SoDo wonders where Seattle City Hall is as homelessness, crime spirals
Seattle’s homeless crisis has business owners and employees in SoDo wondering what exactly the city is doing to help.
Homelessness affects the City of Seattle in a variety of ways, as encampments and RVs in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood continue to make their presence known.
“We certainly are seeing an increase in criminal activities on our streets, of threatening behaviors, of people that are afraid to walk on our streets,” said Erin Goodman, executive director of the SoDo Business Improvement Area.
Speaking to KTTH’s Jason Rantz, Goodman outlined a myriad of problems businesses in the SoDo neighborhood face on a daily basis.
“I speak to women who are being followed from their work to their car, assaulted, threatened, propositioned,” she said. “We had a situation in SoDo a couple of weeks ago where someone was chased with a pitchfork down the street for parking too close (to a camp).”
And while the local homeless population is certainly a problem, Goodman argued it points more toward the need for resources for mental health care, substance addiction and abuse, domestic violence, and economic disparity.
“Those are all different issues that share a similar symptom that we’re calling homelessness,” Goodman said.
Meanwhile at Seattle City Hall, problems only seem to get solved when its personal.
“I think there’s a strong desire to help when they see someone they’ve met, but I think once again we are stuck in buzzwords and not practical common sense action,” she said.
The issues in SoDo, and on a larger scale King County, aren’t difficult to pinpoint in terms of a root cause. Goodman cited a 28 percent increase in property crime in SoDo over last year. In King County, “we have some of the lowest prosecution and incarceration rates for these types of crimes.” Pair that with one of the highest rates of property crime in the country, and Seattle has a lot of work to do.
What exactly can be done to fix this? For one, argued Goodman, getting the Seattle Police Department a new contract would be a good start.
“We need to have a police contract that is approved by our City Council,” she said. “We want more officers to be in our neighborhoods to know our businesses, to know all their employees, [and] to know the people who are struggling with homelessness so it’s not a cold response.”
The sum total is the need for investment in community-based policing.
Ultimately, Goodman wants to be sure that while we’re “not criminaliz(ing) folks for being poor,” measures still need to be enacted.
“What we’re asking is that as the city deals with this crisis, [and] that we hold people responsible for their actions and their behaviors.”