Homeless in Seattle

What’s amazing to me, coming from the east coast, is the amount of homeless individuals there are here. The reasons are varying, depending on who you talk to and what side of the aisle they vote on, but the reason doesn’t change the truth.

New York City has had a gradual increase in homelessness almost every year since stats on the subject have been recorded. Manhattan and it’s surrounding boroughs have sharply climbed in homeless numbers over the past 5 years as did Seattle. The issues can be attributed to Democratic or Socialist or Republican matters, but again it doesn’t change anything. That’s just finger pointing and blaming.

In Seattle, the homeless shamelessly camp on city sidewalks and in public parks. It’s completely legal since it’s public grounds. This may or may not be true in New York City, but I don’t have to look it up, because there are 2 huge differences between the streets of New York and the streets of Seattle that make why homelessness feels like a bigger issue here in the Emerald City.

Before those differences, it’s interesting to point out that the total number of homeless in New York City is around 66,000. In Seattle it’s about 12,000. Not surprisingly, these are almost the same percentage of individuals, approximately .03% of the population. Without looking into every other major American city, I would imagine this to be true across the country. It’s a product of the general population of America. Certain people refuse to take their medication, some people have fallen on seriously hard time, and others have let their addictions rule their life.

But Seattle FEELS different. The homeless here don’t try and hit you up with stories like they do in DC (my sister is in the hospital and I’m trying to get bus fare) and they don’t accost you like they do in New York, shaking a cup of change in your face and making you feel guilty. They just kind of hover about, signs adorned, or sometimes leaning against the bench next to them, too weak to even bother holding it. You can feel their lost dreams, lost among the brackish sloughs of Puget Sound.

The two main differences between New York and Seattle are vehicles and violence. In New York City, many people don’t even own a car. Walking is a main transportation option. People are out constantly walking many blocks from their home to shops, work, or other appointments. You tend to live and work close by and your doctors and other appointments tend to be close by. You become near and dear to your neighborhood.

There’s a lot of driving in the Emerald City. It’s a newer city and lots of complexes and other communal style living situations have parking, which allows for more cars. Without walking you don’t necessarily have to come face to face with as many homeless folks. There isn’t the strong need for public transportation, eliminating spots where people can congregate. So it seems like there’s more homeless because the city is small. The areas like Pike’s Place Market where people congregate are fewer, leading to more homeless to be concentrated in areas where people are guaranteed to be walking.

This leads to the violence part. When you feel territorial about your neighborhood, if someone without a home made a tent out of found items on your block, the tendency in New York City to get that person to leave is much higher. I one time witnessed a woman of small stature get harassed by a homeless man of much bigger stature in New York City. She turned and punched him in the face, knocking him on his ass. I haven’t spent as much time downtown Seattle as I have in New York, but this doesn’t feel like a west coast thing to do.

It’s so laid back as compared to New York, that the violence from residents just seemingly doesn’t exist. For someone who has lived here their whole life they may feel different, but the vibe to me is true. I feel that the homeless feel like more of a problem here because the residents of the city aren’t necessarily going to take action to get rid of them (at least on “their” block).

The reasons still don’t change the truth. There are homeless people. Lots of them. America in general lacks the programs to identify and assist individuals who may have mental health problems. Instead of addressing the issue, we blame Democrats or Republicans, City Council or the Mayor, or the lady up the street who feels bad enough to make some of them dinner, and wait around for someone else to fix the problems that we ourselves have created.

How did we create homelessness? Being part of this whacky machine called America is the problem. It is one for all and all for one here. Every day is a grind and all of us are just trying to scrape by daily. The wealth gap is growing, at this point, exponentially, and taxing the rich more won’t do a damn thing unless we convince them by doing so will somehow make them MORE money. What were doing is standing on one side of the aisle and screaming for change, just like the homeless we can’t stand to see. The truth is we know how close we are to being in their shoes and it’s simply to much to bear.