Bipartisan Senate Bill 5261 would create a pilot program to hire homeless persons for local beautification projects.
Lakewood should support passage of the bill and at the same time apply to be one of only three cities statewide to be so honored.
Lakewood has long advocated for help to the homeless.
“The City of Lakewood is very involved in addressing the issue of homelessness in our region, more so than most communities,” wrote City Manager John Caulfield in his report on homelessness to the Lakewood City Council November 9, 2015.
“The fact is that with the exception of the larger deep-pocket cities in Washington State (i.e., Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Everett, Bellevue, etc.,), the City of Lakewood does more with its very limited resources than most others.”
Lakewood’s Mayor Don Anderson, after joining Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier’s executive team, travelled to New Mexico to participate as part of a homeless crew in Albuquerque’s nationally recognized program that hires the homeless to pick up litter.
So enamored with Albuquerque’s ‘trash-to-cash’ success (“over 6,700 people connected to services they may not have known about previously; 426 day jobs offered; 92 city blocks cleaned with over 41,000 pounds of trash and debris cleared”) Mayor Anderson encouraged the Pierce County Council to implement H.E.L.P. (Homeless Empowerment Labor Program) in its 2018 budget.
“But HELP hasn’t been cleared for liftoff in Pierce County,” wrote the Tacoma News Tribune Editorial Board, August 18, 2018, “mostly due to the obstructionism of council members Pam Roach, R-Sumner, and Jim McCune, R-Graham.
“At the July 31 council meeting, McCune couched his opposition under a scrim of stereotypes. ‘A lot of these people are drug-addicted,’ he said. ‘They need recovery, not a job.’
Hard to figure how you argue with Albuquerque’s success however and sponsors of Senate Bill 5261 want to give the old-fashioned work ethic a try.
Said Socrates, book eight, of his Tripartite History: “who does not work with hands, is like a thief.”
‘Old’ as in 450 BC.
Likewise, Carlyle’s Chartism, chap. Iii: “In all ways it needs, especially in these times, to be proclaimed aloud that for the idle man there is no place in this England … he that will not work according to his faculty, let him perish according to his necessity.”
And yet another: “It is a false charity to give food to persons who are capable of working and able to get work but who are too indolent to do so. Those who beg should never be assisted unless they are willing to do all they can do for their own support. No one can be justified in assisting a lazy man. In no possible circumstances are we to contribute to foster indolence. A man might as properly help to maintain open vice.”
Fast forwarding to the present day, if the Department of Ecology can hire teens at $11.50 per hour to pick up roadside litter throughout the state of Washington during the summer, then is there a reason why the homeless can’t be hired to do the same?
Do not beautification projects – the purpose of Senate Bill 5261 – include picking up litter?
Is hiring the homeless – the purpose of Senate Bill 5261 – not better than a handout?
Albuquerque’s Mayor Richard J. Berry, said “People give money because they are compassionate, but don’t have the benefit of certainty to know where that money is going.”
In announcing the “There’s A Better Way” program Berry said, “we are calling upon members of our community to stop giving money to panhandlers.”
Albuquerque offered an alternative.
“There’s A Better Way” works because it puts people to work.
In “When Helping Hurts,” subtitled “How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor . . . and yourself,” authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert suggest that in most cases unless the help offered is “to stop the bleeding,” i.e. an actual emergency, we do more harm than good.
“If a person can help himself then a pure handout is almost never appropriate, as it undermines the person’s capacity to be a steward of his own resources and abilities” (p.106).
“It is paternalistic to do for people what they can do for themselves.”
So important is our grasp of this that Corbett and Fikkert write, “Memorize this, recite it under your breath all day long, and wear it around your neck. Every time you are engaged in poverty alleviation, keep this at the forefront of your mind, for it can keep you from doing all sorts of harm” (p.115).
If in fact one of the “major causes for homelessness” is the unavailability of employment opportunities, then Senate Bill 5261 is, in fact, a better way, certainly a bill worth passing.
Lakewood should apply.