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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 31, 2015 at 9:09 AM

Homelessness: Address its root causes instead of just symptoms

Jon Fine contributed an admirable guest column on the effort to eradicate homelessness [“We can do better, be smarter in how we help the homeless,” Opinion, Jan. 30]. In one sense, I agree with Fine’s position: Much work has been done, yet much work remains.

However, one thing must be stated clearly: The Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness has failed. One Night Count numbers tell the story. The 2003 estimate was 7,980 homeless with 3,305 people living outdoors. 2014’s count was 9,294 homeless overall with 3,123 outdoors. Preliminary 2015 results estimate 3,553 people living outdoors.

The program designed to end homelessness in Seattle may have actually increased homelessness in Seattle. Why?

As one astute commentator observed, Seattle’s plan of addressing homelessness by simply building housing is an enabler, not a solution. Like giving a shaky alcoholic a drink, it doesn’t address the root cause, it simply alleviates a symptom. The program works for some, of course, but enables abuse by many others.

Seattle needs a real strategy that addresses underlying root issues, not symptoms. The old proverb applies: Give someone a fish, feed them for a day. Teach someone to fish, feed them for life.

Chris Alexander, Seattle

Comments | More in homeless | Topics: Chris Alexander, homelessness, Jon Fine

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