Ross: Going back to basics to finally end Seattle’s homeless camp problem

Jun 24, 2021, 5:24 AM
Hooverville, Seattle homeless camps...
Not Muscatel Meadows, but Hooverville on the tideflats or foot of S. Atlantic St. near the Skinner and Eddy Shipyards. Feb. 7, 1933 (City of Seattle archives)
(City of Seattle archives)

On Tuesday, KIRO Radio’s Hanna Scott reported on the JustCARE program, which was quickly able to remove homeless tents from Third Avenue in downtown Seattle, without the help of the police, and without protests from the people being moved. The secret was no secret at all. The city offered them hotel rooms — nothing fancy, but a private place to live.

It involved only 33 people, but it worked.

Now, there’s an effort to clear City Hall Park next to the King County Courthouse, where the growing tent encampment is not just ugly, but dangerous. It’s been ugly for a long time. When I first got here in the 1970s, it was called Muscatel Meadows, based on the beverage of choice for a lot of its residents.

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Councilmember Reagan Dunn wants King County to condemn the land and assume control, and then order the sheriff’s office to clear the tents. But we all know by now that without places for those people to go, they’ll show up somewhere else.

Seattle used to have places that addicted people could afford. They were called flophouses and they were eyesores. I remember the old Cascade neighborhood in the shadow of I-5; wood frame buildings dating from the 1890s. They looked abandoned and they were finally bulldozed, but of course they weren’t really abandoned.

They were affordable.

In every city there are always going to be people who, for whatever reason, need a cheap room. They may have any number of problems, but as the Duck Duck Go ad says, that’s really none of our business.

They need a secure place to sleep, just like the rest of us — otherwise, you get camps.

If a city doesn’t want homeless camps, then it needs cheap hotels, government dorms, or tiny houses – just some kind of private place where even people who don’t want to live the way we want them to can at least live in peace.

If that sounds too much like “something for nothing” – we’ve been paying a lot of “something” for the last 40 years, and Muscatel Meadows is uglier than ever.

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Ross: Going back to basics to finally end Seattle’s homeless camp problem