Yesterday, KOMO News journalist Jonathan Choe reported a grisly scene discovered at Gilman Playground in Seattle: a man slouched over in a porta potty, drug paraphernalia nearby. An apparent overdose.
The man was discovered by a neighbor who was conducting a routine search of the Honey Buckets. Police were called while families ensured their children wouldn’t wander too close.
It was recently reported that the United States has surpassed 100,000 drug overdose deaths in the span of a year, the highest number recorded. What are our largest cities doing about the crisis? On the heels of this new statistic, New York City opened the nation’s first supervised injection sites, allowing addicts to legally take the drug of their choice under the watchful eye of caretakers safeguarding them from an overdose. And in Seattle, the city council rejected a proposal that would have required the removal of homeless encampments that “pose a health or safety hazard or block public resources.”
These “solutions” will only make the problem worse.
Overdose deaths should be prevented, yes. But more than that, we should be paving paths of recovery for the addicted so that they can return to a life of true fulfillment and meaningful relationships.
The dignity of the homeless person should be respected, yes. But that doesn’t mean letting them camp in public places, where they are more susceptible to crime and disease. It means sheltering the homeless and supporting them with resources so that they can one day return to an apartment or house of their own.
Shelter first. Treatment first. Then housing, provided as a reward and not as a right.
That’s the model that has succeeded in Amsterdam, and it’s the model our cities should adopt. Otherwise, we are left with scenes like the one found yesterday in a Seattle playground. That man was a real human being who deserved far more support and care than the city was willing to offer him. Housing won’t fix this. Holding people accountable for their actions and providing them a pathway toward recovery will.