Rantz: Democrats fight to keep homeless living in unsafe housing, claim ‘science’ of drug contamination isn’t settled

Apr 15, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: Apr 16, 2024, 1:21 pm

Homeless housing drug...

From left, Snohomish County Councilmembers Strom Peterson and Megan Dunn (Photo courtesy of Snohomish County)

(Photo courtesy of Snohomish County)

Democrats are playing a dangerous game with public health by objecting to drug contamination testing in homeless housing. It’s a baffling stance that could keep addicts in toxic conditions. Why? Because they falsely claim there’s no clear evidence that drug contamination is harmful. This head-scratcher of a policy comes as the county uses taxpayer dollars to convert hotels into low-barrier, permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless.

The Snohomish County Council’s Democrat plan is to house the homeless without requiring them to abandon the drugs that caused their homelessness. This approach is rooted in the controversial and failed “housing first” and “harm reduction” models. Both have proven to be more harmful than anything else.

Republican Councilmember Nate Nehring proposed an ordinance to mandate drug contamination testing in the units. It is meant to protect the health of homeless residents in the permanent supportive housing units. After all, meth contamination had already forced the shutdown of four homeless housing properties for decontamination. Nehring’s sensible ordinance could prevent such crises with early intervention by public health officers.

But, as expected, the council’s most radical Democrats threw a fit.

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Democrats pretend drug contamination testing at homeless housing is controversial

Democrat Councilmember Strom Peterson led the charge, raising objections based on constitutional issues. He argued that the test results could be made public, violating privacy rights of homeless housing recipients. But he also claimed that you might not be able to test individual households.

“I have some pretty serious reservations, particularly around the testing of somebody’s individual residence,” Peterson said. “I think we can run into some pretty significant constitutional issues, privacy issues. I think also folks that are in permanent supportive housing, this is a very challenging population, often with very serious mental health issues. So I think the idea of testing individual residences initially has those barriers.”

Peterson also argued that the science of drug contamination being unsafe is unclear. In fact, he argued that the evidence he’s seen suggests it’s actually safe.

“And why I have some hesitation with this is there are kind of the state agencies and the state health department are working on trying to figure out if there is, even if there are significant health effects. You know, I serve on the Community Transit Board. And when they tested the buses, there was contamination,” Peterson said. “They set up a cleaning protocol. But there’s still not science known that if you sit in a bus seat, and the seat next to you has some sort of surface contamination, if that even has an effect. Actually, most of the science is showing that it does not have a detrimental effect to that kind of casual contact.”

This is false and misleading.

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Actually, there are a lot of studies on drug contamination

It’s hard to believe a party that claims gas stovetops and secondhand smoke is unhealthy, but toxic levels of meth aren’t.

The council member is misrepresenting a widely criticized University of Washington study showing local mass transit was overwhelmingly contaminated by illicit substances. Researchers found meth in 98% of the surface samples and 100% of the air samples, and fentanyl in 46% of the surface and 25% of the air samples.

But the main objective of the study was to provide an “exposure assessment.” That means they reviewed data on surface and air exposure. They did not review whether or not passengers became or could become sick as a result. It’s also an odd comparison for Peterson to offer. The study looked at casual exposure, not a circumstance in which someone was living in a contaminated unit. Researchers also noted, “This assessment did not characterize short- or long-term health outcomes associated with secondhand exposure to fentanyl or methamphetamine.”

While Peterson mentions a mostly irrelevant study, he ignored a 2020 study that reviewed the health impacts associated with living in homes contaminated by meth. Researchers noted adverse reactions including behavioral and sleep disturbances, respiratory issues, and dermatological symptoms among residents. Further, a 2017 study researched a family that had lived in a former meth drug lab. Family members, especially the kids, had elevated levels of methamphetamine in their hair, which led to respiratory difficulties and behavioral changes. When the family moved out, the health effects mostly improved. These studies alone justify homeless housing drug contamination testing.

‘Molotov’ Megan Dunn makes … no sense

Councilmember Megan Dunn echoed Peterson’s resistance. She absurdly suggested that the risks of displacement from testing outweigh the dangers of living in meth-lab-level toxicity. Throughout the meeting, she appeared to criticize using a “state standard based on labs, not housing,” to determine whether housing is contaminated. But that standard, if met, would indicate severe contamination. That would likely offer a higher bar to meet.

“If you have a unit that’s reaching the level of a meth lab, I think we have a problem, right?” Nehring countered. “So the state standard is presumably on the high end. And I would anticipate, I would hope that with standards that are developed would bring that lower, if anything. I think it’s a lenient standard, if anything.”

Peterson and Dunn’s stances effectively keep Snohomish County — and its most vulnerable residents — in the dark about potential drug contamination that, under state law, would require remediation. Their approach bypasses necessary health safeguards, potentially trapping addicts in environments that will exacerbate their conditions rather than offering a path to recovery. But that’s always been the point of harm reduction.

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Democrat opposition to homeless housing drug contamination testing is ideological

This isn’t just foolish; it’s potentially fatal. How could Peterson and Dunn ignore the dangers of meth contamination? There was just a recent story about a woman who nearly died from meth contamination in her housing.

Harm reduction advocates dismiss data and science. They argue that we shouldn’t judge or stigmatize drug use because it will deter an addict from seeking treatment. However, their method ensures that addicts remain in the cycle of addiction by providing them with drug paraphernalia and housing to continue their drug use under the guise of compassion. This policy doesn’t just enable drug use — it promotes it, increasing the risk of fatal overdoses.

Both Peterson and Dunn, fringe elements within their party (Dunn notably flirted with controversy for her apparent endorsement of Molotov cocktails during the Black Lives Matter riots), champion a far-left agenda that prioritizes ideological purity over practical public health measures. This issue isn’t political — until radicals deem it to be.

The council has delayed a vote on Nehring’s proposal until May 1. Democrat Councilmember Jared Mead expressed tentative support but agreed to the postponement. This delay tactic does nothing but allow extremist activists to organize and protest ahead of the vote. Nehring and Republican Councilmember Sam Low support the ordinance. Neither Peterson nor Dunn responded to a request for comment.

Listen to The Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-7 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 fight to keep homeless living in unsafe housing, claim ‘science’ of drug contamination isn’t settled