Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, who doesn’t go a day without reminding us how much he cares about the homeless, is upset the Seattle Department of Transportation erected fencing around a bridge where homeless tents were set up.
The Seattle Times reports that while biking near the Ballard Bridge, O’Brien spotted five tents. This last Tuesday he spotted SDOT putting up spike-topped fences. The homeless individuals were nowhere in sight.
The cost of the fencing was $100,000 which, according to O’Brien, could have been spent housing those homeless residents in apartments for a year. There’s no indication that he spoke to those homeless people — why would he when he can pretend to care without contact. Simply putting someone in an apartment might not actually address the root causes of their homelessness.
Why put up the fencing? SDOT says it’s to protect the structural integrity of the bridge, a spot where there have been fires set off by homeless people in the past.
“Wooden structures, open flames, and propane tanks all pose a clear danger to public safety and has the potential to destroy this critical transportation corridor that 60,000 vehicles rely on each day,” according to a statement from SDOT.
O’Brien is wrong to get in the way of this move. I get it, O’Brien, in his desperate effort to virtue signal, wants homeless people to sleep wherever they want because it’s somehow inhumane to ask them not to sleep in dangerous spots. He’d like to offer up the parks that we pay for and use them as homeless camps because, well, he can’t get up the nerve to ask these folks to get into shelters.
And yes, despite what O’Brien tells you, there are beds available in the region. Jon Fine, president and CEO of the United Way of King County, told me not long ago that only about 80 percent of the beds are filled. Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission also told us that there are beds available and if things are ever tight, they will make the room.
Will this inconvenience some folks living in tents? Yes. But I’d rather them inconvenienced than living in a dangerous spot where they may put their lives — or ours — at risk.
Here’s a particularly ironic excerpt from the Times:
O’Brien said he understands the desire to fence off areas where people keep camping, but he thinks it’s useless and wasteful.
“It serves this kind of immediate desire to feel like you accomplished something, but it doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, it makes it worse,” O’Brien said.
How funny. O’Brien routinely takes positions that feel like it’s accomplishing something, yet doesn’t solve the problem, which is exactly why, under his leadership, homelessness has gotten worse, not better.