Here’s why homelessness is getting worse on Capitol Hill
This weekend I walked a good portion of Capitol Hill, this time wandering near the light rail station, and I noticed something: this neighborhood is quickly deteriorating. Known for a vibrant nightlife, it’s diverse population and it’s socially engaged residents, the Hill is now becoming known for its devolving homelessness situation.
There were many folks camped out and hanging out, many clearly living with untreated addiction and mental illness. The streets surrounding the light rail station smelled of human waste. It’s devastating to see people who are not getting much-needed help to take them off this disastrous path.
But why so many in this neighborhood? I’ve never seen as many until recently. As other neighborhoods are engaged in trying to help deal with the problem, Capitol Hill seems like they’re allowing it to develop unfettered. I think I know why: ideology.
Progressive ideologues like to preach how tolerant they are. You ask them and they’ll proudly tell you. Now, they don’t support ideological diversity, but they’re pro-LGBT, pro-people of color, pro-atheist, pro-multicultralism, pro-whatever. The only things they’re against seem to be capitalism and cisgendered white Christian Republican men. And to show how tolerant they are, they seek to ban microaggressions; they support college students who need “safe spaces” from opinions that make them uncomfortable. They like to declare themselves allies of any group they believe to be oppressed.
This self-proclaimed tolerance defines their ideological identity. It comes from a great place. After decades of intolerance by powerful groups of conservative religious folks, many of whom hated gays, pretended a nanosecond of a barely exposed nipple on TV signaled the end of our Nation’s moral compass, claimed any dress above the ankle is scandalous, etc., you had a progressive push back, which I supported and still do (sorry, Parent’s Television Council, you guys are extremists).
But ideologues (regardless of their political persuasions) are too married to their cause. Many let that cause define who they are. Ideologues put ideology first, and when they look at the issue of homelessness, they’re thinking of themselves and their ideology, not the people who are living on the streets with addiction.
I think some ideological activists won’t help the homeless because they subconsciously want to live around them. They can say that they don’t judge people based on their appearance or status as someone who lives on the street, and this gives them a sense of superiority to those of us who want to intervene.
These ideologues love that you and I feel uncomfortable around people who live on the streets, some doing drugs, some breaking laws. When we say we want this issue addressed and the root causes treated, these ideologues call you “NIMBYs” to shame you because it lets them feel morally superior to you. They think they’re better than you because they’re accepting and tolerant of what you are intolerant of.
But think about what they’re tolerant of: human despair. They’re tolerant of people who live on the streets, some with untreated health issues.
The homeless, to far too many ideologues, are human props they use to feel good about their own ideological perspectives. Does this thinking represent all ideologues? No way. What about for all Progressives? Do they hold this belief? Not by a long shot. But some? Yes. And they’re loud. Their loudness and acceptance can sometimes scare people into getting involved or speaking up (particularly other Progressives who see what’s happening and actually want to get involved, but don’t want to be attacked as a NIMBY).
But if they actually stop trolling on Twitter or bullying on blogs, complaining when the city doesn’t sit back and let people live on the streets, these ideologues might help come up with solutions to the homelessness situation. But first they have to understand that they’re not somehow morally superior for tolerating the human misery that surrounds them.