Seattle’s mayor Ed Murray has been dealing with an epidemic of death in his city, 66 in November 2015 alone which resulted in him declaring a State of Emergency. He gave an impassioned speech Tuesday that reflected the magnitude of the crisis and the depth of the mayor’s desire to fix the problem which called on his state and the federal government to unite and end the macabre stream of death on Seattle streets. Tragically, just moments after he finished, his message would be illustrated in a very painful fashion.
He noted that the number of Oregon children homeless during the Great Depression was 13,000, but shamefully today that number has grown to 32,000 children statewide.
His speech included not only the beginnings of an action plan and a 50 million dollar budget from the city itself, but some very moving and true words like these:
I hear your frustrations and I share them. People are dying on our streets. We are working on a complex problem in real time.
We see the tents under freeways, rundown RVs in our neighborhoods, people on the sidewalks with signs that read ‘disabled veteran, anything helps.’ This is what income inequality looks like. This is what a disappearing middle class looks like.
The reality is that the people on our streets are living harsh and dreadful lives. Ending homelessness will be as difficult as any challenge that we face as a city.
His request for state and federal assistance to end homelessness in Seattle would come just moments before the police would inform him that near “The Jungle,” a well-known homeless encampment, in Seattle there was a “highly targeted” deadly mass shooting. Two men were killed, and three others, including two women were injured. There is not much available about this crime at this time, but we will bring you information as it becomes available.
After Seattle mayor delivers speech on homelessness, he's told of shooting with multiple victims at a homeless camp: https://t.co/5tLmHLU6UM
— KING 5 News (@KING5Seattle) January 27, 2016
The shooting occurred during the mayor’s speech, which in hindsight was nearly prophetic. Though he has clearly taken responsibility for the failure to combat the epidemic sooner, that does not change the tremendous concerted effort it will take to work towards ending homelessness in Seattle.
I can’t help but wonder, did I act too late? That’s my reaction. Maybe I should have issued the state of emergency months earlier. We have tried to do the best we can given the circumstances we’ve been given. Obviously I’m going to ask if I did a good enough job. It’s on me in the end.
Some may be tempted to blame the homeless themselves en masse for violence like this, but the fact is that gun violence and mass shootings aren’t just part of the homeless community, they are an epidemic in this nation that the NRA wants us to forget about and simply blame the destitute for their desperation. As the mayor said, “I think it would be a travesty if some people use this tragedy to try and paint all homeless people as criminals.”
Another symptom of income inequality and incomplete, ineffective, and incompetent gun laws turns deadly for the demographic who are least capable of absorbing disasters. Our hearts go out to the tight-knit community that inhabits The Jungle, and thanks to the mayor for already beginning this long struggle. Hopefully, they will find justice as well, even though peace and justice are not something found in abundance in their situation.
Feature image via Twitter