King County and others put out a happy-go-slappy PowerPoint document about homelessness.
I could drone on about how I’ve blathered for years about each point of the document, and one by one marvel that my idiot government is acting like this is something that only they could figure out. I could do that, but I don’t have the space. I can only whine about two-thirds of it and save the rest for later.
First: In big blue letters, they say far more people enter homelessness each year in King County than are counted in each annual point-in-time count.
I’m a grown-ass adult. I don’t need a font size large enough for me to trace each letter with my chubby fingers to remember how you make it. I don’t need letters in bright colors to keep my baby eyes from wandering off to competitors for my attentions. “Ooh, a wall! Ooh, drool!”
Duh. Homeless advocates have known for decades that people get out of any specific homeless bout within a few months on average, and so there would be way more people homeless during any given year as would be counted as homeless at any specific time. In other news, sparrows fly. Apples fall down, not up.
“People of color are disproportionately represented in rates of homelessness in King County.” Again, thank you King County for affirming what everybody who actually deals with this crisis has known since it began. It is wonderful to finally see that we are all getting on the same page here, after how many decades? Who knows, in four or five more decades we will arrive at a shared understanding about whether shoes should go on first, or should socks precede them.
“LACK OF AVAILABLE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS A ROOT CAUSE OF HOMELESSNESS” in what looks like 36-point blue font trailed by 24-point black font screaming caps. I hope they are screaming this in order to convince themselves. Because everyone else knows this.
Next: A graph that shows housing is becoming more available for the rich (a line slanting up) while less available to the poor (a line slanting down). I really appreciate a good graph. I hope the designer of that one got paid well. If it’s the same one who did the hideous bar graph that comes right after that, I take back what I just said.
Another graph shows homelessness rises with rents for studio apartments. Actually it shows that to be the case since 2013, where, before that, other factors were in play (remember the mortgage crisis and the Great Recession?). But points for getting the current trend right.
There follow data on “behavioral problems.” None of which is presented alongside data showing how many housed people are drunks or drug addicts. I’m tired of this. You want to tell me how broken homeless people are? Start by shining a light on yourselves.
I used to be a cab driver. You wouldn’t believe how many teenagers wanted to take my cab to 12th and Jackson to buy dope, and then had me take them back home to Laurelhurst.
If you need to stigmatize the homeless, let’s stigmatize everybody.
Nothing special in that about Laurelhurst, except money. You have to have money to buy dope. The rich and their kids buy more alcohol and dope in this city than everyone else put together. I’ve watched them do it.
One graph indicates 19 percent of residents over the age of 11 in the region use illicit drugs. In a county in which around 1.6 million are adults, that would tell me 320,000 or more were users. Since they estimate roughly 30,000 people were homeless in King County at any time last year, you can work out that at least a whopping 290,000 King County drug users are housed all year long.
You could further go on to conclude that even if every single homeless person in King County was a drug user, nevertheless if some random Joe were picked out and determined to be a drug user, the probability that Joe was not a homeless drug user but, rather, a housed drug user, would be more than 90 percent.
So stop making it a homeless problem. The homeless problem is the lack of housing. Stick with that hard-earned insight.
Remember? The one in all caps? Hear your own scream, King County.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Wait, there's more. Check out the full Jan. 31 - Feb. 6 issue.