Mixed reviews to the editorial “Make room for new approaches to end homelessness” [April 25, Opinion]. More innovative and collaborative approaches are necessary across King County. One “new approach” is not criminalizing the homeless.
That is what led Auburn to follow an example set in Redmond. Criminalizing hides behind what appear to be successful numbers and is, as one federal court said, like “using a sledgehammer instead of a scalpel.” Law and punishment are not the pathways to stability. “Yes” to local courts reducing the harm that law initiates and “yes” to programs like Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion in Seattle.
But success toward stable pathways excludes establishing fines, arrests and jail time. These create inescapable harm via debt and a record. I live in Auburn and am against its escalation of an initial ordinance that, with its promised court, could have worked with capable outreach and case management. Before the court even starts, a reflection of its lack of faith in it, Auburn inserted an old, demonstrably useless tool to end homelessness — that is, criminalize it. That is not innovative or collaborative.
The region suffers when any jurisdiction chooses poorly. I encourage the city in which I live to reverse this action.
The Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett, Auburn, director, Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness