An Open Letter to: Blue Line Protective Services
From: Gordon McHenry, Jr., President & CEO, Solid Ground
RE: Attitudes toward homeless people in your social media
Dear Blue Line Protective Services:
We are writing to let you know that one of the reasons we have discontinued your services at our Sand Point Housing campus is your public comments that we have read online about people who are homeless. From some recent posts on your Twitter feed, it is clear that you have strong ideas about homelessness and the people who are trapped in cycles of poverty. I hope that in sharing these opinions you have opened the door to learning about how institutional racism and other factors impact our society and create conditions that foster homelessness.
Your Twitter posts calling homeless people “deadbeats” and referring to their “homeless lifestyle” both misrepresent the complex reasons people become homeless, and stigmatize the very people that we hired you to ensure have a safe campus. Your characterizations are diametrically opposed to our view that all people have inherent strengths and all people desire healthy outcomes for themselves.
Solid Ground believes that everyone has the right to safe, stable housing. But we recognize that there are real barriers preventing all members of our community from obtaining this basic right including: mental health; racism, homophobia and other oppressions; housing shortages; and program rules and requirements that exclude them. What this means is that homelessness is not a choice or a lifestyle. It is, instead, the result of many factors, most of which reflect realities of our society and political system and not personal failure.
Moreover, we know that a disproportionate number of the people we serve are people of color who have faced many racially-based barriers to escaping poverty. As a society, we all want racism to go away. But, in doing so, we are denying the statistical facts, and more importantly, the realities that people of color continue to face in our society.
No one believes living in a tent on the streets is adequate housing. Four decades of supporting people to avoid or exit homelessness have taught us that stable, safe housing is fundamental to success. But Seattle does not have an adequate supply of affordable housing. And even if it did, many people face significant barriers to accessing resources. And so, despite their hard work, many people who work part and full time can still experience homelessness.
Your Twitter posts are a reminder to us at Solid Ground about the misconceptions that are alive in our community, which strengthens our commitment to work in a way that undoes racism and other oppressions that perpetuate poverty. We believe that everyone deserves a place to call home and that, in Seattle, we can rise to the exceptional challenges of making that belief a reality. We invite you to join us in achieving this worthy goal by educating and encouraging your employees to be more empathetic to the realities of people experiencing homelessness and other oppressions.
Kathy O'Hara says
Thank you for your articulate defense of homeless people, and confronting bigotry. No one willingly chooses the so-called “Homeless Lifestyle”, and many of us (including me) are continuously on the verge of homelessness. The last thing anyone needs is a so-called “Protective Service” that protects no one who is vulnerable.