restrooms just =
for=20
that reason. And we carry out the trash periodically, just like everyone =
else.=20
Many use the Urban Rest Stop on Ninth and Stewart for showers and =
laundry. But=20
we are outdoors. It is not as pretty as someone's home.=20
<P></P>
<P></P>
<LI>Any time you remove my personal property from my campsite you have =
condemned=20
me to at least one night of cold and wet misery. It is too late to seek =
shelter=20
anywhere else. It will take at least a day to replace my bedding so I =
can get=20
some sleep at night. I twice had to go to the SPD property room on =
Fourth Avenue=20
South to retrieve my stuff and it took all day to accomplish. Thanks so =
much! It=20
could have been a much more productive day.=20
<P></P>
<P></P>
<LI>We are harassed by the police on a regular basis. Why? Because they =
can --=20
and we are perceived as threats to others regardless of our diminished=20
condition. I admit that a few are; most are not. Despite being a =
lifelong=20
Seattleite I have been "invited" to leave town by SPD on two occasions. =
With=20
what money and going where was not discussed. The why was obvious.=20
<P></P>
<P>Most Seattleites are not cruel but many are thoughtless. The homeless =
need=20
all the services and help that are available and much more. Don't move =
us out of=20
the only home we have till we have some other place to go. Do not blame =
our=20
society's problems with drugs on us.</P>
<P>We are American citizens. We are also taxpayers. Think not? We live =
in a=20
sales-tax state. Think about it. We also vote. Listen to those of us who =
have=20
had to live the life. We are the experts.</P></LI></DIV>
<DIV class=3Dvgray><B>Paul Leighty lives in =
Seattle.</B></DIV></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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