From the Democratic Party Website:
We are deeply concerned about a series of decisions made by the mayor:
- No notification to city council members about the planned early sweep.
- The decision to include the U.S. Border Patrol.
- Some police in military gear and camouflage, some without proper identification.
- Lack of behavioral health support during the eviction. Some campers experienced trauma and loss of personal property.
We also call out certain actions by a few protestors. It is never appropriate to attack the press. We vehemently denounce the words “kill police” spray-painted by one individual onto City Hall.
The police cannot be expected to solve homelessness, and ideally should not be tasked with addressing an issue best dealt with by social workers, advocates, and supportive housing.
Our elected leaders bear the responsibility for shortcomings in addressing this issue. The mayor ordered the sweep and is responsible for how it was carried out. It has been five years since Whatcom Democrats first called for supportive housing on the Housing First model. While the City of Bellingham has invested in some long-term housing, it is nowhere near enough to meet the need. The encampment organized by homeless persons and advocates was a reminder of that gaping deficit.
We affirm that housing is a human right. Housing security is essential to mental and physical health and human dignity. Its absence means a loss of opportunities for employment, voting, safety, and community belonging.
Sheltering, while a temporary necessity, is no substitute for long-term supportive no-barrier housing that addresses the underlying problem.
Nationwide, virtually every study has concluded that the humane solution – full investment in long-term no-barrier supportive housing – is less expensive than heavy reliance on sweeps and emergency services, with our parks and our downtown business community bearing much of the brunt.
There is no valid excuse for not doing likewise here. We must demand no less from our mayor and city council. We also appeal to our federal and state legislators to provide additional funding support for long-term supportive housing.
For a detailed look at our policy recommendations, please consult our Resolution on Homelessness.
- Andrew Reding, Chair, Whatcom Democrats