Washington, DC

“Dear PoPville,

I witnessed a violent shouting match at 6:30 am, followed by the usual group of men drinking in front of the former Heights taproom, and ending with a heinous comment before I arrived at the Metro. And that was just my walk to work.

A letter of concern about the Columbia Heights Plaza was sent to CM Nadeau who replied:

“Thank you for your email. I understand your concern. These constituents are grappling with mental health and addiction issues, so we continue to do outreach to offer them services that will ultimately help them address these underlying issues. Addiction is a difficult disease, and the solutions are also challenging. But we will continue to offer these services and encourage our constituents to participate in treatment and accept shelter.”

I applaud efforts to help the homeless but these efforts more often than not take precedence over public safety – and anybody who argues that it should be the other way around is called heartless. And this is what creates problems.

I first developed this perspective when I lived in Seattle, which has roughly double the homeless population of Washington D.C. I have no way of knowing whether the individuals I encounter on a daily basis in my D.C. neighborhood are homeless, but it seems they suffer from the same mental health and addiction issues that plague the homeless population in Seattle (and every other city too but I’m just talking about Seattle vs. D.C. here).

In order to get a full grasp on the issues that I witnessed firsthand, all you have to do is google “Seattle + Crime + Homeless.” A few really great articles that highlight the issues:

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/editorials/seattles-persistent-crime-problem-demands-change/
https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/homeless/ballards-homelessness-quadrupled-last-year-and-anger-is-spilling-over/
https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/public-safety-is-getting-short-shrift-in-citys-response-to-homelessness/

I don’t believe that all of the people I see everyday in my community are a threat to my safety and those around me. But I do fear that one day, I will ignore the wrong person who approaches me on the street, and they will become violent in response. I am afraid that the businesses that are already in this community will leave sooner rather than later, because of the vagrancy and public disorder are tolerated for the reasons Councilwoman Nadeau provided. There has to be a balance.”

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