G&U: Let churches continue to help the homeless

Feb 16, 2023, 12:46 PM | Updated: 2:00 pm
homeless camp...
Homeless could not be closer to schools or chruches under a new proposal. (City of Seattle)
(City of Seattle)

A new proposal in the Washington state Legislature would keep homeless encampments 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, and daycares.

SB 5332 would also bar any homeless services from the area. Under the bill, encampments are defined as outdoor tents or tiny houses for homeless people. The new proposal directly contradicts a law that allows homeless camps near churches.

Mike Lewis, filling in on The Gee & Ursula Show, said the new proposal is “nonsense. I mean, simply nonsense. Why is it that we’re so, particularly the Republicans, are so fixated on local control?”

Gee Scott disagreed. “Do I want my kids going to school with a homeless encampment or shelter less than 1,000 feet away from the school? The answer is no. The answer is absolutely not.”

Lewis took issue with the proposal interfering with the choices churches make.

“It is actually running straight into opposition from churches that provide, in some cases, safe camping,” Lewis said. “In some cases, it is actually up to the church to decide what it wants to do regarding its interaction with the homeless community.”

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Lewis also said that he has never seen any data or evidence that schools near homeless shelters are any less safe.

“It doesn’t accomplish anything for the homeless,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t accomplish anything for the students. It doesn’t accomplish really anything at all.”

“Personally, I don’t want my kids to go to school and see that around. But they need to make an addendum to it and help with the language for the churches,” Gee said. “If your church wants to have safe parking for someone who needs to sleep in their car, they should be able to do it.”

Lewis said not only does the proposal not keep schools and churches safer, but it doesn’t help the homeless situation.

“It restricts churches’ ability to help people. And I know that there are churches in Bellevue that do this right now. It’s not like this is some crazy liberal idea,” Lewis said. “These are the churches who decided we’re going to engage in being the solution. And why take that tool away from them when they’re many of them are running like clean, responsible, safe camping areas? Why on earth do you decide suddenly, in a blanket fashion? So changing the language, they can no longer do this.”

Producer Andrew “Chef” Lanier took a different view on the issue, saying that currently, the city is playing Whack-a-Mole on encampments.

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“There’s a homeless encampment under the Ship Canal Bridge right now. It’s very close to the John Stanford International School. I think this is expressly why this is coming up because parents of the kids at that school want it gone,” Chef said. “There’s been a lot of dithering about it happening. And I mean, there was also that one next to Broadview-Thompson. But to your point, the parents who are complaining about the John Stanford International School and they came under the bridge, they’re saying, ‘Hey, look at the rise in crime around the area.’ And what they’re citing is homeless people being shot in the encampment itself. That’s right next to a school.”

That being said, the trio agreed that the proposed law needs to be revised to allow churches to help the homeless.

Lewis then questioned the need for Olympia to be involved at all.

“Let cities manage it. This isn’t a terribly complicated thing,” Lewis said. “If you want local control and have everyone custom fit what works for them from a school standpoint, given that these are Seattle schools or they are Bellevue Schools, or they are Tacoma schools, let them handle it. These cities are perfectly capable of figuring out safe distances and where these things should be.”

Listen to Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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G&U: Let churches continue to help the homeless