Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cruel & Unusual Housing

Today the print version of the Seattle Times ran a letter regarding the story of the housing of off-probation convicted sex offenders, titled "U District isn't the place for housing." The letter was written by McKinley Smith, a resident of a sorority house on the same block. Needless to say the author wants no sex offenders, even if off-probation, housed in the area.

I think everyone agrees that sex offenders must be housed. Having them homeless makes them too difficult to keep track of, not to mention increasing the likelihood of recidivism. Carol Clarke, the woman who runs the housing in dispute, is by all accounts a very demanding landlord who expects her tenants to follow all sorts of rules designed to keep them out of trouble. So she's the ideal landlord.

So the question then would be, should we look for a more suitable neighborhood to house these people? The letter from the sorority resident doesn't come right out and say so, but implies that the fraternity and sorority area of the U District is inappropriate, because the students are entitled to more security than the rest of the Seattle population.

This is just the sort of thing I have come to expect from the fraternity community.

I lived in that area for 7 years in the 80s and 90s. To read letters by such as Ms. Smith, you would think that I must have felt privileged to reside in such a special neighborhood, or that if there were anything wrong with it, it would have been because of the non-students spoiling the experience for me.

Nothing could be further from the truth. My life in the U District was made difficult almost entirely by the vicious, cruel and sadistic behavior of STUDENTS.

FRATERNITY STUDENTS, not non-students, threatened me for walking on "THEIR" sidewalks. FRATERNITY STUDENTS shot at me with BB guns from the rooftops of fraternities, so regularly that I learned I couldn't walk that street at all. FRATERNITY AND SORORITY STUDENTS both regularly yelled insults at me as I walked to and from my apartment, in "their" precious area.

What prompted the insults? Maybe it was because I wasn't young enough to pass for a student. Or maybe that had nothing to do with it. Maybe they insult other students, shoot BBs at them and threaten to beat them up just as much as non-students. Does the exclusivism of the rush system breed, or merely attract, arrogant little bigots and sadists?

I don't really care why they did it. My point is, the fraternity district is a crappy place to live, and it's crappy because the fraternities and sororities make it so. That's why the rents are so low there. No one wants to live next door to such assholes. The sex offenders could do a lot better, if only they could afford higher rents. They can't, so they're forced to live in the meanest, crappiest neighborhood in the city.

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