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Dori: Disputing the out-of-state homeless count

Bicycles remain stacked against a support post for Interstate 5 above as crime scene tape surrounds the site of a shooting the night before at a homeless encampment in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

I was a little incredulous at a story in The Seattle Times, part of their series called Project Homeless. The headline was, “How many homeless people in Seattle are from here?” and they said that the homeless advocates downplay that we are a magnet region for homelessness. This is something I say all the time. I’m absolutely convinced that we drag the dregs of society to this state because the word is out — the Puget Sound is the place to be if you want to get away with doing drugs, living on the street, and living a life of committing crimes.

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The Times’ conclusion was very different. They wrote, “There is scant evidence to show that Seattle and King County’s homeless population has exploded primarily because lots of people came from outside the state.” This makes me ask the question, “Do you read your own newspaper?” Because let’s go to what’s in the news today. About 11 days ago, someone threw Molotov cocktails at a church in Rainier Valley while 200 people were inside. Police now have arrested a suspect. According to reports, he doesn’t have much of a connection to Seattle at all. He had been staying at a homeless camp, and had originally come here from California, where he had a criminal record.

So we have a suspect in a bombing, and look who it was — a guy from California. Remember the family of tourists allegedly attacked by the homeless man with the rope while visiting the Space Needle? He was identified as Michael L. Person, and he told police he had come to Seattle from Colorado nine months prior. A man who allegedly attacked five different women in the U-District this summer turned out to be 21-year-old Sean Reilly from Texas. Chris Teel, the man who allegedly brutally raped the woman in the Ballard car dealership restroom last spring, was homeless and had come here from Texas. Just this month, 21-year-old Elizjah White was charged with allegedly attacking two security guards at knife point at Northwest University in Kirkland; White was described by police as a transient man with convictions from Indiana, Illinois, and Oregon. The man who assaulted and attempted to rape Kelly Herron in the bathroom at Golden Gardens was a homeless person named Gary Steiner. Steiner had come to Seattle from Arizona, where he had a history as a sexual predator.

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The worst crimes that are being committed by homeless people around here — the vast majority — are by people who came here from other states. Maybe the Times’ argument is that the criminals happened to come here from out of state, but the homeless people who aren’t committing crimes are from around here. That would strain credulity.

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When the Times says that there is “scant evidence” that a majority of homeless people have come from out of state — it’s ridiculous because there is tons of evidence. When you rely on self-reporting, when you go up to the homeless people and survey them, when you talk to the homeless advocates, there is a financial incentive for the homeless people to say they are from here. Then the pitch from the politicians can be, “We have to raise taxes to take care of our neighbors who have fallen on hard times, the kids we grew up with.” That is the message they need to raise our taxes.

The crime stats, however, tell a very different story. The criminals come here from around the country because we have the most lenient drug laws in the nation. They come because we have politicians bending over backwards to spend billions of dollars over 10 years to coddle them. Everyone I know who is truly in recovery as an addict says you have got to hit rock bottom to want to seek treatment and recover. The problem is, the politicians make it so easy for the addicts to go on being addicts; they don’t quite hit rock bottom because we make it so comfortable for them. There is an indifference to doing anything about the vagrant drug criminals around here, and that’s why we’re attracting the worst of the worst from around the nation. Case closed.

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