Accountability Activism Economics Environment Homelessness Human Rights Justice Peace Washington State Politics

Come to Olympia if the Economy has Put You on the Street

What better place than Olympia to gather if the Washington State economy hDo you know where your children are?as put you on the street? Come to Olympia to assemble and petition for redress of grievance. Come and sit on the streets of Olympia as a demonstration and act of free speech. Come to Olympia and greet the legislators and the policy makers who will have to step over you, or walk around you, as they move around in their daily lives. The City of Olympia is criminalizing poverty in the downtown area, but the First Amendment comes in… uh… First! We have the right to sit, recline, sing, grieve, and beg for good public policy in Washington State. Come to Olympia.

Camera and I not getting along yesterdayIf you get hassled by the Olympia Police Department for exercising your free speech rights, email the particulars: Where, when, police officer name to and we will challenge the City and the Police Department to justify the violation of your first amendment rights.

I know that some folks get scared when they have to be close to houseless people. I encourage those folks to come down to the Artesian Well during daylight and introduce themselves to the people who move through that setting. There are lots of tattoos, piercings, and a fair amount of cursing, but there is also a lot of openness, music, support, and community. There are scary, dangerous folks everywhere, on the street, in the burbs, in the police force, but most of the folks everywhere are just human being like you and me. Make the effort to connect and see what happens. Stop thinking, “there but for the grace of God, go I” and start thinking “there by the grace of God, go I.” Really attempt to connect with the folks and see what happens. If they ask you or tell you to leave them alone, leave them alone. It ain’t rocket science.

I have no problem Empty Houses, have you seen any? with an ordinance against aggressive panhandling. I am politely asked to share what I have in my pocket regularly and I share what I can. When I say, hey, wish I could, but I am short, I almost always get an “ok, thanks” type of response. I don’t want to be harassed when I say no, and it doesn’t happen to me. I suspect it doesn’t happen because I really engage with the people asking, I look them in the eye when I tell them I am short. I don’t avoid the folks. I treat them with respect and they respond in kind.

Although I am not keen on the whole idea of prohibition (I have some libertarian impulses) I think I am supportive of a ban on fortified wines in downtown. I hope for a day when there alcohol, drug consumption and possession are not a crime and when the money saved from the “war on drugs” is redirected to substance abuse treatment on request, fully funded. I guarantee you that this approach to dealing with drugs will be more cost-effective and humane.

Come to Olympia. I will see you in the streets.



3 Replies to “Come to Olympia if the Economy has Put You on the Street

  1. When the state legislators had town hall meetings last spring, I asked low income housing advocates and winter shelter organizers to announce these to the homeless, and to encourage homeless people to attend and participate in these meetings. I agree that there needs to be face to face contact between the homeless and public officials.

  2. I’ve always wondered why homeless people choose to live mostly in cities — where there’s lots of concrete and lots of competition for handouts. You’d think the suburbs would be more hospitable. Do suburban cops harass them more?

  3. Community. Solidarity. the burbs are inhospitable to houseless folks unless they have undeveloped wooded areas where a houseless person can camp and are in a busline with easy and cheap access to an urban area where an unemployed person can busk, dumpster dive, panhandle etc. The houseless congregate in urban areas for community, socialization. Human beings are social animals, being iisolated in remote areas or the burbs appeals to a small number of people. Do cops harass them more? Houseless folks are pretty aggressively harassed everywhere, but by congregating in urban areas, they support each other by limiting the harassment by witnessing and numbers. The advent of cell phones with camera and video technology is crucial to protection and survival if you can’t afford a house. The tactic of copwatching is largely an urban phenomenon.

    M and I have a regular every other Thursday evening meeting with Solidarity on the Streets (SOS) at the Artesian Well on Fourth. It’s a potluck and the group carries a table and chairs. We share the food with all the houseless folks who use the Artesian Well as a social anchor, a place to brush their teeth, wash up a bit and socialize. It feels really great to socialize with these folks in this way. No proselytizing, just ten to fifteen folks sitting talking, strategizing with a table of food for any and all.

    The SOS group is working on lots of issues, among them, access to public bathrooms 24/7, a reduction of violence, assault, sexual assault in the houseless population, access to services, mental health, drug treatment, medical and veterinary care and more. Hard to put that together in the burbs.

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