KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION
Ross: The volunteers working to address homelessness themselves
Let’s hear from someone who says the tents could start disappearing in a matter of months, not years.
I want to repeat some of what we heard yesterday from Andrea Suarez of We Heart Seattle, which is a group that organizes volunteers for cleanups around the city. It was working on these cleanups that radicalized her.
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“We’ve cleared over 780,000 pounds of trash from our parks and shared spaces and picked up over 20,000 needles,” Suarez said. “In doing that, for me, as a person that is not very civic-minded, or plugged into city politics at all prior, was like ‘we have an addiction problem in our city and in many cities across our nation.’ And it shouldn’t be political.”
She is now convinced that housing homeless people without first treating their drug addiction is doomed to fail, as it has so far.
“I have put people in housing and hotels and tiny houses, fully furnished apartments during my volunteer effort here in Seattle,” Suarez said. “And almost 100%, if folks hadn’t sought treatment, they’d be back out on the streets.”
She’s gotten some support from the county executive but nothing from the mayor and nothing from the head of the regional homeless authority, which she admits may be due to her approach.
“You know, I’m a disrupter. And my tongue is not tied. And when I go in and say I just picked up 20,000 needles to clean up a trail on the top of Queen Anne, I publicly post them on my social media page, and I guess it’s embarrassing, I don’t know. I don’t say I don’t like our counsel.”
You don’t use swear words, do you?
“No, I have begged Mark Dones, [King County Regional Homeless Authority CEO,] please come to my office and meet me and let’s go for a walk in a camp. I’m just out there trying to inspire more volunteerism, and civic engagement as a form of direct action strategy like Antifa does, and the Stop the Sweep people do. You know they throw crap over freeways and graffiti our city and blow up cop cars, and my strategy is to pick up the trash and say, ‘come on, City of Seattle, clean up the city.'”
She says she has been accused of stigmatizing the homeless, but as she sees it, her group was one of the few actually trying to save their lives.
“I mean, I’ve seen many dead bodies. David, my volunteer in Ballard, found two dead bodies at Gilman playground in a honey bucket. Then my team and I found a young man in Canoga Park about a month ago that was confined to a wheelchair. He never would accept help, and of course, we can’t take people against their will. So guess what? I found them flat down, and sadly who knows how long he was there. But you know, to me, that is just so cruel.”
You can listen to Andrea Suarez’s unedited interview right here. You can also volunteer, by the way at weheartseattle.org.
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