As someone living there right now the article really doesn't properly cover the discontent in the city.
There is an overwhelming sense that Seattle has done too much to encourage homelessness (particularly with the expansion of policies like this one). "Tent City" has spread so far that it's getting into the suburbs and from a residents perspective it's getting far worse not better. I have routinely seen people shooting up and smoking glass pipes (not marijuana) in broad daylight in the Downtown and Pioneer Square areas. There's shouting, theft, property crime at all hours of the night near my apartment (Though strangely compared to SF I know very few people who have had their cars broken into).
Regardless of the tone of this article, Seattle is not a model to follow, it's a cautionary tale.
The problem was, while not solved, massively improved by providing heroin to hardcore addicts
The only argument against it, really, is that it's morally wrong to hand out drugs to addicts. Leaving this argument aside the approach was (and is) widely successful. Not only for the city, as such, but also for the addicts who get a chance to stabilize their lifes, are much healthier and actually can hold down appartments and jobs.
The [heroin] addicts on prescriptions, by contrast, looked like the nurses or receptionists or Dr Marks himself. As a group, you couldn’t tell.
Faced with this evidence, Marks was beginning to believe that many ‘of the harms of drugs are to do with the laws around them, not the drugs themselves’. In the clinic, as Russell Newcombe tells me, they started to call the infections and abscesses and amputations ‘drug war wounds’. So Dr Marks began to wonder: if prescription is so effective, why don’t we do it more? He expanded his heroin prescription programme from a dozen people to more than 400.
The first people to notice an effect were the local police. Inspector Michael Lofts studied 142 heroin and cocaine addicts in the area, and he found there was a 93 per cent drop in theft and burglary. ‘You could see them transform in front of your own eyes,’ Lofts told a newspaper, amazed. ‘They came in in outrageous condition, stealing daily to pay for illegal drugs; and became, most of them, very amiable, reasonable law-abiding people.’ He said elsewhere: ‘Since the clinics opened, the street heroin dealer has slowly but surely abandoned the streets of Warrington and Widnes.’
One day a young mother called Julia Scott came into Dr Marks’s surgery and explained she had been working as a prostitute to support her habit. He wrote her a prescription, and she stopped sex work that day.
Just a perspective, not saying right or wrong.
Edit: added this:
And something nobody predicted took place. The number of heroin addicts in the area actually fell. Research published by Dr Marks in the Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh compared Widnes, which had a heroin clinic, to the very similar Liverpool borough of Bootle, which didn’t — and found Widnes had 12 times fewer addicts.
Faced with this evidence, Marks was beginning to believe that many ‘of the harms of drugs are to do with the laws around them, not the drugs themselves’.
I believe this to be quite self-evident. A heroin addict can be quite a succesful and functioning member in society, provided that she can maintain her habit, without the hassle that comes with bad quality drugs and the stress (and invariably crime), which is required to maintain the addiction.
That all falls away when the drug is made available cheaply, regularely and even paid for by health insurance.
(1) The drugs shouldn't have been prescribed in the first place. This system was creating the cycle of dependence, not attempting to manage it.
(2) Oxy and other opiates were prescribed for specific medical issues rather than recreationally. That leads to drug-seeking behavior once the normal course of treatment wears off, and eventually when cut off from legitimate supply, illicit alternatives.
Yes, it increased consumption by creating new addicts. Because, as with cigarettes, addicts are good customers. But it was inability to keep getting prescriptions that caused overdoses and death. Because you had all these ~middle class addicts switching to heroin, without a clue how to use illicit heroin at least somewhat safely. That, and the increasing use of fentanyl to increase potency of highly cut heroin.
But you need some strong incentive structure to not start doing heroin in the first place. For most, that's the knowledge that heroin is going to invariably screw you over in the long term. Not to mention the long-term medical side effects of heroin usage...
Is there a young to middle aged person alive in the Western world that doesn't know that long-term drug use is bad for your health?
This doesn't deter. Besides, most folks don't intend to get addicted and only a portion do. Many more can use opiates medicinally or recreationally without addiction.
It seems decriminalisation works. Safety nets help. Offering free, medical-based addiction help would help. Prudent disussions with doctors when using opiate main meds would help - you know, what to watch out for with addiction, help if it happens, and not treating folks like criminals the rest of their lives if it happens.
I'd personally advocate legalisation of most drugs, even if I wouldn't do them, just to keep folks safe.
You're immediately claiming truth. That blocks other viewpoints. Also 'painful' which is a weasel word.
> people who actively use drugs
as opposed to passively use them?
> and decimate their bodies
you presuppose what they do 'decimate' their bodies. Maybe they do but it's a bit short on facts innit. And related, does taking copious amounts of alcohol (which I agree does damage bodies) count, what with alcohol being legal and socially acceptable?
> when provided a steady supply of drugs will simply die sooner?
A presumption, although one I'd have real trouble disputing. But facts are needed here.
> It seems hard to argue
dude, more weasel words!
> that supporting someone's heroin habit wouldn't incur a higher than normal cost for healthcare
The article gives examples of higher healthcare (and police) costs for not supporting them. Quite explicitly.
"when provided a steady supply of drugs will simply die sooner" and "incur a higher than normal cost for healthcare" may be incorrect - they may die sooner thus saving the NHS money because pensions and extended healthcare due to old age are avoided. I understand this argument has been made for smoking; smokers are claimed to cost less than non-smokers. I'll see if I can find a proper study for this.
Thanks for your feedback! This is actually more feedback & more meaningful than what I get from my FAANG manager. I'll use this to better form my arguments going forward, thanks friend.
> you presuppose what they do 'decimate' their bodies. Maybe they do but it's a bit short on facts innit. And related, does taking copious amounts of alcohol (which I agree does damage bodies) count, what with alcohol being legal and socially acceptable?
It's pretty hard to get Hepatitis C, AIDS, pulmonary infections, or collapsed veins from a few mixed drinks or beers...
It speaks well of you that you took it constructively! I appreciate that, upvoted.
> It's pretty hard to get Hepatitis C, AIDS, pulmonary infections, or collapsed veins from a few mixed drinks or beers...
I won't argue with the collapsed veins I guess, I don't know if there's a way to avoid that. I didn't know that pulmonary infections were associated with heroin, thanks for the info.
The other stuff is - I presume, and you may disagree - a product not of the drug but of the contaminants and circumstances. Hep & aids from shared needles (and see my other comment, <https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20165469> actually I presume it was shared needles, she was female so it may have been from prostitution). A proper needle exchange facility will fix that, perhaps.
Pure heroin is not toxic. It's living on the streets, cutting agents, constant withdrawls, additional substance use and injecting material of unknown purity without supervision that kills you. For most addicts, all of these issues can be fixed with a constant supply of medical grade heroin.
Leaving them on the streets or in a state of perpetual craving and poverty is expensive, too. The studies others cited says crime rates plummeted. Imagine how much damage local people and businesses might have suffered, imagine how much police efforts might have been spent, and emergency room visits that might have occurred, if those people were not given treatment.
My guess is that since we already have studies where people are given heroin as a form of rehabilitation, there should also be some studies about the cost of such programs. Wish someone could share some of them.
> But you need some strong incentive structure to not start doing heroin in the first place.
You really don't. You seem like a straight-laced individual, if I told you heroin were legal in the US tomorrow would you go get some? I seriously doubt it. Anyone who wants it can already get it. Anyone not using isn't going to start due to legalization.
You know what legal thing I hear is fun but bad for you? Autoerotic asphyxiation -- but you don't see me hanging from the ceiling fan.
I urge you to research the Portuguese model, where all drugs were decriminalized to massive success .
(1) Marijuana is not nearly as bad for you as tobacco or alcohol, whereas I think we all agree hard drugs are worse. This study from a few years back should put things into perspective . I think it's disingenuous to compare a drug that's objectively safe to one that's broadly recognized as objectively harmful.
(2) As of October 2018 (shortly before legalization) 47% of all Canadians have tried pot.  Now that it's legal, people are just more willing to fess up to it. Again, it's nothing they couldn't get before if they'd wanted it. Further  shows that the percentage of people smoking pot in Canada did not in fact increase after legalization.
From Statistics Canada: "For example, the vast majority (98%) of those who have never consumed cannabis indicated that they would not use in the next three months. In contrast, most daily or almost daily (93%) and weekly (84%) users thought they would continue to use in the next few months at the same frequency." 
> that heroin is going to invariably screw you over in the long term
I understand that about 60% of heroin users can use it recreationally in the way you or I would have a few drinks then stop because we know our limit.
That figure came from a letter in mewscientist mag but I can't find it, so treat with skepticism. I get the impression its reputation for certain and terrible addiction is the from anti-drugs campaigns and they aren't reliable, by design.
It is a perspective, but I think the culture in most places in the US would render this option unviable.
I can guarantee you that if this were to be attempted in SF, they would have to have the drugs administered by medical staff. They couldn't just hand heroin and crack to the patients. Pimps and dealers would send in mules to get drugs that could be resold for cash. That would also probably cause human trafficking to surge.
Portugal's efforts to reduce addiction and homelessness sound great too, but those won't work here either. We need to find solutions that are workable for our culture... or wait for our culture to change.
> ...they would have to have the drugs administered by medical staff
As they do in the UK I believe. I was once in a branch of boots IIRC (boots is a UK pharmacist) in a midlands city where there was plenty of drugs problem. A rattily-dressed guy came in and they gave him half a measuring cup of some thick green liquid which he drank in half a minute, while he chatted with them. They were watching him carefully, 2 of the pharmacists.
I dunno but I guess that was methadone.
There's no reason to assume that they'd simply hand out the stuff, and if it was by medical staff who expected to be taken as they watched, that's ok I think.
I believe you're spot-on that culturally that would not be acceptable in the US.
I can guarantee you that if this were to be attempted in SF, they would have to have the drugs administered by medical staff. They couldn't just hand heroin and crack to the patients.
I'm not sure about the logistics, but don't think they're that complicated. Getting into those programs is tied to quite stringent conditions. Like a certain age barrier and a number of attempts to go clean. I'd wager that there's more prescribed Ritalin resold on the black market than heroin obtained through those programs.
In one sense I believe it was fundamentally successul: It turned the drug from having a "hero image" in the 70s and 80s into a complete loser drug.
Harm reduction is one of the pillars in treatment of addiction, which now is widely and generally accepted. Proven by two referendums in which the public had a say on the issue. And harm reduction is unarguably a good thing, when it comes to addiction.
When I was in my early 20's a good friend of mine (mid 30's) was on the methadone program.
He functioned more or less fine all things considered, but used to get a little more than he needed and would trade the excess for weed with a guy who used occasionally.
They were only small amounts, and it was methadone rather than heroin so all of those caveats apply, but the situation seemed harmless enough to me at the time.
I remember that sometimes he'd be a little more out of it than normal, though, and it was when he'd have his supervised "usual" dose as a part of the program rather than the takeaway prescription.
Not sure why the weed dealer didn't get on the program himself, but I don't know what's involved -- maybe he really was one of the mythical recreational users, or maybe he was selling it on (seems unlikely in such small amounts, but that would depend on how many people he had that same arrangement with).
No, that's unproductive. This approach will only lead to the black market staying black.
Drugs are recreational. By outlawing, or otherwise restricting drugs, a government admits to a decision to not provide environment and opportunities for recreation, or any other affordable opportunity for fullfillment.
By not removing those restrictions entirely, it admits it still desires the resulting oppression. So it's pointless.
It is a perspective, but I think the culture in most places in the US would render this option unviable.
This isn't an excuse to do the right thing, though. I'm sure they've said it about gay marriage, integration of schools, and marriage between "races", women voting, and so on. Culture will move forward.
> ... looked like the nurses or receptionists or Dr Marks himself.
That would be because Dr Marks can't see himself. The difference between a high functioning, long term heroin addict and everyone else is that the heroin addicts require large support staffs that keep them high functioning.
You mean all the people who make and prescribe and administer the heroin? If that’s your meaning, then “everyone else” has much the same problem: it’s a rare person in our society who isn’t dependent on some part of the pharmaceuticals / medical equipment / biochemical industry to keep their life together. You can’t just stop taking SSRIs if you’re on them, insulin if you’re diabetic, antibiotics in the middle of a regimen, immunosuppressants if you’ve had an organ transplant... and you could never be a doctor (without immediately causing a life-threatening incident) without a constant supply of scrub and pre-sterilized instruments.
>You can’t just stop taking SSRIs if you’re on them, insulin if you’re diabetic, antibiotics in the middle of a regimen, immunosuppressants if you’ve had an organ transplant...
These do not constitute such a large portion of the population that you can say that folks who do not require them are rare. If anything it's the opposite.
The point I make is that heroin addicts require everything that everyone else requires, plus medical support staff that provide them with cheap and safe sources to feed their addiction. Equating this with the tools of the trade of medical professionals is absurd.
The point I make is that heroin addicts require everything that everyone else requires, plus medical support staff that provide them with cheap and safe sources to feed their addiction.
Pharmacies serve quite well and rather cost efficient for this purpose. It's not really that far away of their core business of dispensing prescrition drugs. The substance is different, but the logistics are exactly the same.
You may think that pharmacy robberies are a concern, but it's not really an issue. I accept that this may not universally be the case.
Pharmacists (at least in the US) can give intramuscular injections, but are not licensed to give intravenous injections. That has to be done by nurses, or M.D's. I'm unsure as to a phlebodomist.
Unless you're talking Oxycodone (sp?) or oral heroine (long release) or something of that nature. At which point, my point is mute =)
I thought it clear point well made in the text that when prescriptions were given, people could continue with normal lives. Sans such support they had other major medical problems (I knew a heroin addict that got hep from needle sharing).
If they didn't need to rob for their habit then the large 'support staff' of police is reduced.
You seem to have ignored the facts in the article. That, or there's more about your position that is not obvious, perhaps you know or have worked with some addicts and have additional experience I haven't?
I completely agree. I have told this to people for years. You have this population addicted to this drug we would produce for pennies and instead of working with them we make it illegal and challenge them through theft, prostitution, and street dealing just so they can supply their habit. Furthermore, I heard that in the countries that started the dealers dry up and new heroin addicts are simply few and far in between. I suspect that laws were not originally designed to help these people but rather to exert control over them. On a side note, with all the problems alcohol causes it amazes me we sell it but worry so much about others such as marijuana.
I don't think it should be assumed that the homelessness is caused by the addiction, rather than both being comorbid to some third condition. Certainly some homelessness is caused by addiction, but for some a mental illness could be the cause of the homelessness and the drug-use may be an attempt to self-medicate that mental illness. In that scenario, providing clean and safe heroin would improve their quality of life, but wouldn't address the underlying condition or the subsequent homelessness. The family living next to the tent city will probably still feel pretty upset about the state of things.
The family living next to the tent city will be much happier without its property being constantly broken into ($300 window repair for the sin of leaving $5 in change in the cup holder), or the other acts that the opioid-dependent are willing to do to avoid withdrawals.
Patiently waiting for this to expand into a mainstream program here in Vancouver... Meanwhile, the streets near where I work are literally mayhem 24/7. Take the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, enlarge, enhance, and shittify and you're only part way to how bad parts of downtown Vancouver are these days.
If homelessness is a problem, why should the alternative be to put them in jail or prison? For something as simple as car camping, it seems like an unjustifiable punishment for a simple offense. Without getting into much of a semantics argument, this post itself puts off a sense of “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” attitude when it comes to homelessness. In a city that has a GDP of $231 billion in 2010, it seems ineffective to punish the homeless instead of trying to rid the city of the problem in a more productive manner than hauling offenders away. While public consumption of drugs should still be a citational offense, the simple possession of a drug should not be a jail sentence. There are many users that have deeper issues that need to be worked out to rid them of their addiction and putting them into confinement is not always the most effective way. Seattle needs to invest in safe injection sites, public health programs, and they need to build more shelters for their homeless. In today’s society, homeless are looked at as the bottom of the feeder chain, but when we do that, we begin to strip people of their humanity and instead we look at them as simply statistics or an nuance.
A tremendous amount of these homeless don't want to quit heroin. They don't want to live in shelters. They want to live in a tent and shoot heroin.
There is a heroin addict that lives on one street I use to walk to work. He can't have more than a few years to live, he's as broken as humans get. The street he lives on is littered with literally hundreds of his used needles across bus stops, gardens, yards, paths. He defecates on the street and in bags that he leaves around.
Letting people do this legally, which Seattle now de facto does, is not appropriate.
> A tremendous amount of these homeless don't want to quit heroin.
That’s sort of how addiction works. Drugs are a lot of fun and feel good for a long time and that lets you ignore negative consequences way past the point that someone not on drugs would make a change in their life.
People who are addicted to heroin would rather do heroin in a muddy ditch than be sober in a 5 star hotel.
I did a lot of club drugs in my 20s and knew a lot of addicts and alcoholics (although personally once I decided to quit everything around 30, I just stopped cold turkey with no problems), and although I personally avoided opiates I knew people who didn’t and had very hard lives as a consequence.
You are correct that most of them had hard lives to begin with. Happy people with strong support networks don’t tend to use heroin, I wouldn’t think.
> A tremendous amount of these homeless don't want to quit heroin.
Their addictions would be better managed if they lived anywhere but the street.
> They don't want to live in shelters.
They don't want to live in dry shelters.
> They want to live in a tent and shoot heroin.
No, they want to shoot heroin, and when given the option between tent and heroin, versus a dry shelter, they'll take the former.
That doesn't mean that they wouldn't prefer having a managed addiction, and not living on the streets. 
There are people with therapists, homes, loving families, and good jobs, that are also opiate addicts. They have a hard enough time breaking their addictions. In light of that, condemning someone living in a tent by the on-ramp for failing to just drop their addiction, so they can live in a shelter is lunacy.
 Yes, there is a small percentage of the homeless population that can't reasonably be housed, period, regardless of whether their addictions are managed. I'm not talking about them - I'm talking about everyone else.
Ultimately I don't care about blame or condemnation, it's irrelevant. What I care about is the state doing it's job and not letting anyone, for any reason, egregiously pollute and destroy our shared living environments. As far as fundamental solutions, they can and should try many things, as a first order condition, this must be forcibly prohibited.
Storing your addicted+homeless population in a prison is not only inhumane, it's not effective. And just moves the costs elsewhere. (And often increases them, since incarcerating someone is not cheap. Where will this money come from?) The problem has been swept under a rug, not actually solved.
There are two conflicting claims floating around in this thread:
> "And just moves the costs elsewhere" / "the good old 'bus them out of town, let them be someone else's problem' non-solution."
> "The King County homeless census found the overwhelming majority of homeless in the area were living in the area before becoming homeless."
It's pretty obvious both aren't true. Either Seattle's homeless are produced primarily by Seattle, or Seattle's homeless supply is from other cities. If the homeless are coming from other cities, that supports the idea that Seattle is making itself attractive to the nation's homeless (and should stop doing that.) If Seattle's homeless are predominately from Seattle, not other cities, then Seattle should seek to emulate cities that produce fewer homeless.
Personally I believe the later theory is false. I don't believe that most of the homeless in Seattle are originally from Seattle. However many in Seattle buy into that narrative. I think Seattle is filled with homeless because other cities kick them out and Seattle welcomes them with open arms.
Well, in some sense what I want doesn't matter. I'd like us as a join group to have some hypotheticals and test them empirically.
But in a more direct sense, I think this all requires the government to take some sort of ownership over these people. That is to say, you are not free to live on the streets. Depending on your state (e.g. down on luck, or ill, or addicted), the treatment is different. We may have more holding centers for the government to keep people against their will who otherwise would use heroin and live on our streets. We could have some mechanism for them to go up for 'parole' so to speak, every 6-12 months. Otherwise they are treated humanely and given make-work type projects (e.g. farming or wood-working), or the opportunity to learn, should they take it.
Of course if they are truly severely mentally ill, they will just be taken care of by the government.
But none of this starts until we all agree that it is, ultimately, illegal to abuse drugs, sleep, and shit, on the streets of a city. Once we can agree on that, we can explore a entire solution set closed off from us.
Unfortunately, the 9th circuit doesn't... share my views.
I'd prefer you didn't impose uncharitable inferences on what I said, and use it to imply I'm maligned. If you feel I'm unclear, or think what I said may propose something negative, feel free to politely ask for clarification.
The fundamental reason I suggested that is humans, particularly the type who suffer from mental illness or lack the ability to care for themselves, to the extent they end up destitute and addicted living in filth and on the sidewalk, require some sort of structure imposed on them. In the past that was done by the family, in our current world many of these family bonds are, sadly, falling apart.
Putting people in an asylum, only to sit around on a bed all day and take copious amounts of anti-psychotics is a miserable existence. Having the opportunity, if one chooses, to engage in meaningful work, can provide structure and meaning to life.
I'd prefer to think of it more as a therapeutic sort of work program, where those under conservatorship by the state learn how to live with structure, learn what it means to make something, and could even be compensated for their efforts.
In my mind at least, I am contrasting the reward of a hard days work tending to, say, an organic vegetable garden, with the mundane horror of sitting on a bed in between distributions of anti-psychotic medicine.
I hope my clarification gives you more context to realize I'm not suggesting slavery.
> That doesn't mean that they wouldn't prefer having a managed addiction, and not living on the streets.
Why would it matter what they prefer? The homeless person in the parent post is clearly breaking multiple laws, is a public nuisance and a health hazard. We can optimize society so that people like that are happy or we can optimize society for people who aren't a constant burden on others. There should be intense societal pressure to not do these things. Have you been to Seattle or SF lately? Their homeless problem is out of control compared to places like New York that took a more aggressive and productive stance toward dealing with the homeless.
Many, not all but many, of the addicts I've seen seem to genuinely no longer have agency anymore. Their addiction has totally taken over their life. The person you describe will likely be dead in a few years. The state stepping in and taking control, at least for a short time, could potentially save them. Instead, I think we've over indexed on assuming that if we put enough opportunities in front of people like that they'll volunteer themselves into getting clean. I don't think that's true.
What he is doing is not legal at all. He's littering. He's defecating in public. He's tresspassing presumably in some instances. He's perhaps doing these drugs in public. All of these things can get him in trouble if a cop cited him.
However, the one thing that won't get him in trouble is just having heroin in his pocket. All the other problems you list are still illegal.
In Seattle the police have stopped arresting for public defecation, as the city won't prosecute it anymore, as they don't wish to give the homeless a criminal record. The police don't arrest for using drugs in public, as the city won't prosecute if it's a small amount. The police won't arrest for minor trespassing, they'll just ask them to move along, as the city has stopped prosecuting homeless for small indiscretions, and just release them the same day. I recently had a homeless person trespassing near my home, using drugs openly, and the real tough part of this was he was manically cackling and yelling late at night, so that we couldn't sleep. We called the police, and they just told him to go do it somewhere else.
It's effectively legal to trespass, scream, and use drugs openly in Seattle.
Now, in addition to the above, if someone has illicit narcotics, the police won't arrest them.
This has become a situation where our police, who want to do their job, are being effectively restricted.
Shelters aren't meaningful places to exist in. They generally are just a big hall filled to the brim with bunk beds. All you can do there is sleep, nothing else. The people inside shelters are still lacking a home.
I agree with you in principal, but at the same time:
> we begin to strip people of their humanity and instead we look at them as simply statistics or an nuance.
Where I live, the groups of car campers (or often times falling apart RV's) seem to attract crime, drug use, theft, vandalism, etc. I stopped going to one park in the middle of a city with a large group of car campers, when I found a used syringe in the fenced in dog play area, and saw two different heroin deals go down while playing with my dog. (one of them involved prostitution right in the back seat of the car in the middle of a city park)
I have personally witnessed a car camper leave their vehicle and barefoot chase an ambulance in the road, screaming profanities at the ambulance (right across from houses with small children). Through their own profanity-laced words, the person was trying to start a fight with the ambulance. Any reasonable person would assume that this car camper was some combination of a) beyond high on some drug, or b) suffering from severe mental health issues (if so, please revoke their license and get him proper help?). My neighbors and I both witnessed the situation, and called the police. Five police cars show up, get a statement from the ambulance driver, and sit the camper down. After talking to the camper for about 5 minutes, the police left with no action.
This _exact_ same car camper 3 weeks later threw a stolen bike at a moving car, out of the blue. 1 week later, I again saw this car camper kicking cars that were stopped at a traffic light, all the while swearing profanities at them. This person is still on the street, likely ready to harass the next underserving victims.
Here's another experience, which you might just write off as another anecdote. I was with my pregnant wife for a normal pregnancy checkup. A person who again was either high or suffering severe mental problems was being restrained by hospital security for breaking the hospital entrance door. The reason? The person was screaming that "the door was not supposed to be guarded by an evil spirit". Again, this person was clear high or mentally ill, or some combination of the two. However, NO ONE, including THIS PERSON, benefits from being left on the streets.
Oh, another anecdote you might write off. I take the bus to work. One morning, there was a school field trip that shared this bus. There was another person on the bus who one might assume was homeless, but agreed, looks can be deceiving. This person was drinking from a handle of cheap vodka, and then spitting back into the bottle. In between swigs, the person was swearing. What a great environment for children. We need to feel compassion for these troubled people, and provide help, but that DOES NOT mean that we should normalize these harmful behaviors.
Anyways, just some first person anecdotes to balance this thread out. It's easy to preach when you're not the one raising children around these folks.
Intervention and interning street addicts in rehab centers is a very effective program for Rhode Island. They prosecute drug crimes and misdemeanors, and offer a choice between prison or rehab. Many people who go through the program say it saved their life.
West coast states have similar alternative drug courts and rehab available, but they are underutilized, because there is no prosecution in the regular court system and therefore no incentive.
It's not that simple. (Problems are never that simple.) I live in Ballard which has a lot of people living out of RVs and tents. Many of those people don't cause problems for anyone, however, I have personally experienced:
* People shitting in our alley.
* People pissing on our garage.
* Someone shitting in a medical commode on the side of the road in broad daylight. (I admit a certain admiration for this person's self-confidence.)
* In the middle of the night, someone standing at our fence gazing into our kitchen for several minutes while gesticulating wildly.
* Furniture stolen from our front porch.
* Someone rifling through our trash. (Presumably for identity theft. In Seattle, food goes into separate compost bins.)
* Finding used needles on the lawn. (I have small children, so I had to teach them that the shiny bright orange plastic things are not toys.)
* Frequent fights and people screaming at each other at all hours of the night.
* Multiple car break-ins from car prowlers. My wife caught and yelled at one car prowler before they were able to get into one.
* When they people relocate, they typically leave a pile of trash and human waste behind. Often, RVs will dump their blackwater tank directly on the street or sidewalk. This is, obviously, a health issue.
This is just what has happened directly to my wife and I. Other nearby events:
* My neighbor owns an RV in his backyard. Someone broke into it and stole several things, including an urn containing his father's ashes. He chased after the guy, who responded by pulling a knife on him. 
* A couple of blocks away, someone was stabbed in the chest when they confronted someone slashing tires (in what I heard was some sort of turf disagreement).
* Another neighbor found a discarded gun in their bushes. They have small children too.
* Our neighbors are constantly finding trash that's been dumped in their bushes.
* Many neighbors have been screamed at, harassed, or assaulted by people that are either mentally ill, in the throes of meth psychosis, or both.
* Public parks that used to be places to play with the kids but now are effectively off-limits. 
All of this is just in a couple block radius, just in the past few years. And this is in a nice part of town. Residents in the city have had a lot of compassion and a lot of patience for many years, but the city has failed to actually come up with any effective solutions. In the past year or two, people have simply run out of. It's hard to get people to empathize with someone who is actively causing them harm.
Fundamentally, humans cannot safely live at urban density without access to the full range of residential services. You can't just "car camp". Humans produce waste. Without clean water, garbage pick up, and sewage services, each of those humans is a walking disease vector .
Safe injection sites are not a solution. If you don't address the crimes that addicts commit to afford drugs, then your injection site just becomes a crime magnet. Mental health and addiction treatment centers are good. Shelters are somewhat good but many homeless people choose not to use them because most shelters prohibit drug use.
It's not about jailing homeless people or drug addicts. It's about jailing people who repeatedly commit property or violent crime. The root cause is usually drugs, and should be treated as part of a solution. But, at the same time, other people in the city (including many other homeless people who are one of the most common victims of crime) need to be protected and feel safe. Being a drug addict should not be a blank check to steal from, vandalize, and assault people.
1. Safe injection sites, free drugs, and housing? This will solve most of your property crime + health issues, at high cost, and some moral hazard.
2. Safe injection sites and locking people up forever for property crime? If you ever let them out, without addressing the reasons for why they are breaking into cars, they'll be right back at it. This is also incredibly expensive.
3. No safe injection sites and some combination of the above? You get the same costs + problems, but also more overdoses.
The reason this is an issue is because it's a local problem that requires a national intervention.
1. The War on Drugs still exists, creating an expensive black market for addicts where they have to commit crimes to feed their addiction - money that goes to gangs/cartels. Researching treatments is difficult due to drug scheduling. Treatment options are limited (like "free drugs").
2. When a particular locality attempts to address these issues in a callous way (like busing), it "solves" the problem for locals, but of course the people still exist and just move to the next town that is not cutthroat. This leaves a disproportionate amount of the problem to those living in cities, where the most services/shelter options are available.
To truly solve the problem, we need to end the War on Drugs, build housing, and properly fund treatment centers on a national level.
Your first option is about as good as it can get when trying to solve this problem using local tools. Safe injection sites, methadone/similar, and housing are all far cheaper than just a subset of what the chronically/drug-addicted homeless cost already and they actually attempt to address the issues of addiction and homelessness. Without housing, drugs/treatment, and injection sites you get: people on the street buying from the black market spreading disease that have numerous emergency room visits and nights in jail, costing everyone far more money than the housing/treatment. But folks in cities will still be paying far more than their fair share to do so and they'll be treating a lot of outsiders from places that don't offer those services, but should - the causes of the problems will still exist elsewhere.
Aside from rehabilitation services, that's what already happens: they go to jail. It's extremely expensive and does not actually solve the problems, just takes the addict off the street for a few days and adds to their record. Then they are back on the street, still an addict, with even less money. Guess what happens next.
This sounds like something right out of the "Seattle is dying" propaganda documentary that released lately. Living in White Center, I don't experience any of this. People act like its the lower 9th ward or chiraq or the walking dead around here, and it just isn't.
Seattle, by itself, cannot solve the homeless problem, we can only hope to maintain it to some extent, many of its root causes are far outside of our city limits. 80% of our nation is paycheck to paycheck, until that changes neither will homelessness. We need more housing of all kinds immediately, even if it means imminent domain, and we need clean needle facilities. We also need to give the wealthiest employers in king county a choice, pay better wages or get taxed, and ownership and investors must take the pay cut and the cost cannot be passed to the consumer. Landlords need to have some limits, they are driving the costs up enormously. Free markets were supposed to be free from usury and rentiering, not protections for them.
I live in Seattle, and have for years. I’ve lived in several different cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and South.
King County has one of the highest minimum wages in the United States. There are several organizations giving out clean needles in King County. We are building new housing at a very rapid rate and many areas of the county were upzoned just this year so we can build even more housing.
To me your comment is asking for us to do more of what we are already doing, even though what we are doing is barely slowing the growth of homelessness. There is no amount of taxation on businesses the city, county and state can impose that will provide a home for everyone that needs it. This approach will not produce positive change.
I have no idea how you got that from my comment. No where did I say we need to shuffle people around the city forever as we currently do. The city can only do so much (the up-zoning was badly needed), the state won't act, the federal government obviously won't act primarily because of attitudes such as yours, so the problem persists meanwhile you wonder why nothing changes.
Our national economy is a ponzi scheme, and our homeless are its primary victims. Until we solve the scheming, the homeless problem will only get worse.
White center is gentrifying fast – it's significantly better than it used to be. It's also significantly better, at the sidewalk level, than pioneer square and 3rd/pine.
The downtown spots have a high and constant density of mostly undangerous people, involved in low level anti social behavior.
White center has a low and volatile density of somewhat dangerous people, doing some nutty stuff. Just in the past few months, I can recall: A guy got his throat slit, while driving his car, because he had given his passenger's girlfriend a ride earlier. There was an armed robbery outside of Triangle. A 59 year old got shot in the bathroom of Tug on St Patrick's Day. I lived on 16th until recently, and would flip the scanner on every time I heard sirens, just to keep a pulse. It's not chicago, but it's legitimately dicey sometimes.
With that said, I agree that we need more housing, though I think seattle is doing an excellent job of that compared to SF, and it's reflected in the flattening rent prices. We could be doing more, though. No reason we can't have significant multistory buildings in west seattle.
Could someone please explain what it means to "encourage homelessness"? At a first glance, it looks like a passive aggressive implication that homeless people, if they just tried harder, wouldn't be homeless. Can anyone help me see what I'm missing?
Maybe attracting homeless would be a better way of putting it. Homeless people aren't inherently irrational. Given an option, many of them will choose a place they like better than one they don't. Add in politicians who see a chance to solve the issue by encouraging the homeless to move somewhere better for them (which lets them even sell the measure as a benefit for the homeless), it means that places that make it much better to be homeless see homeless from other areas moving in.
The most common zip code they get on the questionaire is for the Pioneer Square area, where many homeless services are provided and the price of rent is higher than average. They don't require any evidence of being housed previously and, even if they did, coming to Seattle with the promise of friend hosting them on their couch counts as "living in the area" before becoming homeless.
80% of our population lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford a 400 dollar car repair bill. That is instant homelessness for a lot of people. So much wealth is hoarded in so few hands that we are squandering vast amounts of economic potential.
Thanks for posting this. I've been repeating this stat quite a bit lately without knowing that it's misleading.
However, I still think we're in pretty dire straits:
> The report finds, in 2018, that 61% of adults would cover a $400 unexpected expense using cash (or its equivalent). Politicians and many in the media seem to be subtracting 61 from 100, and concluding that 39% of people, to use Warren’s phrase, “can’t come up with” the money they’d need to handle this situation.
> Instead, as the Fed report makes clear, though “the remaining 4 in 10 adults” “would have more difficulty covering such an expense,” many of them would be able to make it work by carrying a credit card balance or borrowing from friends and family."
That's still really bad. 39% of people can't cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money from someone else, or effectively taking out a loan at 20%+ interest.
And the 12-14% figure for people who actually would be unable to come up with that $400 via any means is also troubling.
>The report finds, in 2018, that 61% of adults would cover a $400 unexpected expense using cash (or its equivalent).
I guess the key question is, does the other 39% not have liquid assets to cover it and thus have to take on debt, or would they choose to cover it for other reasons? I have $400 in the bank but would likely put it on a credit card because I don't like carrying that much cash nor using my debit card (to reduce risk of it being leaked). So would I be in the 39% or the 61%?
I don't really see anywhere in your post where any refutation is concrete. They hem and haw over semantics, but nothing worth note is presented contrary to the my view. In fact, in the opinion piece he quotes anecdotal things I would hear frequently from my lower wage employees, such as being unable to purchase a new tire, $400 dollars is a lot of money for a lot of people.
One example is decriminalizing possession of heroin / crack, which makes it far easier and safer for dealers (who can hold below the limits and resupply frequently), which then increases the availability and drives down the price (less risk) of those drugs. Ignoring petty crime increases it as well.
Important to note that it’s often a funnel, homelessness -> addiction, so you have to work on both sides.
I don’t have the perfect solution, nobody seems to, but Seattle and a few other cities seem to be going down the wrong path with vigor.
We had a post here last week about soda taxes in Philadelphia and it seemed like common sense that by making sugary drinks more expensive, you are encouraging people to consume it less, which results in fewer people drinking it.
We can discuss this with no implication that there's a static amount of soda consumption in the world, or that people want to be obese from consuming it. We understand life is a series of choices, "when to consume sugary drinks" makes up some of them, and that by disincentivizing that choice, people are more likely to choose a different beverage.
Nobody "chooses" homelessness, but like anything else, becoming / staying homeless often is the result of numerous choices, some of which are easier than others for various reasons. When you artificially remove bad consequences from some of those choices, it is not surprising that those choices are made more often.
The claim isn't that you can "just stop being homeless."
> Nobody "chooses" homelessness, but like anything else, becoming / staying homeless often is the result of numerous choices, some of which are easier than others for various reasons. When you artificially remove bad consequences from some of those choices, it is not surprising that those choices are made more often.
Consuming soda is just one way people can become obese. The problem is obesity. If you are an obese person, you may not really be able to "just stop" being obese, but if policy leads to people choosing healthier beverages, it helps fight obesity.
...and the opposite is true, too. It would not be difficult to imagine what might happen if we subsidized soda until it was free, for example. Except we probably wouldn't have advocates claiming that because nobody wants to be obese, the incentives can't possibly be affecting the increase in soda consumption.
I see your point. I agree that we shouldn't incentivize drug consumption. However, the current way of de-incentivizing drug consumption through making it illegal doesn't seem to work well. Luckily, there is more than one way to de-incentivize something like that (look at the soda tax, for example!).
The issue with drugs (as opposed to soda) is that the illegality in itself a lot of times tends to make people homeless by heavily limiting their hosing/employment/etc. perspectives. De-incentivizing drug consumption by heavily taxing them and making the proceeds go towards rehabilitation for addicts and helping those people get on their feet and find employment? I am with you on that. But I cannot really support, in good conscience, punishing drug users to the point where they are pushed to become homeless.
> But I cannot really support, in good conscience, punishing drug users to the point where they are pushed to become homeless.
To a large extent I agree with your point here, but these cities are well beyond simply not punishing drug users.
Mobile safe injection sites, needle exchange programs, cash handouts, unfettered defecation in streets, naloxone handouts, lack of enforcement of petty crimes like vehicle break-ins and theft. There are plenty of policy decisions being made here that affect the choices people make, and none of that even touches on actually enforcing drug laws.
Moral and financial cases can be made for any of the above, and we can debate that, but to me it's really drinking the Kool-Aid to claim these don't encourage homelessness. They certainly make it easier to make bad decisions that can start or keep you on the track of homelessness.
You are missing the point, it isn't that simple. Doing the opposite might keep cities cleaner or reduce crime but the cost is significantly higher to maintain. A prison population is a social service that is incredibly expensive, the more enforcement there is, the more expensive it is per body. This doesn't solve the problem it just costs the taxpayer more for another non-solution.
Yep. Singapore is always the country I point to when opponents point at (insert area) which legalized drug use and saw numbers go down. They don't beat Singapore's numbers, and Singapore's approach is a lot different.
Human beings are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically.
Adding support for an activity provides extrinsic motivation for doing something.
Basically, cities get what they pay for. If you pay for homelessness you get it.
That said, I'm not saying we shouldn't help people, but that we should make sure that whatever support we provides guides people towards self sufficiency and not dependence.
“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber, ... To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit. It is inimical to the dictates of sound policy. It is in violation of the traditions of America.” – FDR 1935
If you permit the assumption that homeless are more likely to engage in criminal activity , the city of Seattle has significantly reduced enforcement of crime, including violent crime.
Therefore, ppl who would otherwise being in jail for crimes are living on the streets.
There was a documentary about this done by a local Seattle TV station. I don't know how reliable it is, but at the end it actually gave fairly humanitarian and progressive solution to the problem, despite spending most of the show arguing lax and progressive policing attitudes created the problem to begin with 
 by, a criminal being more likely to become homeless, or by desperation driving the homeless to crime
 Their proposed solution, inspired by a program in RI (? maybe ME), is to treat drug addiction as a disease to be treated by having effective programs.
One approach includes both reward / consequence. In this model, things like theft, various forms of violence particularly in shelter or public housing violence, even taking over extremely large areas of public space (ie, 3-4 tents plus dogs plus...) results in consequences, while avoiding issues along the above lines results in rewards (ie, eligibility for service or additional service). In addition, these approaches tend to also consider impact on the non-homeless (ie, prison time linked arguably with a reduced risk of property crime)
Other models are focused primarily on making life as bearable as possible for the homeless - basically the straight service model. Under this model, resources are provided and consequences are reduced in the event to solve homelessness.
Some folks going through the tougher love systems (ie, jail vs rehab etc) say good things, other folks ask how can homelessness be criminalized and focus primarily on reducing risk of govt involvement (this can also save money in some cases - prison is expensive, rehab is expensive etc).
I can elaborate. Enforcement of basic car camping and drug possession/use laws has basically gone to zero and as a result there is a sense that Seattle has opened itself up as a "Risk Free Zone" for homelessness. Stories like https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/just-sickeni... have created a sentiment that people are moving to Seattle because of this.
While I can't speak to the truth of the belief that people are actively moving to Seattle, I can say that there's little incentive for someone to follow basic property or drug laws in this city.
EDIT: To your point on how this differs from "Homeless people are lazy" I guess the idea is that we've created a situation where there are even more factors pushing homeless individuals to the streets and suburbs of Seattle, that Seattle has made homelessness more attractive in a sense.
> Enforcement of basic car camping and drug possession/use laws has basically gone to zero and as a result there is a sense that Seattle has opened itself up as a "Risk Free Zone" for homelessness.
Again, I find this logic to be extremely confusing. How related is "car camping" to Seattle's homeless? Is there some implication that the majority of them have cars they sleep in? Or am I missing something there?
As for the incentive to follow basic property or drug laws, again, how does that encourage homelessness? I could understand if you argued it encourages crime, but why homelessness?
The only remaining argument is basically "this encourages already homeless people to move to Seattle", which I can see being a problem, but of a different kind. It shares certain aspects with the immigration-related problems: in both cases, it's an effect of a deeper underlying problem that acts as a root cause and should be solved.
Car-camping is the nice way of saying "permanent homeless camps". The idea is that, if we didn't allow homeless camps to grow and spread, then it would be much more difficult to live without a permanent home in Seattle, and thus, you might move to somewhere else.
Car camping is intended to be as shown at ; no more than a few days, tidy, and not overflowing with garbage and sewage. These campers are here to do pre-game tailgate parties for the nearby stadium.
However, largely because Seattle doesn't enforce limits on car camping, that same street will soon look like . This is a small permanent homeless camp that will remain at this location for months. The trash pile across the street will grow and attract vermin. Eventually, after weeks of health issues, sometimes fires and other illegality, the city will do a 'sweep'.
These sweeps are problematic on their own, since it is obviously dehumanizing to chase people out of their homes. They're also depressingly impermanent. The  location had been recently swept before the Google car came through. It already looks like .
> How related is "car camping" to Seattle's homeless?
In Seattle, there are a lot of people living in tents, cars, and temporarily-parked RVs. They all get lumped under "homeless" because they don't have permanent addresses or access to municipal services.
> The only remaining argument is basically "this encourages already homeless people to move to Seattle", which I can see being a problem, but of a different kind.
It's really hard to get good data on this, but, yes, there is a widely shared belief that Seattle gets more than it's "fair share" of the country's homeless epidemic because we have a lot of compassionate people, services, and, increasingly, lax law enforcement. Talk to any local and they'll tell you anecdotes about other counties or even states buying people one-way bus tickets to Seattle so that it's not their problem any more. It's hard to tell how much of that is urban legend.
Okay sure, but the data we have indicates that it's not true, and yet people like yourself insist that it is. In a world where my options are to a) make my best guess based on imperfect data, or b) make something up that fits my worldview, it seems like the correct thing to do would be a, but you're going with b.
> states buying people one-way bus tickets to Seattle so that it's not their problem any more
Ironically, this is effectively the approach people in this thread are arguing for, except without the bus ticket.
I absolutely did not. Did you read my comment carefully?
> Ironically, this is effectively the approach people in this thread are arguing for, except without the bus ticket.
Another irony: you're lumping all homeless people — criminals and victims — into the same bucket, which is the criticism many homeless advocates have of "NIMBYs". What I think many people in this thread are saying is that repeated offending criminals should be locked up. Some of those people happen to be homeless, but I don't see comments in this thread arguing that non-criminal homeless people should be discarded.
Even if those anecdotes aren't true, isn't the perception of Seattle being a homeless-enabling city likely to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy if it's believed widely enough? Homeless people in Canada definitely try to make it to Vancouver if they can because of the perception of an enabling local government and mild weather.
Shouldn't the city do something to dispel that perception, y'know, such as enforcement of vagrancy laws?
It seems obvious to me: if laws against behaviors that are common among homeless were actually enforced then some subset of the homeless population would try harder to not be homeless, or move to another location.
> To your point on how this differs from "Homeless people are lazy" I guess the idea is that we've created a situation where there are even more factors pushing homeless individuals to the streets and suburbs of Seattle, that Seattle has made homelessness more attractive in a sense.
I'm sorry, but this makes no sense to me. The best data we have indicates that most homeless people are from the area, so I don't think there's any evidence to support the idea that people are moving here from elsewhere.
The idea that homelessness is "attractive" is even more absurd. Do you seriously believe that if we just criminalized people a bit more, they'd simply stop choosing to be homeless?
You're not missing anything. A lot of people just want the problem gone and somehow think that being tougher on the already downtrodden is a viable solution. You can fine and jail the homeless and it's not going to make them any less homeless.
The only solution is exactly the kind of thing this article is talking about. Providing consoling / rehab services and helping people turn their lives around one by one. There is no blanket solution.
This is right-wing rhetoric from people who seem to think the solution to homelessness is to throw them all in jail. Wait sorry, they don't have the "perfect solution," but they're certain it involves police and jail. And they're sure all the homeless people moved here from elsewhere, despite the data to the contrary.
Ditto, there is a certain subset that feels unsafe in the city (like the cop that did an AMA on Reddit about how he doesn't feel safe on 3rd avenue without his gun) despite its relative safety. Some of these people, like the aformentioned cop, are a danger to those around them due to this mindset.
As a kid I caught busses every day on 3rd Ave without a problem, and yes, the same open drug dealing still happens at 3rd & Pine (by the crackDonalds), but that has been going on since before I moved here in 2003. When I transfer there now, not much has changed in terms of the people you'll see.
The level of danger hasn't changed, but the homelessness crisis has worsened and become much more visible as we fenced off the underside of bridges, replaced parking in the inner suburbs with bike lanes (in large part to push the van dwellers out) and rent has increased. We have an opioid crisis that is going untreated, high rents and few middle income jobs.
Our society is stratifying badly between the 90% that is getting poorer every year (and feels no hope) and the 10% that are able to afford rent in prime cities.
As a long-time Seattle resident, I feel perfectly safe on 3rd and Pine. Not everyone is as uncomfortable with folks living on the street as you - time to get out and listen to others' opinions rather than assuming bad faith.
Your sole citation is a single shooting from three years ago.
So the argument is being made that this particular place should not make people feel unsafe. I think a proper car accident analogy would be to compare one intersection to 3rd and pine, instead of the entire commute. If one intersection had as many car crashes as 3rd and pine had violent crimes, would you feel unsafe driving through that intersection, and maybe drive another way home?
The block on 3rd between Pike and Pine is the second most dangerous on KIRO's compiled list when looking at violent crime in Seattle according to those statistics. It looks like this data is from 2010-2013.
Oh hey, your data is from back when I was going through 3rd & Pike/Pine daily. I never felt threatened or particularly in danger in that area, nor did my teachers (who also transited those blocks for their bus/rail connections) or classmates feel unsafe in those two blocks during that period.
FYI there is a live crime map, along with an interface to search older reports if you wander around seattle.gov
It's possible there is something the data is missing, like like the time of the crimes committed. I'm not invested enough to make a point by creating multiple queries against the available data sets. You and the other posters in this comment chain have provided anecdotal evidence that the area felt safe for you, but the data I'm seeing and anecdotes I've heard from friends tell me that it isn't safe.
The live map only shows the last 24 hours, and links to the data I provided above for anything older than 24 hours. Maybe I'm not looking in the right place for data which has more specificity in the location tied to it.
I live a block away from 3rd and am amazed anytime people think it's that bad - I legit walk my dogs there every night from 11 - 3AM. It just feels like a neutered version of any other city, the police presence there is always intense due to the tourists at Pike Place.
What do you propose? Cracking down on homeless people. Heavy fines and jail time? Is that somehow going to make them less homeless?
The only viable answer is programs like what this article is talking about. Providing consoling/rehab services and helping people turn their lives around one at a time. There is no blanket solution. These are individuals that are suffering and trapped in a cycle.
If you think violently oppressing the already downtrodden is a good solution please leave and go to another city. This is probably not the place for you.
Northwest and West coast governments have acknowledged that the current legal deterrents and consequences do more harm than good: fines being impossible to collect alongside being inadequate deterrent, jail and prison exacerbating the situation and not resulting in holding people for very long anyway. Costing taxpayers even more when they do hold people for long.
They have not reached consensus on what to replace the deterrents with, so now there is a void and no oxygen to even criticize the outcome.
I live here too, and I disagree with you - this is a symptom of an entirely different problem. We should not be screwing people's lives over for simple possession, the rest is the same homeless problem that every city has nowadays.
My modest proposal: A homeless man and a deer are about the same weight, and of similar nutritional value. When either deer or homeless overpopulate an area they cause damage in similar ways. Feces, fur, needles, shed antlers littering the parks. Public fighting among the males esp during the rut. A hazard to traffic is created by incautious walking in the roadways. Deer populations are successfully managed by selling hunting licenses, let us do the same with hobos. I can assure you hobo tongue is quite a delicacy (brine for 1hr to remove tobacco taste). Let us once and for all legalize the sport of hunting the deadliest game!
I lean heavily towards giving people the freedom to do what they want, but in 'private' and without burdening public life of others. If people want to light up or shoot up, so be it. But I think a community must have ways to discourage or push people out of the public sphere who practice unwelcome and unsocial behavior. The gov't fully feeding, clothing, and sheltering large groups of addicts is impractical and unviable in most/all places.
If they aren’t going to charge you for drugs surely they could arrest you for public intoxicating or disorderly conduct. Drunk people get arrested frequently. Put them in the drunk tank, sober them up, suggest or provide rehab options, and let them out with a small cash fine. If they want to get into some kind of treatment or non-profit home waive the fine.
The goal is to provide incentives to get sober but not ruin someone’s job prospects forever for being addicted.
>> Put them in the drunk tank, sober them up, suggest or provide rehab options, and let them out with a small cash fine.
That is Hollywood, not reality. Tossing happy drunks into cells to sober up overnight is not a thing.
(1) There are no happy drunks. The drunks cops arrest are loud and aggressive. Often the physical act of arresting them results in more violent behavior.
(2) "Drunk" is not a thing for cops. They don't know if the person has had too many beers or had just taken LSD, or both. If they assume a person is simply drunk, and that person dies in the cell of an overdose, the cops will be responsible because they isolated that person. Cops are forced to treat intoxicated persons is more like patients than a 'drunks'.
(3) Mental health problems can look like, or at least exacerbate, intoxication. Cops cannot casually lock people up under the assumption they are dunk when in all likelihood they may be a non-drunk person in the middle of an episode. So cops must test people, evaluate them to determine what is at play. That takes time/money.
(4) Police cells are not happy places. They aren't private 8x4s with a soft cot. Spend a night in an LA lockup. You will not be getting much sleep. Casually throwing hundreds of drunk people into that mix will not help.
Assuming this is just about happy drunks, businesses that get people drunk and let them loose on the streets share the responsibility. We cannot allow bars and liquor stores, and their patrons, to rely on a pleasant police force ready to keep drunk people safe after the bar closes. If a bar is going to serve someone to the point of arrest-worthy intoxication they must contribute to the cost of keeping that person safe.
I saw a BBC doc yesterday about drinking in the UK. They have stores selling 3-liter bottles of 7.5% cider for four dollars. That is ridiculous. 3-liter bottles of dirt-cheap alcohol, cheaper than coke, are not bought by happy social drinkers. Any store selling those knows what it is doing.
>I saw a BBC doc yesterday about drinking in the UK. They have stores selling 3-liter bottles of 7.5% cider for four dollars. That is ridiculous. 3-liter bottles of dirt-cheap alcohol, cheaper than coke, are not bought by happy social drinkers. Any store selling those knows what it is doing.
Speak for yourself! The Strongbow 2-litre (sadly now £3-00 but was definitely closer to £2-00 back in 2000's) was the staple of many the happy teenager.
Yeah lots of malts are up there, I suppose the game came about before the craft beer movement- many of these new craft beers are 9 to 13 and would never be sold in 40-form I suppose, so those are high ABV for a 32/40 I’m sure.
Happy teen yes, but we set drinking ages for a reason. Teenage alcoholism is an evil that we rightly should fight against. When a kid is trying to decide what they want to buy, Strongbow should not be the cheaper option than diet coke.
Worth noting that France has no legal alcohol consumption age, and Germany has it set to 14 if a guardian is present.
Alcohol is deeply embedded in French and German culture (and surely other nations) - I have seen a 3 year old sipping some beer in Munich in a beer house. Amusingly, neither of the countries really has binge drinking culture as the UK or US has so
> People are constantly arrested at sports events and music festivals for being too drunk. I’m not saying it’s a happy experience like an old TV show or movie.
Context and witnesses matter as well. There's a big difference between the police being called to handle drunks at a sports event and a passer by calling 911 to report someone intoxicated on the street. There's no context for the latter.
Music festivals, baseball games and college? Not everyone can afford baseball games and music festivals. That isn't the typical drunk arrest. Those are the polite cops. Back when I did this stuff I dealt with clients attested under bridges, while at work, on their porches, even in their own bedrooms. Permission to 'lock up drunks' is an open door for every police corruption and bias.
No, I said nothing about not arresting anyone. I am saying that we cannot pretend that cops will quietly and politely lock up drunk people for the night while they sober up. Arrest and detention is not as portrayed in countless sitcoms.
But I would say that cops should not be arresting people simply for being drunk in their own homes, or in the very businesses that intoxicated them. Arrest people who are violent, not simply anyone who is drunk.
If folks are breaking the law put them in jail. If the law is unjust, fix it. If they are being mistreated there, fix that problem too. Avoiding the cause, symptoms, and solutions are not how problems are solved.
> businesses that get people drunk and let them loose on the streets share the responsibility.
I would argue that nobody is responsible for your bad decisions but you. Additionally, your logic leads to some absurd conclusions.
Should we also go after the farmers and distillers that make the alcohol because their product might be misused? Where does the chain of accountability end?
If we accept your premise that individuals are not wholly responsible for themselves, then you can arbitrarily blame anyone for anything if you try hard enough. Maybe you should get fined for shopping at the same liquor store that got that person drunk. You supported the business even though you knew what it was doing. Maybe the UPS driver that makes deliveries there should be fined. He knew what he was doing.
For another example, I think most people would agree that the author of an open source library should not be liable for damages if someone uses their code to write a virus. Why should physical goods be different?
Most cities of scale, certainly Seattle and Portland, have drunk tanks and vans that are on call to scoop up non criminal drunks to dry out. In Seattle it’s called “SUV” and in Portland it’s contracted to a group called “Chiers” (hah).
Police can shoot unarmed people in the back with impunity.
What gives you the idea they give a fuck about drunk / drugged people in their “care”.
Edit to add: I’m not being hyperbolic here, they don’t care, particularly if you’re an Aboriginal Australian:
A 2018 investigation found that over half of the Indigenous people who died in custody since 2008 had not been found guilty. In Australia, all deaths in custody trigger an inquest. In general, there has been a lack of action on recommendations arising from inquests, including the recommendations made as part of the 1987 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
As if being guilty excuses a death in custody. How absurd!
In the UK alcohol is cheap. But only in retail outlets and not in public houses. It needs to be the other way around. As you mention 'happy social drinkers' and that is not the same thing as sitting at home alone with a drink. There is a lot of low level alcoholism going on which is fine but I would prefer that to be 'happy social drinkers', even if alone in a pub.
Before Thatcher alcohol was widely available - in pubs. There were not corner stores and supermarkets selling the stuff everywhere. If you wanted take out beer to drink at home you bought it from the 'off license' bit of a pub. If you wanted wine you went to a specialist wine shop that would not be open all hours.
Now the thing that is going on in the USA is a lot of drug taking at quite an unusual level compared to what goes on in Europe.
Drugs in the UK exist but not in an epidemic. Teenagers and students smoke weed and then move on. In America the view of weed is that it is kids stuff, drugs start with white powders and things people stick into their veins. It is at a whole different level and quite terrifying.
It is a winner takes all capitalist society in America. That is where the drug problem comes from. Socialist republics (not that there any) don't have this problem.
> As you mention 'happy social drinkers' and that is not the same thing as sitting at home alone with a drink
Why? Most of my drinking has been done at home _in groups_ with retail bought alcohol. I don't see this is a problem. If anything, might not the opposite be true? You're encouraging people who want a drink to go out, increasing the risk of them being a nuisance to other people, and increasing the risk of them drink-driving.
> Put them in the drunk tank, sober them up, suggest or provide rehab options, and let them out with a small cash fine
Thats sounds great except
1. Accusing the police of questionable arrest tactics, mistreatment, death while in police custody (even from lack of treatment) is already a PR issue that has caused huge public outcry.
2. Overdosing and sobering up isn't strictly safe on alcohol or on opioids. Where drug overdoses are a top killer in society right now.
3. Homeless and drug addled people don't have the cash to pay a small cash fine. They just spent it on their last score, or the only cash they have is stolen or pan handled. And if they don't have the money to pay, you've just criminalized them more or put them further into a debt they will never pay.
4. Denial is the first sign of a problem. Sure, tell a stranger to go to rehab. Thanks to the undoing of forced institutionalizing, that's all you can offer.
Possession and public use/display are two different things. Do not confuse the two.
It's the same with alcohol, I can legally walk or drive around with a sealed container during transport. If I open that container in public and drink from it, I am breaking the law.
I 100% agree that possession of any drug should not lead to automatic arrest. But public consumption should not go unpunished nor should it be encouraged. Though, what is a good compromise for punishing public consumption? I say confiscate the drugs and paraphernalia while offering help as a good start. Arresting them just wastes time and money as once released they will go right back to doing what got them there in the first place. Jail is useless, they need a complete reboot in life which is extraordinarily difficult. I have no solution for that as there is no one size fits all approach.
Because having junkies and drunks meandering about significantly decreases the liability of the public space to the majority of people.
Life isn't like in college full of debauchery and little of how our actions affect others . The public space is a space where we all have the responsibility to ensure that our enjoyment doesn't trample on others. Including:
- Not speeding on a street. (it's not a road, it's a street)
- Cleaning up for yourself
- Not making a nuisance of yourself
- Not taking drugs/booze at the playground 
- Ignoring the "dogs on a leash" or "no dogs allowed" sign
 Don't worry. If you're intoxicated or doing drugs in my kids playground, I'm calling the police. Why does my kid have to dodge your drunk ass or your syringes to get to the slide?
it seems like your position is that Behavior A often leads to Behavior B. Behavior B can harm you or your kid, so make Behavior A illegal.
there's a difference between a guy quietly enjoying a beer on a park bench and a drunk plowing through children on a playground. you don't need a blanket ban on public use just to have an excuse to arrest people who are actually harming others. unless you're arguing that the mere sight of people being on drugs/alcohol harms you. in that case I propose that we also make it illegal not to bathe. dirty people make public spaces "unliveable" for me.
I also have encountered both. It seems like a bad idea to me but as long as the second hand smoke isn't invading my space then no I really don't care. There are sanitation concerns but if that's the real problem lets address that and get over being icked out.
I've literally had my kid with me when someone's been injecting in a public space and while it wasn't my favorite moment in life it still wasn't a big deal. He asked me about it and I explained that the man was injecting something like medicine but that it is mostly not good like medicine usually is. And I explained that he probably shouldn't be doing it there but that he probably couldn't think right and no longer understood when it was appropriate to do something like that.
My kid understood and as far as I can tell and was not traumatized. Literally he got over something most adults can't and he's 7. Why? Because instead of going into grossed out, full panic, cover your virgin eyes mode I explained it, with words.
I'd prefer my child not see such things but I also know that my right to shelter my child is not some all encompassing right that subsumes other people's rights.
To me, the benefit of sheltering my child is not worth the cost of forcing hundreds to thousands of people a month through the criminal justice system which will invariably make their entire lives much worse.
For now, that dichotomy represents our options. I will support state intervention when people are ready to let the government intercede in less life impacting ways and people are willing to put significant money behind some public interventions other than imprisonment.
But I will not advocate contribution to the ruination of lives to save myself or my child some unpleasantness.
> it seems like your position is that Behavior A often leads to Behavior B. Behavior B can harm you or your kid, so make Behavior A illegal.
For certain things, it's reasonable to police Behavior A rather than Behavior B. One could imagine speeding not being illegal, and punishing people extra for accidents if they were speeding. Society quite reasonably chooses to enforce the behavioral norms at an earlier stage. Likewise, if your kid almost steps on a syringe in a park (this is not uncommon in D.C.), what do you do? Arrest the guy who dropped it there?
I certainly don't expect everyone to agree with me, but imo you have not done anything wrong until you have actually harmed another person or at least exposed them to an immediate, concrete risk. littering directly harms the environment that we all live in. leaving dirty needles on the ground is even worse than regular trash; it's a biohazard. there should be serious penalties for doing this stuff. if it's so likely that degenerate drug users are going to leave dirty needles in the street, is it too much to ask that a cop wait five more minutes to watch them do it, then lock them up (substitute whatever punishment satisfies you here)?
"between a guy quietly enjoying a beer on a park bench"
I don't mind a quiet beer in public spaces. It's one of the things I enjoy about Savanah GA. But Americans (I'm not) seem unable to quietly enjoy a beer in a public spaces without becoming obnoxiously drunk.
I recently spent a day in Vancouver, unfortunately in / near what I guess is "Downtown Eastside." There were blocks of major streets we just did not go down, but even skirting the edge of it was incredibly unpleasant.
Did I feel unsafe? Yes. These streets were also filled with seemingly average-joe locals who did not give a damn about any of the things I saw that freaked me out, though, and I saw cops a few times that day (not just the ones who showed up for what I'm assuming was an OD a few blocks from me), so I figured statistically, at least during the day, it probably wasn't that unsafe...
Yes, I saw people setting up to smoke crack on the sidewalk of a busy street. Yes, I saw a man making sure there weren't air bubbles in his needle. Yes, the detritus if drug paraphernalia was everywhere. Yes, I walked right past the front door of a crack den blaring music, with trash (largely composed of burnt foil) piling up around doors and windows. Yes, there were used needles all over the place.
The blatant drug use shocked me, but it's not what had me on edge that whole goddamn day.
That day, I saw dozens and dozens of people who, if I'd met in other situations, I'd think should be in a hospital. It was, to me at least, some serious post-apocalyptic shit. I'm not new to the appearance of long-term addicts, but this was another level.
I watched a band playing music in a park for a few minutes, before an unhinged man started screaming and yelling all kinds of nonsense. I watched a woman weaving all over the sidewalk, tearing at her clothes, crying. I watched a man covered in scrapes and cuts shuffle down the sidewalk, take off a shoe, then continue shuffling, and I can't even begin to figure out how to explain how wrong he looked. I walked by so many frail, disease-ridden bodies, and so many people acting terrifyingly _wrong_, I don't have words to describe how I feel about it.
There were times my brain said "oh shit, do we need to call an ambulance?" in the middle of a busy sidewalk, but everyone acted like nothing was happening.
I'm not sure what to do about this. I live in the SeaTac area, and am also concerned that Seattle will become as bad as Vancouver. I'm worried that policies like this result in an influx of vagrant drugusers. I'm worried that both this policy and resultant increase in users will make it even easier for dealers, who will flourish with the more stable user base. I'm worried that between easier availability, more obvious useage, and a dozen other factors, it will be even easier for people who find themselves homeless in Seattle to try crack or heroin (etc), and even harder for them to come back from that.
No, I don't think people's chance of livelihood should be harmed by a drug record. I'm just not certain this is the solution.
 you could try, they probably won’t show up or do anything if they do. Speaking as someone who has been chased off the playground in Seattle multiple times this last year by drug users.
Btw as a parent in Seattle I always do a sweep for needles as the playground.
Thankfully, I left the West Coast after three months. Where I live the police will show up in a jiffy for doing drugs in a playground.
What most impacted me was a homeless man that collapsed and everyone walked over him as if he weren't there. What humanity! West Coasters will allow this man to destroy himself with drugs and booze, but will walk over him as he collapses.
I'm a transgender woman. Applying your thought process seems to me, inevitably, to mean I can't live in society.
I work downtown cooking for a bar (despite my deep involvement in tech as a child/teen and early work programming and some infrastructure stuff, life's challenges haven't enabled me access to significant wealth or appreciable social status). I've found survival, and I deal with drug addicts, mentally ill, the deeply traumatized and abandoned. The biggest thing anyone needs in these circumstances is love and acceptance.
Coming from a place of privilege, your leaning to exclude the suffering from society is wildly antisocial and a leading cause of the rise in "eat the rich" mentalities.
For many, just being transgendered and not attempting to pass as cisgendered is unwelcomed behavior.
I think the issue is the choice of word 'unwelcomed'. Aggressive may be better in capturing (what I assume is) the author's intent, but I would still find it a bit lacking. Some homeless behavior isn't aggressive but is unpleasant enough to cause people to make changes to avoid it. How do you describe such behavior without also describing behavior that a different group may choose to avoid that they really shouldn't be avoiding?
Maybe we can define it as aggressive or unsanitary. Not perfect, but it is the closest I can get without shooting over the intent.
Who gets to define "out of control behavior"? Mostly people who aren't transgender women. It's not like it's unprecedented for being transgender to be criminalized under the pretense of not "burdening public life of others", or that it's "unwelcome and unsocial behavior". This isn't even your typical "slippery slope" argument, this is a slippery slope that we've already slipped down and that we're still trying to climb back up.
My identity remains unwelcomed behavior, and though the focus on my identity is entirely predictable, it is included to highlight my experiences as an unwelcomed member of society not as my experience as a trans woman.
I don't think you being transgender relates at all to what the parent post was saying. No one wants to watch someone shoot up heroin on the sidewalk (and potentially step on a dirty needle). No one wants to second hand smoke crack. It's a public safety issue to move some of these activities out of public spaces.
I'm not even commenting on whether these things should be legal in private, but there are very good reasons they shouldn't be allowed in public.
People literally think i'm a child molester. People like my dad. People like the two guys who assaulted me for absolutely no reason, in public, while no bystanders did anything whatsoever (as a trans woman, i'm glad he police weren't called -- my friends have been arrested and charged in similar circumstances).
>But I think a community must have ways to discourage or push people out of the public sphere who practice unwelcome and unsocial behavior.
The point is, in much of even modern day US, and even more so in the past, just existing as a transgender individual who doesn't attempt to pass is deemed by a significant portion of society as unwelcome and unsocial.
When you tie discrimination to what is deemed unacceptable behavior, you encounter an issue when deal with a society that deems acceptable behavior as unacceptable.
Your quote is exactly what I was responding to, but I would say my point is that solutions have externalities and if you provide a framework for social exclusion it will be used against the people least able to support and protect themselves.
There are many forms of unacceptable behavior that do not make it into law. Back in sociology class they mentioned three categories, though I don't know if these days they are used.
Laws are the strongest, the ones which we agree to directly take action against people who break these rules. That could be a fine. That could be years in prison.
Morals or mores are the second, where we will tend to exclude people and openly speak against them, but not take direct action. What actually constitutes a social more is quite hard to define as they aren't written down as laws, often change, and often are based in part on things we don't want to admit (such as having built in racism or sexism). In parts of the US, being openly transgender is against the exist social mores.
The last is folkways, where we generally have an accepted way of doing things but not really one we have openly agreed upon, and upon breaking it we don't have any socially agreed upon response. These are the weakest and are things that are more weird than wrong. A man having long hair would qualify as breaking a folkway in parts of the US.
Why do I bring this up?
Because, while transgenderism isn't against the law, there are definitely parts of society where it is against the mores of that portion of society and with some people being strongly enough against it they want to make it against the law. They likely won't succeed, but even the punishments for breaking social mores can be drastic.
The law is not the end all definition of socially unacceptable behavior, and it is a given fact that some portions of US society deems being openly transgender as against social mores. To call this out is not trolling.
> Because, while transgenderism isn't against the law, there are definitely parts of society where it is against the mores of that portion of society and with some people being strongly enough against it they want to make it against the law.
What does it mean to make transgenderism illegal? In the US it would not be possible to legislate someone's appearance or how they choose to identify.
While they can't just pass a law that outright bans it as a court would quickly strike it down, there are a lot of smaller laws they can pass to make it much worse.
Make it illegal for people to change their birth certificate. Make it so that all laws apply based on their original birth certificate, regardless of any changes having been made in other states or countries. Make it illegal to use facilities meant for the opposite gender. Expand fraud to include claiming and presenting as a gender not on their birth certificate, specifically when the other party is paying (yes, this could run into free speech issues). Legally declare it to be a mental illness (much like how federal law declares marijuana to have no medical value, actually being aligned with existing science is not required). Passing laws banning any form of transitioning involving minors. Pass laws introducing trans-panic as an affirmative defense for assault or homicide. Laws that prevent adoption by trans individuals (to the extent the state can do so).
I'm sure law makers spending months can come up with far worse laws that I could in 5 minutes.
> I'm sure law makers spending months can come up with far worse laws that I could in 5 minutes.
Except that they haven't though. A lot of the things you list have never even been seriously discussed. Some of them are very debatable (pro or con) on their own, such as making it illegal for minors to transition.
I think you're making a strawman and I still don't see what any of this has to do with not allowing public drug consumption.
There has been some minor discussion, but as of right now the group I was talking about doesn't have significant enough political power. The most one sees right now at a national or state level is bathroom bill discussion. At smaller government levels there are places that are much worse, but the limits on what laws they have control over keep them from passing worse laws.
>I think you're making a strawman
I think you don't have a good understanding of the sentiment large groups of the population have for trans people.
>and I still don't see what any of this has to do with not allowing public drug consumption.
You might want to go reread the entire thread. One use posted about a potential foundational reasoning that could be used to outlaw drug use in public and the rest of the conversation has been about how that one foundation is inadequate because of the unintended consequences of applying it elsewhere. Specifically, it was concerning one individual who reacted to it on a personal level, and trying to explain why the second individuals interpretation was not incorrect even if unintended.
A person can use entirely different foundations to reason that public drug use as bad and this wouldn't apply at all to them.
Put simply, this is not about not allowing public drug consumption, this is about one potential reason for not allowing public drug consumption.
> I lean heavily towards giving people the freedom to do what they want, but in 'private' and without burdening public life of others. If people want to light up or shoot up, so be it. But I think a community must have ways to discourage or push people out of the public sphere who practice unwelcome and unsocial behavior. The gov't fully feeding, clothing, and sheltering large groups of addicts is impractical and unviable in most/all places.
As you can see there's nothing about trans people in that statement. I don't agree that this is an invalid way to feel, it's ok to label some behavior as antisocial. That doesn't mean that all of the sudden totally unrelated topics become antisocial. You say yourself that the anti-trans people don't have the power to impact these laws (and the constitution would stop them anyway). Do you really believe that there's no such thing as antisocial behavior that should be discouraged?
Health is not arbitrary. Why do I care if you smoke crack in public? Because I don’t want to breathe your second hand crack smoke. I’m shocked that this point is being lost in the discussion as it seems quite obvious.
Well, it would be second hand crack vapor, which I really doubt would have any effect on others at all. Cocaine in small receational doses really isn't that harmful to begin with, let alone second hand microdoses. And what if I don't want your second hand gasoline fumes? I don't want or own a car, why should you get to drive one around in public? I absolutely guarantee you that your exhaust fumes are worse for my health than my second hand crack vapor is for your health.
I question that the needed ventilation and filtering systems would be worth the cost. Also, crack makes people kinda crazy, no? Do you really want rooms full of people smoking crack everywhere? I know I'm talking about second hand smoke (which would be awful) but there are tons of other reasons this is a bad idea.
I'm honestly confused at your response. I am talking about people smoking outdoors in a designated smoking area and you keep talking about ventilation and filtering mechanism and rooms full of smokers. are we having the same conversation?
> Do you really want rooms full of people smoking crack everywhere?
I don't think anyone should smoke anything in public indoor spaces. it's unfair to people who have to breathe it. outside, at a designated smoking area? smoke whatever you want. I won't be inhaling it.
> Also, crack makes people kinda crazy, no?
maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. if they start acting aggressive, we already have laws against that.
I've now seen this debate play out many times over the years. people talk about health concerns, litter, violence, and all kinds of things like that. but it's already illegal to litter and it's already illegal to threaten people. if it's not already, it should be illegal to leave dirty needles around. but I think these are all just ways to avoid saying what people really mean: they just want drug users banished from their sight so they don't have to think about it.
> they just want drug users banished from their sight so they don't have to think about it.
This by the way is a perfectly legitimate opinion to have. There's all kinds of stuff I don't want to watch people do in public, hard drug use is near the top. It's pretty weird that people think it's some sort of right they have (or should have).
I mean, it's a legitimate opinion in the sense that everyone is entitled to have opinions, but I can't agree that "unsightly behavior" is a good standard for justifying the use of state violence. just think about how many things your (proverbial) conservative uncle would consider unsightly in public and how many people might agree with him.
By this logic, literally everything would be acceptable though. Should people be allowed to have sex in the street? Part of living in society is placing the limit somewhere. I agree that it's debatable if the limit is here or not but it's definitely not clear cut that it isn't. There's a very good case to be made against using hard drugs in public and I think there's a good chunk of people that agree with that.
tbh, I'm not sure why people shouldn't be allowed to have sex in the street. no one is saying you have to have these people over for dinner or hire them for a job. they can still be denied entrance to restaurants and generally shunned from polite society. all I'm saying is maybe they don't need to be locked up.
All of society is going to be a compromise. You represent one extreme just as the theoretical conservative uncle represents the other. Meeting somewhere in the middle is the only way to have a functional and healthy society. I think most people would agree that hardcore drug use in public is not desirable. Like I said, I think it's worth debating but don't be surprised when the end result is repeatedly in favor of suppressing behavior like that.
You can't second hand smoke crack, that's not really how it works at all.
As for heroin, you can't just arrest people for shooting up in public and hope that's going to stop the problem.
The kinds of people who shoot up or light up a pipe in public are at such a low point in their life that the disincentive of arrest (and fines/jail) means literally nothing to them. They're also often homeless. Where exactly do you expect the homeless junkies to shoot up?
People doing hard drugs in public isn't like someone smoking a joint while walking down the street or even like someone drinking a 40 oz in public.
Instead, the better option is to take a pragmatic approach. In my city, in areas of high drug use, they have put needle disposal bins in the public toilets and other places people shoot up. Surprisingly, they actually do get used and have significantly reduced the number of used needles on the street.
The attitude that trans people should be prevented from living in society is still widespread. A large number of people throughout the world think that it's damaging to society, harmful to children, etc... to have non-cis, non-straight people of any kind visible in public. Within the past few days, Nazis disrupted a Pride march.
So I do think, stepping up a meta-level that a general opposition to using force to suppress people and behaviors that some or a majority of society sees as degenerate, dirty, or a threat to public safety (but not a direct harm to others) relates to the grandparent commenter being trans.
The argument is that public drug use is a harm to others. I don't see how shooting up on the street has anything to do with being trans. One is a public health hazard, the other is a personal choice.
Yes there exists discrimination against trans people. That's an entirely separate issue that is not helpful to discuss with the original topic. We should be able to decide if we want second hand smoke, dirty needles, strung out people... in public without poisoning the debate well by bringing in non-related issues.
as a transgender woman I'm very consciously aware that I am considered by many the dregs of society -- worse than the drug addicts shitting on your streets. this is not a rational belief and it's not going away.
it's this fundamental lack of perspective that leads to y'all blithely supporting policy that will end with egregious human rights violations.
everything that sucks in our society is a result of how we've designed it. come to reality. your ideologies kill people.
it really sucks that "tech" has been fully subsumed by capital -- many of the visionaries that made the endless wealth fountain possible shared a vision of an equitable future that brought a better world and it was rooted in anticapitalist, social justice oriented philosophy. that feels so dead, these days.
While I absolutely believe that you get treated unfairly and that's a terrible thing, it has nothing to do with not wanting to step on needles or inhale crystal meth smoke. I don't even see why you're equating the two because one seems objectively horrible (hardcore drug use, with side effects, in public) and one isn't bad at all (being a trans person).
because of this: everything that sucks is the result of a system we've designed.
these people are victims of social views and policy as much as me. they aren't "hardcore drug use" they're people with a serious illness that develops as a result of something about our biology, culture, and environment.
They would be hurting other people if they used their drugs in public though, where you aren't. I also don't agree that people have no free will and can't be held responsible for their actions. Not everyone will make "good" choices and that's not society's fault. We need to reinstate some level of personal responsibility.
you've jumped to a conclusion, that also denies agency to people, that i don't share.
i believe strongly in accountability. which is why i believe, as a society, we must hold ourselves accountable and that means facing the hard truths such as: any of us posting here is wealthy in some way and that wealth has come at the cost of suffering and death in some way. the very least we can do in this (potentially last?) period of widespread economic development is work to build systems that are humane and healthy. it's not going to happen overnight, and it will never happen if we build a world that hides the unpleasant things from the public.
we see the impact of the problem, but if your solution is to hide it then you haven't identified the actual problem and in this case externalizing the cost of actual human lives and suffering.
Yes, I think we would never agree on most of this. For me accountability begins and ends the individual level. I can never be accountable for someone else's actions and they can never be accountable for mine.
I think generally in society we've accepted a structure in which the people with more power (e.g. higher in the org chart) are ostensibly responsible and accountable for the actions of those under them. This is largely the same concept. I do not understand how you expect to have a functional, just, and free society based solely on individual accountability if you can just externalize human suffering and stash it elsewhere
Sure, in the artificial construct of "work" you have accountability. You don't have a "boss" of your life though, you are solely responsible for yourself.
> I do not understand how you expect to have a functional, just, and free society based solely on individual accountability if you can just externalize human suffering and stash it elsewhere
You must accept that there will be some level of human suffering (quite a lot of it actually). It's quixotic to believe this will ever go away. All humans die eventually after all. Other than that, empathy at the individual level will bubble up in aggregate. This will vary from person to person. Some people want to go volunteer their time for charity, some won't. Again, this is all an immutable feature of living creatures.
Then it means you simply don't deserve freedom. Your failure of being able of logical thinking will be your undoing. The context of this article and comment is that people are being arrested and have their live ruined despite them acting as well behaving citizens. The comment you're responding provides a solution to the problem that merely involves a small inconvenience. You then erroneously that this inconvenience must also apply to you by twisting some words in a way that strengthens you argument. However the thing you have failed at is the fact that your initial situation is in no way comparable with those of drug addicts. Nobody is arresting you because you're a transgender woman. If you want the privilege of complaining about this then the only way to make it fair is by being treated the same way as those drug addicts. In other words you're saying it is illegal to be a transgender woman and the proposed solution of allowing to be one in private would still make it illegal to be one in public. Except we are not living in this world. It's not illegal at all. People might still discriminate against you but this isn't even remotely close to the same thing as it being written in the law.
Also your conclusion at the end is completely wrong. Prison excludes people from society. Letting them exist in society by imposing some rules is exactly the opposite.
I think you are extrapolating too much from my words and jumping to conclusions I did not make, Especially regarding privileges. My main point was that libertarianism goes both ways, you can’t have live free ethos and do what you please but then expect to socialize the physical costs of the behavior without question.
HN is not evenly supportive of the trans community (if you look at many of the comments on here). There are a number of quasi-libertarian religious people that are transphobes, but they persist as they often mesh well with the general libertarian bent of this site when commenting on articles.
HN is divided wherever society is divided, as is true of any sufficiently large population sample.
Actually I should say "societies", because it's a highly international community, and these lines are drawn differently in different countries. Mainstream positions in one may be extreme in another. The same is true of regions within countries.
Its difficult. Everyone's in favour of arresting black people for smoking crack. But the law is supposed to be equal. You have to arrest college kids doing XTC or gays who snort cocaine too. And that will create massive public outrage and a waste of prosecution's time.
Here's the other important thing: if you want to allow private use and criminalize public abuse, fine. Do that. But don't stop enforcing the law, lest you set (or strengthen) the precedent that the law is bent for political expediency. Change the law, don't just "stop enforcing it". Besides, if the goal is to provide lasting change, it makes more sense: a different enforcer could make a different decision. It's a little more difficult to rebuild support for legislative action (to, say, re-criminalize something) than for an administrator to do it.
Some of the discussion in this thread has brought to light some interesting things.
1) Where is the line for what is socially acceptable to do in public?
2) If a line exists, why does it exist where it does?
3) Should there be a standard that society must follow, so we don’t end up with drug litter, litter, and human waste on the streets and around us all of the time?
Some commenters have brought up that maybe there should not be a standard that we strive to achieve with regards to public behavior and cleanliness. I am concerned that slowly we are becoming so individualistic(in the since of other people can do whatever they want), and liberal with standards of behavior, that the worst kinds of behavior will eventually be permitted because that is “their right” to act that way.
I am curious if other people feel that we are not very far from being a society that keeps saying “everything is permissible, because anyone has the right to do as they please.” Or I might be extremely alone in this regard.
That situation devolves into violence against people.
Visit Seattle: there's needles all over the city, trash strewn everywhere, and mounds of human feces.
Society can't exist with feces on the street and strewn out junkies throwing trash around public spaces, because people are willing to use force to keep that away for their children and themselves.
If leftists genuinely value the ability to help people, they need to check their toxic empathy, before the leftist desire to seize property "on behalf of others" brings them into armed conflict with people protecting their families.
You can still charge people for disorderly conduct and public intoxication. This is just taking away charging people for having fentanyl in their purse.
>The gov't fully feeding, clothing, and sheltering large groups of addicts is impractical and unviable in most/all places.
It's completely viable it's just impractical. There are not THAT many homeless people. However there are diminishing returns for everything... Some people are on the street because they trash any home they're given access to. Also the better you take care of this population the more homeless people move to your progressive enlightened area. It's viable but nobody wants to pay for that shit when there are other social goods you could be doing.
It's really not though. It would probably cost a couple hundred million tops to do that for everyone in the Seattle area. We'd need to raise a tax to do it for sure, but it'd represent a fairly low burden.
Good policies can reduce the number of addicts to the minimum (there will always be a subset of the population that will fall into addiction but it can be low enough to not be a public health concern). Practically everything America does, from extreme inequality, normalised predatory capitalism, no public healthcare, rent seeking drugs companies who push opioids on vulnerable patients, terrible social policies and pathetic public schooling etc etc is counter productive to reducing the number junkies.
The US has 500,000 homeless people. Let's say it would cost about $1,500 per month to provide them with basic lodging and basic needs. That's $9 billion per year, or about $30 per citizen.
As a comparison: The F-35 fighter program is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 55 years. That's $27 billion per year, or about three times as much as it would cost to fix homelessness.
Let's compare with what you're advocating, which appears to be the status quo. The existence of homeless people (not all of whom are drug addicts, by the way) shows that drug criminalisation doesn't work.
Homeless people don't need more suffering to finally get their act together. Life on the streets is plenty uncomfortable and dangerous, and nobody operating according to your simplistic model of sticks & carrots would chose it.
Further criminalising behaviour you don't like such as being badly dressed or prone to shouting random, schizophrenia-induced nonsense seems not just heartless, but rather close to dividing society into your kind and "subhumans" to be exterminated. Because if you don't think they deserve food or shelter, and you want to drive them out of cities (and, presumably, towns) where are they supposed to go? I want to be as charitable as possible here, but "push[ing] people out of the public sphere" seems to be a euphemism to bus them into the desert and not watch them die.
Being slightly annoyed by homeless people is also the least you can do if you actually believe in the "public sphere" as a community of citizens, and not just the place to get cheap takeout. If others' suffering cuts into your bliss, either through its annoying smells and sounds or because there are remnants of empathy in play, that should be motivation to solve the problem. There are many countries poorer than the US that have far smaller homeless populations, so it is entirely possible.
You have some good points, but please edit out the parts of your comments which are crossing into ideological flamewar and even personal attack For example, this bit breaks the site guidelines:
> close to dividing society into your kind and "subhumans" to be exterminated
As does this bit from another post:
> why you seem to be indulging in such fascist revenge fantasies
It's not ok to argue like this on HN, regardless of how right you are or feel, or how wrong someone else is. If you wouldn't mind reviewing the site guidelines and commenting more in the spirit of this site, we'd appreciate it.
It's because we as a nation are obsessed with providing complicated services that attempt to address people's problems as something that can be "cured" rather than just go ahead and pay the price to meet their basic needs.
Every place that has had significant success in combating homelessness has done what you say. They've payed less attention to the "social ill" side of the token and have just put people in houses.
It's basically the keynesian hole digging problem. The real solution to the problem is not politically acceptable. Therefore we have to do mental gymnastics to make it palatable to the public. The end result is a completely inadequate solution that doesn't solve the problem sufficiently but is good enough to make people become indifferent to the problem.
A lot of this population can’t be stabilized at poverty line costs. Mental health treatment, rehab and life skills training, are costly. In addition housing can’t be provided at market rate due to property damage costs and risks.
Many of the homeless have mental health issues and that requires a costly support support structure. Also cities are just downright inefficient in spending money. Just look at any infrastructure project in recent years.
$9 billion per year does sound like a bargain to fix homelessness, but I think it's unfortunately a lot more complicated than that. The poverty line for a single person in the US in 2019 is $12,490 per year, and there are roughly 40 million living in poverty (25 million adults and 15 million children). You'd be offering all these people (and more who are just above the line) a significant increase in income if they call themselves homeless. While it might still be a good idea to do this, you are now looking at numbers closer to $0.5-1 trillion, so it's a very different discussion.
> The US has 500,000 homeless people. Let's say it would cost about $1,500 per month to provide them with basic lodging and basic needs.
What happens if you do that and next year discover that now you have 1,000,000 homeless people?
You're responsible for all of the consequences of a program, even the unintended ones. The line between "supporting" and "enabling" is very fine and hard to navigate. It's difficult to help people on the bottom while avoiding incentivizing people to stay on the bottom.
Seattle is a city that has made a lot of bad decisions. It is suffering from rampant drug abuse, property crime, and gross mismanagement under the current city council, which seems obsessed with following an ideologically-motivated progressive agenda instead of common-sense good governance.
The policy of not enforcing laws, not prosecuting (either certain crimes or certain cohorts of offenders) has caused the city's problems. There are two sets of laws - one is for law-abiding tax-paying residents who are just trying to live their lives without disruption, and the other is for everyone else, who somehow are seen as victims through a twisted social-justice lens, instead of malicious actors. The law-abiding tax-paying residents should not have to give up their public spaces, safety, property, or contribute more taxes in order to accommodate the huge rise of permanently-homeless service-refusing people that want nomadic or drug-centric lifestyles.
Those people do not contribute to society and are making society worse for those who do want to contribute. And yes, there has to be a consequence for that, in order to deter such behavior and lifestyles and not attract an influx of them into the city. This article does not make real the frustration experienced by most residents of Seattle, as it has deteriorated towards SF 2.0 in these last 4 years.
You're asking me how one might fix the sorts of problems I describe which motivate individuals to quit attempting to lead normal lives, resulting in some cities experiencing an invasion of freegan transients and related hobo shanty towns?
I think there's quite a bit of time and distance between the platonic incident where one person quits, and the later outcome where thousands of similar quitters congregate in a place conducive to their accumulation.
You're probably interested in preventing the quitter's mentality though, more than the semi-hostile freeloader invasion. (count the pennies and the dollars take care of themselves, so to speak)
There's probably no single answer to that, and the drop outs all look the same on the other side, because basic human needs have cut people down to size, reducing everyone to caveman essentials.
But still, even if there are differences, maybe there's a common thread, in that many stumble and land in a similar place... How to go about preventing a sort of modern civilian's burnout on being a productive busy bee with responsibilities?
Partly, that idea gets painted into a corner, because if you're owed nothing for maintaining a well-groomed exterior, and looking presentable is to be considered its own reward, then the choice to behave as such or to defect to the hobo shanty town is a neutral outcome in the grand scheme of things.
But there are competing interests at play, in that one side is fed up with all the superfluous artifice and extra effort, and the other finds the noise and the smell and the mess unsavory. Yet neither really matters more than the other. In fact, the responsible tax payer is as much the loitering warm body as transient, all the while, sucking up more resources.
The reason this perspective holds up all relates back to the idea that there is no accounting for what the tax payer enables, by holding down their day job.
Most regular people 9-to-5 occupations are cookie cutter careers that loop back and forth, each contributing to the net positive of modern living in the name of convenience, but upon this trampoline of social fabric rests other layers that never touch the ground. There's no way for one person with a day job to know whether their efforts streamline the ease of daily routine for someone admirable or dispicable. A paying customer is treated the same as any other. No one gets to pick and exclude one customer over another, within the bounds of law.
And when locked into a job for years on end, an accumulated sensation of fairness builds up. A question arises in the mind: Did I get what everyone else gets, for all the steps I took to get to where I am? Did others get more with less effort? Would everyone get the same as me, if they made similar choices? Are some of us just lucky? Is there something beyond luck affecting outcomes? Are outcomes rational and grounded by predictable principles?
Basically, social contract theory, in short. Except outcomes are NOT rational. Not lately. With drastic changes unfolding, in addition to simply not caring about social artifice, there are huge differences in how to conduct a livlihood and get by, when compared to a few decades ago. While there are new option available, other keystone choices have disappeared or seem laughable. This adds to the number lost at sea.
There's a sweet spot of balancing one's position between new challenges and attainable outcomes, and not everyone focuses on staying in that zone, while choosing new interests that should prove practical. In some respects, there's no good way to predict the future, and intuit what is likely to prove practical anyway. To complicate matters, technological implementation of new practices has demanded some truly complex new skills. Printed circuit boards, soldering and 3D printing isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. It's like asking ordinary hikers to free solo what appears to be Mt. St. Helens. There a disparity between what the future looks like, and the internalized imaginations of less technical folk, and how they see themselves. What's the alternative for them? Side hustle being a demeaning little task rabbit?
But that's not even what freegan transients are on about. That's the HN oeuvre for what technocratic VC startups might cut out for them. Pitch in for the big win, why not? There's a fiverr in it for ya, kid!
When you've grazed among the cavemen, you begin to see that being dirty, smelly and obnoxious during someone else's morning commute isn't the sin you perceived it to be, when you were the one hiding in your earbuds. Life without the flatscreen TV and the text messages isn't so bad, if you can keep warm and tend to basic nutrition. If the climate is reasonable, you just need to sidestep the sore throats and the pink eye, if you skip a few haircuts and grow slovenly and out of shape, well, so what. Pushing forty, the exciting prt of your dating career was long gone. Owning a home? That ship has sailed.
So what's to motivate anyone to to climb back on the bandwagon after jumping off? What's to convince passengers to stay on the bandwagon in the first place?
From a technical perspective, part of it is thread execution isolation. People feel like it's too easy for others to fuck up their otherwise reasonable momentum for unfair reasons. And they're right.
By contrast, the goldilocks factor is that isolated people who don't depend on one another have no rational basis for ensuring anyone's success. I don't care about the career options laid out for a Starbucks barrista. And the barrista doesn't care if I can come up with five bucks for my coffee tomorrow morning, because all customers are a faceless blur at a shit job. But I want my coffee, free of spit and loogies, and barrista needs maybe a couple of hundred bucks a week. We mutually hate each other on some level. The coffee's too expensive and the job is pathetic. We're both on the brink of abandoning this economic ruse at any moment.
Do we build society so that each participant in this client/server scenario is more grateful at the presence of the other? It doesn't seem particularly realistic. The truth is that the forces that created this brittle interplay of apathy originated decades ago, and it has refines and perfected the brink of apathy on razor thin margins ever since. Everything is middle-manned into shelf stable products insulated by preservatives, and we get our peer groups and family units destroyed the summer after high school graduation.
To undo this apparatus is no simple task. And like centuries-old glass warped by amorphous change, and flakes of lead paint accumulating on the window sill, it's all taking itself apart, and we'll need to remodel soon. Hope the house doesn't burn down because the electrician goofed on some new wiring...
Dirty, smelly, dimwitted hippies are pretty annoying. Especially the kind so enamoured with drugs. They swear to some kind of spirituality that the things they dose on are so important, and that everyone should be doing as they do.
I don't really like freight train hobos, burning man nomads, dead heads and phish fans. Ravers, molly popping teeny boppers, all of them kind of fucking suck.
Their low-level venal scoff law mentality gets tiresome, but at least they're usually not violent, and they often lack the mental capacity for higher order criminality. They often aren't total sociopaths, even if they operate with some undeserved egotism.
Criticism aside, I take issue with the concept of "contributing to society" as a maxim for defining whether or not a participant's world view holds merit. I get that lawless city limits become a whirlpool for losers looking to lean on public infrastructure, and stress it until full collapse. But law abiding tax paying citizens are not admirable, especially when there's no accounting for the realities they enable, as they hold down day jobs.
This is not some warped "social justice" world view that I hold. I'm pretty disinterested in counter-productive virtue signaling for the sake of seizing moral highground to score points in a game of internet arguing.
If you have a city full of head down, nose the the grindstone, hard working people who have jobs, pay taxes and retain possessions, so what? There's no rational basis for respecting that. More often than not, it's the path of least resistance, and absolute minimum reward. Don't be surprised when you get nothing for it.
Society has no incentive to pay that back because it's merely life on a hamster wheel, taking up space. People treading water, paycheck to paycheck are taking up space as they wait to die. I do have sympathy for the fact that most lack any capacity to move freely and change anything, but the truth is regular people do nothing for anyone but themselves, and they receive nothing in return.
I've lived in maybe 10 different neighborhoods, of varying mixes of people, and the story is the same everywhere. No one is friendly. No one likes you. Everyone is boring and inauthentic. Conversations are intended to one-up and display status. Good natured courtesy is sacharine and tinged with paranoia of strangers, not legitimate humanism.
The nomads, the freaks, the bums, the schizo derelicts... They all check out of the real world for a reason. They suffer burn out, not just of the occupational kind, where their college degree failed to unlock a career that doesn't feel like work. But the kind where, employed or not, there's just no light at the end of the tunnel.
Ejected from high school into a college major or some sort of vocational training, even armed with a paycheck and a place to go every day, the people they become surrounded by are no longer worth the effort required to socialize. Everyone's dead inside, and the artifice of a modern lifestyle simply isn't paying off, for all the restraint invested in acquiring clothes, room and board and transportation.
The reason there are so many untethered and aimless weirdos, is because there's nowhere worth being and nothing to bother taking aim at.
People are conflating 'drug decriminalization' with other policies. I'm agnostic on other homeless policies, but strongly support decriminalizing possession. You can be for more social services for the homeless, or, more law-and-order and advocate for more cops on the beat to stop car camping, burglary, etc. All while agreeing that spending thousands on incarceration just for possession is a poor use of societal resources.
I'd advocate for a) outlawing public drug usage (the same way alcohol is legal but public consumption is not). And b) an officer on the scene can still confiscate illegal drugs- motivating addicts/homeless to be discreet and low-key. Both of these will help prevent public spaces from becoming a free-for-all, while not wasting valuable money on arresting an addict for the 20th time
public alcohol usage is very much legal. we manage it by providing regulations on dispensing/selling alcohol. in my city alcohol may be consumed in most parks and in the majority of municipalities it is legal to serve alcohol in public establishments meeting basic business regulations.
alcohol of course, is a deadly and addictive drug that increases incidences of violence, property crime, and other anti-social behavior.
They let you walk around with an open beer in denver? They don't let you smoke weed openly on the sidewalk. The places you listed are all examples of private consumption of alcohol , and those places have liquor licenses as well. Even on Bourbon Street, the heart of hedonism, there are rules like your container can't be glass.
and it is my experience that most places consider restaurants and such a place where a member of the public can be charged with "public intoxication," though to my knowledge that's not a thing that's punished here
Just finished watching Seattle is Dying. I don't understand why so many American cities suffer so much from drug problems. Everywhere in the world you will find homeless people, but outside of the US I haven't seen anywhere so many drug addicts. Is it all those depressing suburbs with shitty education and people who are bored to death with their life? Is it lack of support from family?
I don't get it.
I feel that's the root of the problem and where the US should invest heavily.
If you can imagine what a crowd of people waiting for Walmart's Black Friday sale behaves like... I think that's a great metaphor for America at large.
Poor social cohesion, poverty traps, excessive materialism and individualism.
I blame Cold War domestic propaganda tactics. Americans stigmatized and undermined cultural values for a generation, the societal equivalent of an autoimmune disease, and ever since we have been shifting further towards a brutal, cold, almost purely economic system with sparse and weakly connected communities made up of individuals constantly bombarded by news and ads (propaganda).
The US drug abuse problem is multiple things colliding over many decades.
Extraordinary wealth & extremely high disposable incomes (very large profit magnet), by far the largest pharma economy, a pharmaceutical culture you won't find anywhere else, a many decades long history of general persecution of drug addicts, and a healthcare system that doesn't take good care of the homeless or drug addicts.
That covers both the prescription abuse and blackmarket issues.
The wealth & income in the system acts as a huge magnet. If you're going to sell drugs somewhere (legal or illegal), you want to do it in the US. The US has nearly double the median personal disposable income of the EU, under one big roof. The culture encourages a drug-solution approach to everything. The doctors, nurses, admin, hospitals, pharma companies and healthcare system overall have been very happy accomplices, feeding the problem for decades to great personal profit. A lot of prescription writers should be in prison for playing assist in murdering tens of thousands of Americans. The persecution of drug addicts makes everything worse on the back-end once a person has become an addict; it pushes them away from treatment, it isolates them from society. The poorly constructed healthcare safety net in combination with the cultural & legal / political persecution, then finishes them off, leaving them little to no proper safe recourse or way back out - ending far too often in death.
I believe that one of the primary causes is the overprescription of opiods by doctors in the USA, who were pressured by a patients (a generation of consumerism and instant gratification who expect doctors to provide instant treatment/remedy) on one side, and drug companies (who saw prescription painkillers as a sudden new cash cow) on the other. An article I've recently read in the Atlantic provides a perspective on this subject:
In one corner, we have people that are absolutely exhausted of the current state of affairs. The trash, the needles in parks, human feces, the tents ... etc. They want someone to do something about it, but it's not clear at all what that something really is or who would do it. If it were clear, we wouldn't be arguing about it. There are real costs to a draconian reversion to hardcore enforcement. People will get hurt, unnecessarily.
In the other, we have people that seem completely convinced that enforcing any kind of norms against anti-social behavior - indeed, outright dangerous behavior - is simply an extension of the War on Drugs, and further criminalizes marginalized people by cycling them through a prison system that seems equally uninterested in actually solving the problem. And there are real costs here, too. People are getting hurt continually by repeat offenders, and by the other social costs of living where parts of the city are unclean or unsafe, or both.
I've lived in Seattle since 2011 (with a 29 month cumulative absence for a deployment and then for school), and I think it's just absolutely nuts to think that decriminalizing usage has done anything but make this problem worse. I understand the impulse behind it. I really do. But we can't keep trying to convince ourselves that this is "working", unless "working" is really "condition people to think that this is the new norm". Obviously, I guess I sit in the first corner. There's no real middle ground between these two cohorts, as far as I can tell. One group sees the other's concerns as reactionary or uncompassionate, and the other see's the first group's compassion as naive and even a deep enabling of the problem.
For me, I don't want to live in a city like this. That's maybe the only middle ground that exists between the two groups - neither want this. But my sense is that we're at a true impasse here, and that, and I'm just being realistic given the political arrangement here in Seattle, we're going to keep doing "more of this", whatever "this" is. The second camp has clearly captured city leadership, and decriminalization, lax or no enforcement of existing laws, and a general apathy (or maybe it's faith) about the situation will guide policy. We'll become the next SF, and then wake up one day wondering "how did this happen"?
> They want someone to do something about it, but it's not clear at all what that something really is or who would do it
> it's just absolutely nuts to think that decriminalizing usage has done anything but make this problem worse
From reading these two statements and others in this thread, it's hard for me to see how you're the one arguing against criminalizing people, and yet that's how you're describing yourself. What does "enforcing norms against anti-social behavior" mean in this context, if not putting people in prison or issuing citations (which eventually lead to prison)? I'm genuinely unsure if there's some third option I'm not thinking of.
The thesis seems to be that if you just do that enough, those people will go somewhere else or decide to stop being homeless. The problem is, that's what we used to do and it didn't work. Those people are from here, and they're not homeless by choice. Even if some do move on, they'll just end up homeless somewhere else.
The frustrating thing is that there is a solution to this, which is called housing first. The basic idea is that you give people housing they can live in, and then provide services like addiction counseling and job training to get them into a better place. But you start with the housing, because without stability in your life, it's hard to tackle challenges like this, and not having housing results in all kinds of other social problems. The problem with housing first of course is that it's expensive, which requires taxation.
To me the real problem is that the council has insisted on sticking to ineffective half-measures. We had the beginnings of a tax for affordable housing last year, although it was still too small, but the council backed down when Amazon and other large companies raised hell. What this ended up doing is making it clear that the council has no solution to this that they're willing to pursue, which has lead to this impasse.
I guess I don't really disagree with what you said.
>What does "enforcing norms against anti-social behavior" mean in this context, if not putting people in prison or issuing citations (which eventually lead to prison)?
Not being okay with it, which implies that we'd so something about it. Which does mean things like citations, at a minimum. Right now it's totally normal.
>The frustrating thing is that there is a solution to this, which is called housing first...
Broadly, I agree with this paragraph. I think we should take the billion we spend in this city on homelessness (not sure that stat is actually true since I've never seen the line item in the budget but people say it a lot) and build these places ... and then make them mandatory, or at least semi-mandatory. That might sound extreme, but frankly many of these people clearly don't have agency anymore given their addiction and they've become a danger to themselves and others. So that's my "out there" suggestion. Build the housing, fund the medical and job-training services, and deliberately - not passively - push people into them.
Of course, this presupposes that lack of housing is the first incident problem. Maybe it is, maybe drug use is in some cases. I don't particularly care for drug use, so my personal preference is that we repeal the decriminalization rules and reverse some of the cultural acceptance that's taken hold here of this behavior. We've probably missed the boat on that one, since most here seem to take the libertarian approach that what someone does with their body is "their business", despite the fact that it often becomes someone else's very quickly.
>...backed down when Amazon and other large companies raised hell.
If the city council wanted to just tax Amazon then they could've done that, but instead that cast such a wide net that medium sized low-margin businesses that don't have enormous capital behind them were wrapped up in it too - so I understand why they backed down. There wasn't any real self reflection from them after that happened, so I tend to agree that we're stuck in an infinite loop of "more of this".
> Of course, this presupposes that lack of housing is the first incident problem.
Not at all. Even if a person's drug abuse is what led them to lose their job and housing, the drug abuse can't be the issue you fix first. The lack of housing makes solving any other "first incident problem" massively more difficult.
> I don't particularly care for drug use, so my personal preference is that we repeal the decriminalization rules and reverse some of the cultural acceptance that's taken hold here of this behavior.
The problem is that criminalization of drug use and homelessness has absolutely failed to have a positive impact on either issue and quite arguably has made both problems worse.
These conditions are exactly what prompted the drug war's start in the first place. Neighborhoods were tired of the addicts and petty (and sometimes not so petty) crime which plagued their day-to-day lives.
I wouldn't be shocked if 10 years from now, these coastal cities are leading the charge on a tough on drugs reversal.
Well, not quite. The reason why the drug wars got started wasn't because of addicts or petty crimes. It was a form of class warfare because they wanted the dirty poors and minorities to stop using their poor drugs.
The history behind the War on Drugs is very explicitly a one divided on racial grounds and a cursory look at things like the legality of marijuana or mandatory minimums tells the full tale.
If this were true, how did the drug laws passed in the 70's hang around for so long? If there was no reason but racism, why didn't Obama, who in his first term had super majorities in Congress, simply wipe them away? You take away the agency and voices of people who live in crime ridden poor neighborhoods which suffer the consequences of high levels of addiction.
In the capital of my state, in just the last few weeks, we've had people high on pcp attack cops (after strangling his girlfriend), shoot at traffic, and pick up a child out of a stroller and slam them on the ground, all unprovoked. Those victims aren't racist in wanting to not have to deal with people high out of their minds.
The reason Obama didn't do anything isn't that he's not that worked up over racism, it's just not as simple as waving your hand and saying everything would be great if it only for those racist laws. Drugs reduce inhibitions. People with reduced inhibitions do crazy things, often hurting other people. Families are often willing to support draconian measures so that their kids aren't endangered by some random stranger in some drug induced state of manic paranoia.
Ok so if the only goal of the war on drugs is to arrest people then it's working splendidly. Increasing crime is part of the package rather than an unfortunate side effect because it lets you justify even more arrests. Since the war on drugs does not have improving our society as a goal there is no argument other than racism that could possibly be in favor of it.
The addiction/dependence and public littering problems caused by drugs can be solved with prescribed low dosages which would be administered by a medical professional, not with a prison sentence.
That John Ehrlichman  really lives up to his name.
No matter the merits of the case to be made for this specific policy, the state of Seattle isn't one of the highlights.
To clarify: there are all sorts of factors at play in Seattle's troubles, my point is that if you believe a the policy "we should stop charging people for personal drug use", "just look at Seattle!" isn't going to be convincing to most of the country.
What a boneheaded policy. It's all the bad parts of drug prohibition and none of the good ones. All the crime and violence associated with drug trafficking will still exist, but now there's no disincentive for people to do drugs so more people will become addicts. Asinine.
While I’m glad there is a major metro in the USA taking a compassionate approach, it is appalling and unfathomable to me that the idea of criminalizing addiction isn’t completely rejected outright by society.
The war on drugs has been beyond a failure. It has literally increased drug use (see DARE) in some of its efforts. It’s continued existence enriches some players, and exists as a mechanism for selective police enforcement (and abuse).
But you have to be a special kind of moron or bigot if in 2019 you still think we can fix a national drug problem by making desperate people’s lives worse.
The issue is not so black and white. Intervention and interning addicts in rehab centers is a very effective program for Rhode Island. They prosecute drug crimes and misdemeanors, and offer a choice between prison or enforced rehab. Many people who go through the program say it saved their life, and they come out with no criminal record.
West coast states have similar alternative drug courts and rehab available, but they are underutilized because there is no incentive. Even non-drug misdemeanors committed by addicts are ignored.
The big problem Seattle is experiencing with this is since its quasi legal to do drugs here, users will shoot up in all public spaces. Needles and strung out users in the library, on the playground, people living in the park. The police will eventually tell them to move along but without any consequences the problem becomes a real public nuisance. So we moved the problem into the open which might be good for users but not the general public.