Saturday, May 19, 2007

The DSA Is Wrong Wrong Wrong

[The subsidized apartment building I live in is called The Union Hotel. It's run by DESC, Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center. All the residents have been homeless. I write a column for the monthly building newsletter. The column is called Out of My Mind. I'm posting them here, because I can. -- wes]

About five months ago the Downtown Seattle Association, AKA the Business Association, AKA the DSA, started a pamphlet campaign to discourage people from giving money to panhandlers downtown. The pamphlets were given out by the guys in the yellow jackets that everybody thinks work for the city but actually work for the DSA, a club by and for businesses, many of which aren't even headquartered in Seattle, and whose main interest in Seattle is profit.

Their pamphlets talked a lot about how panhandling is really bad for the panhandler, leaving out all the real reasons that the Business Association doesn't want panhandling here. They don't want it because panhandlers are visibly poor.

You may think you're cool with the DSA, but you're not. Most of us here at the Union look poor. We wear clothes we bought at thrift stores. Don't think these suits don't notice. Corporate types are TRAINED to notice things like that. You've heard the expression "charge what the market will bear." We're in the market, and the business people know we're too poor to bear much. So they want us all out of "their" city and "their" market to make room for richer customers. They're only just starting with the panhandlers. YOU'RE NEXT.

But, what do you know, the DSA is saying now, in their own uninformed opinion, that during the five months since they started passing out those pamphlets, aggressive panhandling is up 40%!

Of course, they're saying, "It's not our fault!" They're saying, it's not because of the pamphlets, it's because the Tacoma panhandlers are all moving here.

The truth is, they're wrong on every count. They're wrong about how to deal with panhandlers. They're wrong about whether to deal with panhandlers. They're wrong to try to guide public policy on panhandlers, they don't have the knowledge or the wisdom. They're wrong about the 40% increase, because they don't know how to gauge things like that. They saw an increase because since the campaign started they've been looking for panhandling more. They don't know which panhandlers are newly arrived from Tacoma because they never talk to panhandlers because they think of them as members of a mindless herd, instead of as individuals with individual problems and individual needs.

If panhandlers are more aggressive now it's because they've been attacked and they're on the ropes. If the DSA knew or cared about human beings, they could have seen that coming. They don't, so they didn't.

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