Yesterday, we got word that Seattle’s aggressive panhandling ordinance has officially died—the city council was unable to overturn Mayor McGinn’s veto. The action came after pressure from the ACLU of Washington, Real Change News, and various other community organizations. The groups opposed the proposed law as an unnecessary measure – Seattle already has a law against “aggressive panhandling” – that scapegoated homeless people rather than addressing real problems of public. If enforced, the measure likely would lead to more poor people being thrown into the criminal justice system after they are unable to pay fines.
And we also got word today that the Pioneer Square Community Association (PSCA) continues to fight the relocation of Real Change News to Pioneer Square:
PSCA argument runs as follows: "Economic vitality is impacted by the public's perception of safety issues." In other words, seeing homeless people around Real Change’s headquarters will scare away shoppers. But this head-in-the-sand mentality from business associations is cut from the same cloth as the unfortunate push for the aggressive panhandling ordinance itself. Real Change is an organization that empowers homeless individuals to work and take themselves off the streets. I can’t think of a more misguided move than trying to keep organization like this out of Pioneer Square, a neighborhood that needs more services like this, not less.
Solving the homelessness issue is going to take our entire community pulling together to help provide the services people require to meet their basic needs at a time when our social safety net is falling apart. The police can also do their part by engaging in more community policing that helps people feel safer. But pretending the problem doesn’t exist is not an option. Unfortunately, PSCA appears to want to go that route.