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Dori: ’60 Minutes’ should have asked these important questions

"60 Minutes" profiled homelessness in Seattle. But did it pose the right questions? (File photo)

On Sunday night, “60 Minutes” did a show from Seattle that boggled the mind. Essentially, the message was that rent is out of control, and that is the main factor that has forced people to live in tents all around the region.

There was so much wrong with this “60 Minutes” story. There are so many questions that Anderson Cooper should have asked.

Anderson Cooper profiled three families in particular. One was a couple named Josiah and Tricia, who have an adorable boy, about 3 years old. They sleep in a tent with their little boy between them so that their body heat can keep him warm.

Josiah and Tricia admitted that they have had drug problems with meth and heroin in the past, but they claimed that now they are clean, and they did sound very articulate. They said they live in a tent because it is the “safest place” for them. Josiah said that he does actually have a job, which earns him $19.50 an hour.

That raises the question — if you are clean, you’re making $19.50 an hour, you’ve been avoiding housing expenses by living in a tent, and you want what is best for your little boy, you should have been able to save some money to get a place to live. If you need some help getting back on your feet, the city makes all sorts of services available. If you’re clean and want to turn your life around, you certainly have lots of options.

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I have a second major question for this couple — why do you choose to live in Seattle? If your goal is to have a house that you can afford, you picked one of the most unaffordable housing markets in the country. There are other places in the country where you could certainly get a house on $19.50 an hour. While Tricia and Josiah were getting clean, Josiah’s parents in Alaska took care of their son. So they have family members willing to help them in Alaska, and housing is a fraction there of what it is here — why not go back to Alaska? They said that they like it in Seattle. But if other parts of the country would allow you to live with your adorable 3-year-old under a roof, why wouldn’t you go there?

In another personal story that made no sense, Emilee Broll, a five-year postal worker, told Anderson Cooper that she lives in an RV because “rent is obscene.” I looked up the average pay for a U.S. postal worker. With five years of experience, the average pay is $58,000 a year. That is a good salary. There is no reason to have to live in an RV or tent on that kind of salary. And if you want to move somewhere else that is more affordable, the U.S. Postal Service is good about working with you and transferring you. Pretty much anywhere else in Washington or in the country would have lower rent, and every city needs postal workers.

But Anderson Cooper did not ask her, “How in the world can you be homeless on $58,000 a year?” That’s what I want an answer to. These stories do not make sense.

Another man featured was Jeff Gold, who has a college degree and worked as a database coordinator at the Environmental Protection Agency — a government job. He admitted to Anderson Cooper that he is an alcoholic who does not want to stop drinking, but claimed that he has it “under control.” He knows how to buy alcohol with food stamps — apparently you can get around the no-alcohol loophole by purchasing cooking sherry.

Anderson noted that during the interview, Gold smelled like he had been drinking and had empty bottles around his bed. Unfortunately, this guy has made it a choice. Taxpayer-funded help is out there for people battling alcoholism, but he is choosing not to get that help.

Anderson Cooper updated the audience with the news that Gold later got fired from his EPA job because of poor attendance. Do you know how tough it is to get fired from a government job? But he just didn’t show up.

Here’s the subtext of this entire “60 Minutes” piece — you and I, the taxpayers, are not giving enough tax dollars to solve the homelessness crisis.

Everybody’s solution is just to build more low-income housing. Build it for the family who refuses to go back to Alaska, even though there are relatives there who can help and much more affordable housing. Build it for the postal worker who makes $58,000 a year and claims she cannot afford housing. Build it for the EPA worker who got fired for poor attendance and drinks so much that he cannot even be sober for his “60 Minutes” interview.

At least the one thing they got right was getting Mayor Jenny Durkan on camera looking clueless.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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