KTTH OPINION

Rantz: Democrats target effective tool to clear deadly homeless encampments

Jan 31, 2024, 4:02 AM | Updated: 4:51 am

deadly homeless encampments...

Hostile architecture, in the form of rocks, are lined up outside New Hope Resource Center in Puyallup. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

With the help of pearl-clutching media friends and the homeless industrial complex, Washington Democrats are targeting an effective tool that keeps unhealthy and dangerous encampments at bay. They want to ban so-called “hostile architecture,” which is installed to keep homeless people from camping out on property.

Senate Bill 6231 would prohibit any city, county or town from installing the hostile architecture. The architectural tool is defined as, “any building or structure that is designed or intended to prevent people experiencing homelessness from sitting or lying on the building or structure at street level.” It would not apply to architectural designs intended to stop skateboarders from using certain spaces. If skateboarders are using the space, how can a homeless person illegally camp out there?

The long-term goal of hostile architecture is about getting homeless to agree to services and shelters that are being offered. But since there are no consequences to living outdoors, along with the clear addiction and mental health crises impacting the homeless, cities and counties have had little success tackling the growing homelessness crisis. Cities like Marysville, which use a “carrot-and-stick” approach see meaningful results. But that strategy is met with faux cries of lacking “compassion.” To the Radical Left, compassion means keeping people living outside, surrounded by human waste and trash, until they’re given a fully subsidized apartment.

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A media-invented controversy

The bill comes after the city of Puyallup installed rocks to stop the homeless from camping out and destroying its property. It worked but created a contrived, media-fueled controversy.

Fox 13’s Lauren Donovan produced three stories about the use of rocks to prevent homeless encampments in just two weeks. Citing the supposed concern of “many locals,” without quoting more than one person who is mildly irritated, characterized the move through a business owner. She called the use of rocks, “a shoddy short-term fix.”

This is, of course, a silly criticism. It’s a long-term fix, if the goal is to stop the homeless from camping out wherever they please. There’s a homeless resource provider mere yards away from the rocks that homeless people can use to get help. And the homeless on our streets are consistently offered shelter and help, but they refuse.

The Tacoma News Tribune’s Shauna Sowersby highlighted the cost of boulders as a means to address homelessness. The framing of the story implied the state’s $700,000 investment was an unjust use of tax dollars. The tens of millions given to nonprofits or spent on tools to address the health consequences of living outside? There’s apparently no issue. But if you spend $7,000 on rocks in Puyallup or $700,000 in Lacey to help pressure the homeless to go indoors, it deserves multiple stories with thinly veiled criticism from the reporters.

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A waste of time?

Not willing to offend Governor Jay Inslee, Democrat sponsor Liz Lovelett (D-Anacortes) exempted the state from her bill.

Under Inslee, the Washington State Department of Transportation resorted to using large rocks at an encampment plaguing Thurston County. But every other leader who wants to use hostile architecture? They’re out of luck. It’s only cruel when they use the strategy. But there could be some good news if Lovelett is being honest with a constituent who passed to me an email chain between the two.

“This bill was brought to me by high school students and was given a courtesy hearing,” Lovelett wrote according to the email from a constituent upset with the bill. “If a proposal is considered in a future legislative session, it will be with the involvement of cities, architects, and advocates to find a policy that is helpful and implementable.”

In a part-time legislature with a number of high-profile bills to consider and crises to manage, Lovelett appears to be wasting the time of her colleagues and the public, if her email is to be believed. I’m not sure if she’s being honest here or throwing the kids under the bus for a ridiculous bill. This legislature refuses to hold hearings on six initiatives that were certified for the November ballot — as they are required to do — but they’ll hold a symbolic hearing on an issue she doesn’t care about? 

Neither Lovelett nor her office responded to a request for comment.

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They’re making homelessness worse

Democrats in Olympia listen to activists and activists want to end hostile architecture. I think Democrats are serious about this bill and it’s why they put it up for discussion. It likely also explains why the bill has three of the most partisan senators as co-sponsors.

It would be one thing to consider this if literally any Democrat plan to address homelessness worked. They could at least argue it’s unnecessary to use hostile architecture because there are better ways to bring the homeless inside. But their strategies and expenditures have been abject failures. Homelessness has gotten worse, not better, since their “compassionate” approach. 

If you make it easy for the homeless to keep saying no to services and shelter, they will keep saying no. The only way to manage the growing crisis effectively is to offer the carrot-and-stick approach. Hostile architecture is a piece of that. And if it doesn’t move someone inside, it gets them away from an area where they’re not wanted. It doesn’t lack compassion to say they can’t sleep in front of your business, especially when you’re giving them a space indoors to go to.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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Rantz: Democrats target effective tool to clear deadly homeless encampments