Letter: Spokane doesn't have a homeless issue

click to enlarge A homeless outreach worker in downtown Spokane. - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
A homeless outreach worker in downtown Spokane.

'AN ALL OF US' ISSUE

I've heard individuals around Spokane talk openly and loudly about the "homeless problem," that we need to do "something about those people," that our city needs to "protect us from the homeless." Ooph.

Spokane doesn't have a homeless problem, it has a problem with homelessness. The people who become homeless are not the problem; the issues that cause homelessness are the problem and the issues are what we need to focus on fixing.

At the forum on homelessness, we heard two sides to the issue. We heard we need housing first, and that we need accountability first. We heard that we need to focus on mental health and drug use, then we heard the data and facts that tell us most of Spokane's homelessness is caused by inadequate income and family conflict.

We cannot ignore facts and we cannot ignore the most important fact — these are human beings, with struggles, who need help.

Housing first works — and it doesn't. Required rehabilitation works — and it doesn't. Mental health therapy works — and it doesn't. Each person is an individual, with specific needs, who have different issues that have lead to the life they live, and the situation they find themselves in.

Before you make a person with an addiction a villain, think to yourself: Have you had a drink after a rough day at work or an emotional family situation, just to decompress? Now imagine every day of your life is that. Over and over and over. A Groundhog's Day of poverty, not knowing where you're going to sleep, not knowing where your next meal is coming from, if your kids will be OK, if the police are going to arrest you for trying to get some rest. Would you drink? And when drinking stops working, what would you turn to next?

Individuals need individual plans. We cannot "wait and see," because what we "can do" is not the priority; people, human beings are the priority — and helping them is what we "should do."

We can help break the cycle, but we need to try.

We need to try everything and we deserve leaders who know how government works, who have been working on finding the solutions, and who have been reaching across party lines to make our city better every day.

We don't need people who say they have solutions but can't find compassion or humanity in the issues we face.

This is not an "us versus them situation," this is an all of us situation. Who out there is one medical bill away from losing their home? Who out there would have to GoFundMe to get themselves through a major financial emergency? Who, like I have experienced, is one generous family member removed from deciding they'll just have to live in their car for a while because the landlord raised rent at the end of the lease, or their roommate lost their job, or their kid broke a bone?

This is an all of us issue. We deserve a mayor and a City Council president who are willing to tackle every side of the issue, not look down from the tower window and tout "Spokane Solutions" which only divide our citizens and hide the problems.

Let's work on fixing things —  for all of us.

Janice Miller
Spokane, Wash.

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