Refusing to treat homelessness as a drug addiction crisis is killing people
January 11, 2023
Mayor Bruce Harrell, the Seattle City Council, and regional leaders continue to treat the homelessness crisis as a housing issue despite the glaringly obvious fact that it’s driven by drug addiction.
The evidence isn’t hard to find, and denying reality is causing unnecessary deaths.
As reported recently by The Center Square, King County experienced a 24 percent increase in overdose deaths in 2022. More than 1,000 people died from a drug overdose compared to 700 in 2021. In contrast, in 2012 there were 274 overdose deaths.
As for the homeless population the county has also experienced a 14 percent increase in the population since 2020. As we’ve observed in the past, much of the record-level homelessness deaths in recent years are driven by drug overdoses, particularly fentanyl.
Make Your Voice Heard!
Most people are not homeless because they can’t find affordable housing. Most are homeless because they become addicted to drugs and become incapable of functioning to the point where they’re on the street. It’s why many homeless opt to remain in drug camps rather than shelters where drug use is prohibited.
Putting drug addicts in temporary housing or county-owned hotels is not going to address the root cause of why they’re homeless.
Yet, city and county officials stubbornly cling to a false narrative and as a result offer solutions that are doomed to fail. The cost isn’t just borne in terms of resources and funds wasted, but also in the degradation of public spaces and loss of human life.
The city and county combined have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on addressing homelessness, and yet the problem is as bad as ever before.
At what point do you acknowledge a failed strategy and come up with a new plan? At what point do you accept that an effort carried out for years isn’t working? How bad will the crisis have to get before those in charge take this seriously?
In the end, the biggest problem isn’t the drug crisis, but the refusal of elected officials to face reality. Building housing or buying up old hotels and putting on a show to demonstrate how much you care looks good on the surface, but results are what matter.
Much of the homelessness activism is driven by faux compassion that labors under the delusional that helping drug addicts avoid discomfort at all costs is caring. Instead, it’s denying them the real help they need and causing them to slip further into addiction until they become yet another casualty to a dysfunctional response to the drug crisis.
Helping people sometimes means making them uncomfortable, and for homeless people suffering from drug addiction to heal they will inevitably have to feel a lot of discomfort by breaking their destructive habits.
Elected officials who continue to talk about a homelessness crisis apart from the drug addiction crisis aren’t being compassionate and they aren’t helping those they claim they want to help.
It’s time for them to show what their true intent is. If they are genuinely interested in reducing homelessness, then they need to admit the role drug addiction, along with mental illness, plays in driving it. The data demonstrating this is freely available. The sad truth is that had government leadership connected the dots earlier, they might have mitigated the crisis, spent less tax dollars, and saved more lives.
Every day we delay in tackling the drug addiction crisis only means more people will die.
The first step toward healing from addiction is for the person admitting they have a problem.
It seems the first step toward addressing the homelessness crisis is elected officials admitting they have a problem. Only when they fix theirs can they effectively help those struggling with drug addiction help theirs.