This is how you help solve homelessness

Jul 3, 2015, 5:49 AM | Updated: 6:20 am

Jason Rantz doesn’t like the idea of putting homeless encampments in neighborhoods around Sea...

Jason Rantz doesn't like the idea of putting homeless encampments in neighborhoods around Seattle. Here, he lays out his own plan for ending homelessness. (KIRO Radio file)

(KIRO Radio file)

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has designated three preferred spots for tent cities &#8212 a spot where the homeless can get together, set up camp, and live safely as they try to get their lives back together.

Now of course, these sites weren’t where the neighborhood activists live – those Capitol Hill activists who seem so noisy on this issue.

Other neighborhoods get to deal with the tent cities, including in Ballard, right across the street from some significant businesses and near a major residential zone.

Related: City of Seattle drops a ‘bombshell’ on unsuspecting businesses

The problems I have with this are pretty numerous, but I actually support tent cities. But not the activist’s version of them.

Tent cities don’t end homelessness. They don’t even come close to putting a tiny scratch on the problem of homelessness.

And the mayor concedes this:

“Permitted encampments are not, in my view, a long-term strategy to end homelessness.”

So why does he support this?

“Tent encampments continue to grow throughout the city, both downtown and in our neighborhoods. Many locations are unsafe and almost all lack the appropriate sanitation. Planned, organized encampments have less of an impact on our neighborhoods and they provide a safer environment than we see when people sleep on our streets.”

But where he’s so wrong in his well-intentioned plan is he treats the two issues mutually exclusive, almost like he can’t help end homelessness and keep the homeless community safe.

I reject that notion. And that’s why I support my version of tent cities:

You create a tent city where, if you’re going to enter it, you’re going to abide by some rules.

The first is that you’re setting yourself up for a couple of goals, all depending on your situation. It may be a goal of staying clean and sober; it may be to learn a new skill; it may be to get a new job. Whatever it is, we screen you, we talk to you, and we set up the goal, and we keep you accountable. I’m a huge believer in actually writing your goals down and coming up with a plan to attack them.

Next, you agree to something that should be obvious: you won’t be drinking, doing drugs, or smoking. If you do, you’re out of my program.

Drinking or smoking is a waste of the money you end up getting your hands on. Smoking will make you sick and you’ll be a burden on us all when we pay for your healthcare. We’re in the business, at the Jason Rantz Show Tent City, of keeping you healthy. We have a moral obligation here to do that.

Doing drugs will get in the way of you turning your life around, getting a job, and being a responsible adult.

We will absolutely test you at random. You step into this tent city and you will be subject to random drug testing. If you fail, you’re out. I’ll give the spot to someone who is committed to getting their life turned around. Dealing with an addiction? Don’t worry. We provide free healthcare that will get you clean (yes, we should provide free healthcare for the homeless; I hope I don’t lose my “conservative membership card” for that).

I will set up lockers and facilities for hygiene – to shower and to shave. You will do both. No beards on my camp. Sorry, you can adopt the Pacific Northwest lumberjack-hipster look on your own time.

Next, you will learn a skill that can be leveraged into a job. Maybe it’s construction work, maybe it’s plumbing, maybe it’s coding. Whatever it is, you must agree to learn a skill that will be taught to you by a volunteer army of good citizens, business owners, and educators who want to earn some good karma points.

We will get you the training and you will show up to every appointment and you will learn that skill.

If you already have skills? Great! Because at the Jason Rantz Show Tent City, we’ve already reached out to a number of local businesses willing to give someone like you a shot because you’ve committed yourself, in a meaningful way, to get your life in order and back on track.

But before we send you there to meet the employer, you’re going to learn how to go through an interview.

I’m a two-time gold winning interviewee with the Academic Decathlon – 1999 and 2000, baby! We will teach you how to handle yourself during an interview.

Firm handshake, eye contact, be engaged, ask questions, and wear clean clothes. If you do that, you’re 80 percent to the job. We’ll prep you how to answer those dumb trick interview questions.

You will go to that interview and even if you don’t get the job, you’ll be supported when you get back to tent city where you’ll try again until it works.

Get the job!? Awesome! Because now the hard work begins. You’re going to commit yourself to showing up on time or 10 minutes early. You’re going kill it there and when you’re back home at tent city, we’re enrolling you in courses to teach you &#8212 or give you a refresher &#8212 on finances.

You will be a star and when you save up enough, we’re going to help you with affordable housing.

You will succeed because for the first time, we’re going to actually give a damn about you and we’re committing ourselves to helping the homeless.

We won’t just set you in a camp and let you figure out everything else on your own. We actually have a plan and we’re going to fund it.

I know the city likes to grab 1 billion dollars from Seattlites to build some bike lanes no one will use. In my world, we’re going to use that money to fund programs like these all across the city.

We’re going to show it works. Then I’m going to get Tacoma Mayor Maralyn Strickland in a room. I’ll show her the results and then she gets on board.

Mayor John Knutsen over in Puyallup is next.

Then I get Mayor Ray Stephanson of Everett, Claudia Balducci of Bellevue, Nicola Smith of Lynnwood. I make my case and we all do this together because it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of dollars, a lot of manpower, and a lot of cooperation because one thing we know is one city going after homelessness doesn’t do anything.

You need buy-in from everyone, which is why I lobby the state to spend some money on this program.

That’s my plan.

Steal it. Put it to work and let’s end homelessness.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-7pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

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