Re: [nasna] Restricting begging, outdoor feeding, paper vending

Anitra Freeman (
Wed, 18 Nov 1998 04:47:39 -0800

After reading the article, Tom, I'd say it was a mix of good ideas and
familiar bad ones.
In detail:

>Transforming the Toole Avenue Homeless Facility from a meals program to a
>jobs program isn't the only way the city is dealing with homelessness in

One thing we consistently have to remind people of here in Seattle is that
you can't expect someone to get and hold a job without meals, shelter,
showers and a place to stow their stuff.  Expecting someone to go from flat
on the sidewalk straight to working and paying rent is fantasy-thinking.

>Several other programs and ideas are in the works. ``The city is making a
>more intelligent, coherent, realistic appraisal of how to understand the
>problem,'' said Councilman Steve Leal.

Another problem we have is the traditional "Let's study this", "We're
taking this seriously -- we've formed a committee" & "We need to plan this
out and coordinate our resources."

>Among the initiatives:
>* Discouraging churches and other groups from serving meals in downtown parks.
>Neighbors have complained the impromptu soup kitchens attract homeless
>people to their parks and hurt their neighborhood quality of life.

This one is just the old "make them be invisible" song.  Homeless people
*are* the neighbors, just as much as anyone else who uses the parks.  If
your church group can have a picnic for the Sunday School, they can have a
picnic for the homeless.  I've seen more people using a park on Boeing
Employee's Picnic day as use it during Food Not Bombs meals, and I've never
heard anyone complain about Boeing -- even though most of the employees
weren't from the neighborhood.

>* Considering the elimination of newspaper sales and begging in street
>Several people have been hit by cars while in the median, and two of them
>Rather than selling papers in streets, hawkers would move to such
>high-traffic locations as shopping malls, office buildings and churches.

I don't think that *anyone* should be out in the street medians.  As long
as newspaper sales weren't otherwise suppressed, licensed or restricted --
and vendors were actively protected from businesses who try to chase them
off the public sidewalks -- this measure looks justified.

Bau although it may not be a red alert, I'd say it at least warrants a
yellow alert -- keep an eye on the situation.  This may be an honest
concern for safety -- or it may be a move to set a precedent.  If you can
tell newspaper vendors where it is safe for them to vend -- well, you
*could* come up with some very exaggerated rules that drew very tight
limits on vending.  Just make sure that if they draw an area off-limits to
vendors because of safety, they make it off-limits to *everyone*.

>* Shutting down large homeless camps.

AAAARGH! you pushed my button.  One more "make them be invisible" line.  As
long as there is not enough shelter or housing for everyone, we *must*
allow people forced to sleep outside to stay clean and safe -- and that
means sleeping in organized groups, the larger the better.

I take it as evidence that a person is truly interested in reaching out to
homeless people and assisting them when he is in favor of encampments.
Someone who is against encampments wants to dole out a controlled amount of
aid, then say, "Now go away and don't let me see you again until our next

>* Seeking additional federal grants for transitional and permanent housing.

That's okay.  Most of the women speaking at the Homeless Women's Forum have
benefitted from transitional housing programs, and their Christmas wish is
for more of them.

>Most of the young people said they weren't interested in getting off the
>streets, but that's
>to be expected after the limited contact of an initial interview, said
>Kevin Jackson, Our Town's street outreach coordinator.
>``It takes a lengthy period of time to create rapport,'' he said.
>Plus, he said, ``some of them are in the best situation they've been in,
>and that's pretty tragic.''

Kevin Jackson sounds like he knows what he's doing.  Our Town sounds a bit
like Access, a very successful mental health outreach program; Seattle was
one of the cities for the pilot project, which is winding up but looks like
it has a good chance of being extended.

>As part of the new grant program, at least two social workers will be on
>North Fourth Avenue four to six evenings per week. Besides offering help,
>social workers tell newcomers about laws banning aggressive panhandling and
>sitting or lying on sidewalks.

AAARGH (sub 2): The sidewalk ban!  Enforced selectively, of course, I'm
sure.  Tell them that as long as they are: 1) obviously a tourist, worn out
from shopping, 2) obviously a well-dressed businessman worn out from a hard
day at the office, or 3) obviously in line to see a high-priced theatre
show, they can sit on the sidewalk and no-one will hassle them.  Otherwise,
they'd better not even lean up against a building.

Anitra L. Freeman, Dances With Dragons, --
an entry point for the new Writers Ring!
See for a full list of
projects and websites, because if I list them all here you are going to be
*so* mad at me...