OPINION: Burning the Slums, a War on the Poor

by Bypolar

The Northwest Daily Marker published an article by Jason Paulus arguing that these shanty towns that have been popping up all over the city are breeding addiction and killing addicts. He argued that we must ban addicts from housing, requiring sobriety and enrollment in treatment to be housed.

Because we are approaching the cold and rainy seasons, Jason, it seems like you are the one trying to kill addicts. Paulus takes the stance that people experiencing houselessness must hit rock bottom before they can get clean, because that is what he needed.

These draconian prohibition strategies are dangerous and, if they take root, threaten many lives. Paulus being previously houseless does not change that fact.

A big flaw in his conjecture is that he started with relative privilege to begin with, then made choices that led him down the long fall into houselessness. For many others, options were lacking from the day they entered this world, not merely a manifestation of bad choices and economic losses, but the reality of having a lack of choices and no economic opportunities (not to mention in most cases severe amounts of trauma and isolation).

Another thing he overlooks is the enormous amount of evidence to the contrary. Like the fact that in a harm-reduction experiment in Portugal, they saw dramatic reductions in problematic drug use, incarceration, overdoses, new HIV infection, etc., by moving money from things that stigmatize addicts, including the drug war and prohibition tactics, to building support networks for folks who suffer under what society calls “addiction.”

There is zero evidence that prohibition works, in fact all of the evidence I know of seems to say it makes things worse. But it seems, based on Northwest Daily Marker’s article and Unified Seattle’s video that was based off Paulus’ article, that he is speaking to the interests of right-leaning business owners. People who, in general, wish the houseless, addicted and sober alike, would die.

These people are, to be honest, inherently sociopathic, adding daily to the rising income gaps, which birthed the housing crisis as we know it. It seems that they are more interested in covering their eyes than seeing the truth that we are slowly sliding into a state of affairs reminiscent of the Great Depression. It seems just another bout of anti-poor rhetoric targeting the most marginalized of our society. In a city where business owners and law enforcement frequently abuse and even murder the houseless, especially if they are Black or Native, this kind of rhetoric just encourages that epidemic of abuse.

In this time period, these conditions exist only due to the greed of the minority of society, which includes a fat chunk of Seattle business owners. In truth, we have enough resources to provide housing, food, energy, education, and medical care to every person who dwells within in this colonial empire.

This is where Paulus and I agree: the shanty towns need to go. But not by throwing the residents onto the streets. Instead, we as a “civilization” should cover the cost of housing people in a real apartment, providing access to real food, giving excellent health care, and supporting the drive to be educated.

Trying to invisabalize the people suffering from the immense problem of houslessness and so called “addiction” is the opposite of what is needed. Isolation breeds more and more drug use, because drug use isn’t based on chemical triggers but living in a reality a person can’t bear — it is not actually derived from their drug use but social-economics, loss of trusted bonds, and childhood (and adulthood) trauma. As long as we live in a society that continues to ostracize, stigmatize, and abuse the most marginalized, we will continue to manifest a society of inequality and discrimination that creates the so-called “homeless crises” and breed drug abuse. So to make a real change, people who have immense amounts of economic privilege need to replace the foul ideas spewing out their mouths with the money lining their pockets.

In all honesty, we don’t have a “homeless crises” but a soulless crises, meaning those lacking the ability to humanize other people, especially those lacking in privilege. A society that rewards individual desire over collective well being will always result this way. Until we can see each other as a collective species, or at least attempt to, our experience will continue to darken on this roller coaster called the Amerikkkan civilization until we have reached a very bleak end to this journey.

It’s on all of us to change the trajectory, especially those who have gained the most from the present path. So you decide: What path are we going to choose?