Friday, September 1, 2000

Acceptable Solutions For Our Time

We here at Real Change are very sensitive to the charge that all we ever do is whine about homelessness. Instead of proposing practical solutions that our city and county governments would find acceptable, all we ever do is write an occasional editorial calling for affordable housing, blah, blah, blah, treating people with dignity, blah, blah, providing services that cost money, blah, blah, blah.

So I’ve decided to rectify this situation, medically speaking. I’ve decided to set forth a number of proposals for solving homelessness, that are all calculated to be acceptable to our hard working local government officialdom and their deserving, fully paid-up, allies. Please feel free to refer back to that last sentence, frequently, as my brilliant ideas become confusing to you below, as they surely will.

My first proposal addresses the very heart of the homeless problem. And it won’t cost a dime. We declare homelessness to be a personal disorder. We get the Feds to go along. OK, that part might cost some lawyers’ fees, but you were spending money on lawyers anyway. This way they’ll be doing something productive.

Here’s the beauty of it: once homelessness is a disorder, everything we do about homelessness can be put down as therapy or rehabilitation. For example, you can put homeless people to work on contracted work-crews, and not have to pay them minimum wage! Because it would be therapy! The government gets the contract money, and gets to keep it, “to pay for other needed services.”

Have I got your attention, Heidi Wills? This kind of thinking is just your speed!

My second proposal deals directly with the chief complaint of all homeless people. They have no places to sleep. My solution is so effective that you will be able to present it as proof of your compassion. Hey, if they don’t need to sleep, they don’t need a place to do it, right?

So when a homeless person asks for shelter, instead we should give them methamphetamines. We can cure them of their need to sleep. OK, meth isn’t 100% effective, so we’ll still have to give them shelter every four or five days, but (do the math) that would allow us to get rid of half our existing shelter space!

Moreover, it would not be necessary to dump meth-crazed homeless people on the general public. As part of the meth-treatment, we could require the recipient to work on one of those work-crews I was talking about, until they come down. Then we could repeat the therapy as needed. I think you can see that the public benefits could be enormous.

Like all great solutions, the trick is making the problem solve itself. Of course all that meth will have to come from somewhere. Perhaps an arrangement can be made with the city’s police. Something like the popular gun-buy-back program. We could offer donuts to our cops for their hoards of meth. Hey, don’t tell me you don’t know what happens to unreported drug confiscations. Cops work long hours around the clock. Think about it. 2+2=4.

But eventually a city-owned meth lab could cheaply produce more than enough for all of our homeless, and also replace our cops’ stashes.

Once we have done so much to eradicate the problems of homelessness in Seattle, we will generate a new problem. We will make Seattle a magnet for homeless people all around the country, and the world. Therefore it would be irresponsible of me to make the proposals above, without also offering the means to prevent a massive influx of homeless immigrants.

My proposal is inspired by the great work of Mark Sidran. I could not have thought of the brilliant idea that I am about to explain, were it not for that giant of civic and social engineering. If I have been able to see further than he, it is only because I have been able to stand upon his towering head.

Sidran’s great genius was to realize that if life in Seattle were made miserable for homeless people, they would go away. I know, that sounds simple-minded, but it works! They did go away! They went to Los Angeles!

Trouble was, Los Angeles was worse! So they came back!

So you see, Sidran was right, but we must go further. We must out-Los Angeles Los Angeles. We must make Seattle a living hell for everyone who has to be outside.

Los Angeles has lousy air. We can top that. We can scrap Metro. We can have poisonous air and poisonous water in just a year. People living outdoors will start to drop like flies. Not that that will be the intent of the program. No, the intent of the program will be merely to encourage homeless elements to look elsewhere for comfort.

We already don’t let them sit down. Let’s not let them breathe. That should finally do it.