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Westside Story – Seattle is Dying. Is Lakewood?

KOMO ABC 4 News produced a video titled, KOMO – 4 Seattle Is Dying. View the video to learn what has happened and what has failed to happen in Seattle, Washington. Seattle’s troubles are only 30 miles north of places we care about such as Lakewood, University Place, Steilacoom, and DuPont.

Seattle Is Dying. Is University Place, Lakewood, Steilacoom, or Dupont dying?

Before it is too late, we should ask a fundamental question. Is societal cancer infecting Seattle starting to kill parts of Lakewood and other nearby towns?

The homeless all across the country think of Seattle as “Free-attle.” With a false sense of compassion, at the cost of more than a billion dollars per year, Seattle attracts a multitude of people from all over the US, who are down and out. These individuals suffer from homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction, and for many, mental illness. By providing an abundance of free goods and services along with the benefits of a sanctuary city offering homeless freedom from arrest, prosecution, and jail time, Seattle attracts droves of irresponsible people with needs.

As a consequence, Seattle has the second highest crime rate in our nation hovering at 5,258 per 100,000 of population. When compared to the low of 2,500 crimes in Los Angeles, and high of 6,168 crimes in San Francisco, Seattle is unacceptable.

Look at it this way. If you pour a jar of honey on a picnic table, the picnic table will soon be covered with ants. Free-attle to the homeless is the same as honey to the ants.

There are some who think providing free honey shows compassion to the ants. There are others who think providing free honey to the ants shows lack of compassion for picnickers wishing to use the table for its originally intended purpose.

Let’s look at Lakewood. While it does not appear our West Side towns and cities are currently facing the same level of death threat as Seattle, we are experiencing some of the same issues.

For this story, I was drawn to the Lakewood Cinema Plaza as just one example of problems that have infested our West Side. This shopping center suffers from negative homeless issues radiating from both Tacoma and Lakewood.

Lakewood Cinema Plaza located near 84th St South, Tacoma Mall Boulevard, and the I-5 Freeway is infected with societal cancer commonly called homelessness rather than its more accurate label, substance abuse and / or mental illness.

In preparation for this column, I made contact with Ms. Shirley Ritter, owner of The Fairy Store, a unique specialty gift shop currently located inside the Lakewood Cinema Plaza Shopping Center. After our interview, the complex security officer gave me a tour of the entire commercial property which allowed me to see first hand some of the problems Shirley was describing.

Shirley, who retired after a quarter century of service as a neonatal nurse, purchased her business in 2010 when it was located in Tumwater, Washington.

On March 1, 2014, Shirley moved her business from Tumwater to Lakewood. Her store is currently located in what used to be the Ruby Tuesday Restaurant. She was attracted to the Lakewood location for several reasons including…

  1. She liked the visibility from the high traffic roadways of I-5, 84th St South, and Tacoma Mall Boulevard.
  2. When she moved her business to Lakewood, she thought she was bringing something good to our community.

The Fairy Store is currently located at 2202 – 84th Street South, Lakewood, Washington 98499. P: 253-584-9761. Website: www.efairies.com.

Shirley has been so successful with The Fairy Store bringing joy and happiness to so many customers, especially children, she is known and loved across our great land as The Fairy Godmother.

The Lakewood Chamber of Commerce confirmed that The Fairy Store is an asset within our city by awarding the plague depicted above.
It is apparent owners Shirley and Paul Ritter expend great effort in making certain their business property presents a neat, clean, attractive, and welcoming appearance, which is good for our community. Obviously, our Lakewood Chamber of Commerce agrees.

Using a structure familiar in comedy, we might refer to the above writing as the setup. Now comes the punchline, but unlike comedy, what I have to write next, is not funny.

The sad news is the problems Seattle is experiencing seem to be expanding to cities such as Lakewood. While Lakewood’s issues are not yet as severe as Seattle’s in general, for any individual business owner, homeowner, customer, or visitor the problems are just as critical as Seattle’s on a case by case basis. If anyone fitting one of the categories listed above is victimized by the homeless, who are emboldened to do whatever they want including narcotics violations, stealing, car theft, car prowl, burglary, strong arm robbery, shoplift, physical assault and sexual assault, for that victim it is just like they are in Seattle.

The next three photos below depict how most homeless people destroy everything they come in contact with wherever they are located. What you see in these photos is stolen, destroyed, damaged, abandoned, and littered property. These images cause the terms slum and third world country to come to mind.

Most citizens do not wish to be in this kind of environment, nor do they want to risk crossing paths with the defective humans responsible for this kind of decadent behavior. No one wants to be threatened physically.

Stolen and abandoned shopping cart. Is the white powder soap or dope?
Signs of crime, addiction, and mental illness.
Five stolen, abandoned, and dumped shopping carts X $195.00 = $975.00 worth of thefts in just one spot on this abused property. There were several other locations on the same property where I found stolen / abandoned shopping carts. Because the homeless are in control and they know they face no consequences, there is no incentive for the homeless to respect others or their property. Conversely, if you or I were caught stealing $200 worth of goods, we will likely be discriminated against by being subject to arrest and jail because we do not qualify for special treatment enjoyed by the homeless. So I recommend to all readers of The Suburban Times; do not steal. The system currently operating in our city provides the homeless with special privilege much like that found in the game of Monopoly called The Get Out Of Jail Free Card which allows the homeless to they hide in their tents from justice and civilized behavior.

It hurts me to declare that the Holiness Church, located in the shopping center, is a magnet for the homeless problem. While I do not know Pastor Rufus, who leads the church, I am confident he is a good man with a good heart and an abundant amount of compassion. None-the-less, through no fault of the church, the members are causing problems for others in the shopping center. Why? Because the church is forced to operate its free food program in a vacuum. By vacuum I mean the city and law enforcement are not set up and organized with a uniform program to eradicate the problems caused by the homeless. If the city organizes a well-rounded approach to the homeless problem, the church will become an asset to our community, rather than a liability. Free food is like the honey on the picnic table. The church attracts the homeless and then the homeless steal and destroy property, victimize the business owners, and chase customers away who might otherwise patronize this shopping center. When that happens, a little piece of Lakewood dies.

Holiness Church
Free food provided by Holiness Church is a magnet for people who victimize others.

Part of the area the homeless destroy is in Lakewood and part is in Tacoma. Most of the property being used for homeless camping and homeless dumping is known as Wards Lake and is owned by The City of Tacoma which is located right next to the victimized Lakewood shopping center. A Tacoma Public Works sign on the Wards Lake site reads, “To report problems, call 253-591-5595”.

Additional language reads, “This pond is maintained by Tacoma Public Works.” It appears the sign is a lie as it is obvious the property is not being maintained. In fact, the Wards Lake property suffers from being allowed to serve as a homeless camp in what can only be described as a garbage dump-like condition.

If one views the City of Tacoma sign and then views the Wards Lake property, the words untrustworthy, lie, deception, and politics, as usual, come to mind.

If Lakewood and Tacoma fail to act, how long will it be before businesses like The Fairy Story decide to leave the shopping center now run by the homeless resulting in Lakewood having numerous empty commercial buildings?

Death of a city is already happening in Seattle. An example is Karan Dannenberg who after many years of operating her clothing store in the Belltown area of Seattle, was no longer able to successfully and safely run her shop when the neighborhood changed from a city jewel to a city cesspool. Karan was forced to move her store out of Seattle to Bellevue. In her new location, the city, not the homeless, are in charge. Karan no longer has to worry about the death of her business by the homeless.

Mrs. Ritter has been directly approached three times on her own business property by homeless people who appeared mentally disturbed. The irrational behavior of these three homeless trespassers scared her.

I know what she experienced based on my having suffered at the hands of the homeless at the Lakewood Walgreens and the Lakewood Library.

I reported to staff at both locations that I had been negatively impacted by the homeless running amok on their property. The response I received was, “There is nothing we can do.” So for me, Lakewood Walgreens and the Lakewood Library are both dead. That might just mean Lakewood, like Seattle, could become a cesspool.

I do hold a glimmer of hope as it appears some mysterious metamorphosis may be occurring which could bring the Library back from death in Lakewood. If my observations are correct, I know not what has caused the improvement.

I recently had the opportunity to visit with an accomplished highly educated and experienced psychiatric nurse. I have known Nurse Victoria Leavitt for over twenty years and thus have high confidence in what she has to say. Not only is Victoria’s credibility based on her education and professional career, but she also personally experienced homelessness first-hand when she was a kid in the Bronx. There were occasions she and her family were forced to live in her mother’s car.

Victoria educated me on the fact that most, if not all, homeless individuals suffer and struggle with substance addiction and / or mental illness. She has observed the causes of homelessness both in her childhood and in her professional life. My friend knows what she is talking about.

The essence of what Victoria was telling me is that society has a drug and mental illness problem, not a homeless problem. Homelessness is a symptom of the real foundational issues of substance addiction and / or mental illness.

With firm conviction, Nurse Leavitt told me that society needs to develop a properly designed compassionate two-step solution for homelessness.

Step one is to enable our police to enforce the laws; all the laws including misdemeanors and civility rules. Returning power to our police requires lawful cooperation from victims, victim business owners, prosecutors, judges, and the jail to support law enforcement efforts as they police our city to keep us and our property safe.

Step two is one of compassion involving intervention including helping the homeless escape from the prison of substance addiction and mental illness.

For evidence on how using one or both steps can prove victorious, study New York City’s and Rhode Island’s history, experience, and results.

Take another look at photos above and ask yourself, can and should the City of Tacoma and the City of Lakewood be doing more to prevent Lakewood from dying?

What does The Fairy Godmother wish for?

She wishes that Lakewood City Council, Lakewood City Staff, Lakewood Police, the courts, the jail, and mental health professionals will come together to create a permanent solution plan that will help business owners, customers, citizens, and the homeless. If her wish does not come true, then like Karan Dannenberg, Shirley Ritter may ultimately be forced to move out of our city which will mean a little bit more of Lakewood will die.

An essential function of Lakewood’s Economic Development Department is to attract and encourage new businesses to establish themselves in our city. An even more critical role of Economic Development should involve active problem solving so companies already in Lakewood, will not be forced to leave because of the homeless situation. That means solutions are required to eliminate drug and substance addiction, mental illness, poverty, joblessness, and homelessness.

If we do not make it better, it will get worse. The final question might well be, will there be a new video titled KOMO ABC NEWS 4 – Is Lakewood Dying?

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