Rantz: Lunatics pretend Seattle homeless aren’t more at-risk for coronavirus

Mar 2, 2020, 10:15 PM | Updated: Mar 3, 2020, 9:43 am

Seattle lunatics (read: activists) and at least one city council member are pretending the homeless population isn’t more at-risk for catching and spreading coronavirus than other populations. This thinking is willfully ignorant and flat-out dangerous.

Yesterday, I noted that we should be concerned with the possibility that the homeless population may worsen the spread of the coronavirus. If you contract a highly contagious virus and show no symptoms, you risk passing it along inside an unhygienic encampment and throughout the city. They’re not using hand sanitizer or washing their hands all day.

Apparently my position is controversial, with lunatics coming out of the woodwork to bug me on Twitter.

One called me a fascist for thinking we need to get the homeless into the system so we can help. Another said it’s dehumanizing to acknowledge their risk. A local blogger, with a penchant for shoddy reporting that in one case earned a lawsuit filed against a publication, leaned into some low-key anti-Semitism claiming that I want to throw homeless people into camps. Sloppy imagery given I’m a Jew who understands the seriousness of rounding people up for camps. But hey, traffic in those dog whistles, I guess?

These folks are just lunatics. I don’t particularly care what random people say. But when a Seattle council member pretends the homeless aren’t at a higher risk? That’s just frightening.

They’re no different? Really?

In a Seattle Times piece about coronavirus outreach to the homeless population, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda claimed that the homeless population isn’t at any increased risk than anyone else. But in the same statement she contradicts herself.

“Seattle’s prevention, treatment, and response to our homeless residents should be no different than that of any other population,” Mosqueda said in a statement. “The difference stems from our failure to guarantee quality healthcare and proper hygiene and hand-washing stations to all. Also, due to our inability to offer affordable housing or shelter to all, many homeless folks lack the ability to isolate themselves.”

She’s not the only one pretending the homeless aren’t at an increased risk.

Josh Belzman is the former Digital Engagement Director for Mayor Ed Murray. He claimed, “Can’t tell you how many well-dressed people wipe their grubby hands everywhere. We’re all scrubs.”


They’re different. Seriously.

Pretending our homeless population is “no different than that of any other population” is as ignorant as saying the same thing of our elderly or medically vulnerable population. Weirdly, when we point out that seniors are at increased risk, we don’t hear cries that we’re dehumanizing them.

Your risk of infection, as of now, appears to increase with your age and it can be fatal if you have underlying health issues. And we’re told to do some basic things to avoid getting sick or passing it on. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Many in our vulnerable homeless population do not have access to clean water, soap, or hand sanitizer. And they use their hands to eat. Conversely, those of us in housing have access to clean water, soap, and hand sanitizer. We hopefully wash our hands to eat. Is this a basic and clear enough way to show that yes, actually, the two groups are different and at increased risk of infection? The homeless aren’t harmed or stigmatized by acknowledging this basic fact.

Mosqueda even acknowledges that homeless people don’t have access to “proper hygiene and hand-washing” while also saying our prevention, treatment and response to them should be no different than the response to me and my neighbors. That’s, in a word… well, it’s dumb.

And don’t just take my word for it.

Leo Flor is King County’s Director of Community and Human Services. He told KIRO Radio: “Residents who experience homelessness are often particularly vulnerable. Being homeless is hard on a person’s health in the first place and if there are underlying health conditions we do think there is increased risk.”

Do they care about the homeless?

These activists and politicians say they care about the homeless.

On the other hand, I’m told I dehumanize them! The Real Change Twitter account said I’m “using coronavirus as a new way to (poop emoji) on homeless people.”

Yet, I’m the one arguing we need to bring the homeless off the street, into shelter, and on the right path to get them into housing. I argue for treatment-on-demand and programs that give you job training and education. I just don’t want the people who have failed for a decade in charge of these solutions. But I’m the bad guy, of course, because conservative… bad!

So why don’t we hear Mosqueda or obsessive bloggers and other Twitter lunatics urgently demanding we get people out of parks and alleyways and into shelters the way that I am? Because they have a political agenda.

In plain sight

You don’t have to look far to see why folks like Mosqueda won’t push for people to get into shelter. In fact, she’s actively saying we should inefficiently bring hand-cleaning stations to the homeless rather than get them indoors.

Mosqueda could call for more shelter beds be made available on city property, but instead she claims we can’t offer shelter to everyone. This is not true. We can offer shelter to all, we just know most won’t take it. Since the city won’t give the Navigation Team power to get people into shelter, people won’t take up offers and we have no reason to expand shelter capacity. Why expand shelter beds if no one will be forced to take them?

Mosqueda wants affordable housing. She wants the government taking the lead role in building and administering houses. And the bigger the crisis, the easier it is to push ideologically-driven policies. It also makes it easier to acquire federal land for pennies on the dollar (a scheme I hope HUD Secretary Ben Carson rejects). It’s part of their plan.

Mosqueda is an ideologue and ideologues usually have some pretty significant blind spots. Her intent isn’t nefarious, even if she wants to pretend the homeless aren’t at a higher risk. Unfortunately, this delusion puts them at an even greater risk because we won’t treat them as higher risk and they’ll end up getting sick.

(Updated on 03/03/20 at 9:43am with comments from Leo Flor.)

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter.

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Rantz: Lunatics pretend Seattle homeless aren’t more at-risk for coronavirus