Sunday, May 29, 2016

Dear Mayor Murray

University District - Photo M Barrett Miller

Edward B. Murray
Seattle Mayor
Seattle, Washington

Dear Mr. Mayor,

I realize you are under constant pressure to do this, or to do that, by all sorts of people.
Your job is difficult and you deserve some sympathy to those demands on your time, energy and resources.
One collective issue that gets lots of ink, and passion, is our relentless challenge with homelessness, poverty and affordable housing in our community.
I know you realize that affordable housing, homelessness, poverty, equity are not priorities in our city, county or country, or we wouldn't still be wrestling with the continuing crisis.
We would have solved it long ago if it were truly a priority!
After all the years I've been involved with trying to mitigate poverty it seems to be less a priority than ever--sure, there are moves forward but the challenge grows larger. From what I see, feel, hear, we, the so called advocates, are not winning the hearts and minds of the public, administrators or elected officials enough to end this crisis.
It's not acceptable that people live under a freeway in a environmental toxic zone breathing carbon monoxide, nitric oxide and particle-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons etc. on a minute by minute basis. Numerous epidemiologic studies have already shown that traffic-related pollution is linked to increased risk of asthma, respiratory illness, cardiovascular disease and premature mortality.
Why not propose a lid, roof, huge tents, to be put up away from the freeway, where some clean air blows, offering some shelter from the elements.
Yes, it'll cost  but why not ask for minor equity stakes from those who want to live rough i.e a monetary contribution, cleaning commitments, sanitation responsibilities, fire watch etc. like the Tent Cities required. Hire some people to help/monitor and toss out those who don't want to comply.
I think allowing  people to live under a freeway is similar to promoting drinking water in Flint.
Perhaps micro housing could be constructed by those desperately needing jobs. The city, county and state could purchase the raw materials, oversee construction and coordinate placement of the units.
Since land in Seattle is at a premium why not use whatever piers may be available, perhaps near the Coast Guard museum, situating the small homes on the piers.
It could be beautiful if done right.
Imagine trees, multi-colored little housing units, lit pathways, public art, social service facilities all clustered together offering housing and support.
As with the living rough aficionados those that are housed would be asked for some equity. That equity could be on a case by case basis.
I wish I had the answer to all these challenges but I don't. What has become apparent is that no one else does either.
Maybe it's time to try radically different approaches.

With respect,

Michael Barrett Miller
Managing Director

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