An Overdose Death at the Broadview-Thomson Homeless Encampment

 There is a group called “We Heart Seattle”, led by Andrea Suarez, who have been very good at working with the homeless. 

Andrea reports on their Facebook page that a man named Nicholas Bjarnson overdosed at the encampment next to Broadview-Thomson K-8 on May 28th. He was 35 years old. 

In her posts, Ms. Suarez seems unhappy with “turf wars” and said, “Keeping people, especially addicts, comfortable in parks, on schoolyards or anywhere until they are ready is nothing short of assisted suicide. Please wake up Seattle.”

We Heart Seattle’s mission statement:

    We Heart Seattle is a grassroots coalition of people who believe we must act to better protect people, parks, and our shared environment. Through our direct civic engagement we lead the way to a more compassionate and healthy community.

    To meet these goals, we:
  1. Create a sense of community by welcoming everyone to be involved in real civic engagement
  2. Build a network of people who no longer walk by neighbors in need and areas needing repair while expecting someone else to help
  3. Utilize all available safe housing, shelters, and treatment facilities for anyone who is readyHouse our neighbors quickly without the typical restrictions, delays and inefficiency that has kept many on the streets
  4. Clean litter and eradicate graffitiDevelop great partnerships with like-minded stakeholders
  5. Work cooperatively with city and county employees and leaders


Anonymous said…
This all sounds like common sense stuff; I have no doubt toxic Seattle politics will find a way to overcomplicate and polarize it. Which is its own way of getting nothing done.

At this point, I applaud anyone who steps away from their keyboard to be productive IRL, and moves the conversation in a positive direction. Thank you Andrea!

Balancing Test
Welcome Home said…
We Heart Seattle goes into the BT encampment. They pick-up trash and have housed 4 people.

We Heart Seattle had this to say: "And I'm shocked to are we allowing this to happen and allowing people, in my opinion, to slowly die rather than empowering them to make a decision to live. By letting people camp there without the right resources in unsanctioned, un-serviced grounds, on school grounds is nothing short, IMO, of a slow form of suicide that we're allowing as a community, as a city, as leaders."

I don't see the district effectively managing or removing this encampment from Seattle Public School property. I expect the encampment will be there for a very long time.

Anonymous said…
@ Balancing Test, Common sense in places elsewhere, large democratic majority East coast cities are very different ideologically. West coast cities such as Seattle different. WA state is libertarian leaning, some ideas cross both left & right political divides. Seattle is an ideological bubble of ideals. We doubled budget spending more then any other city to achieve socialist ideals. Yet we continue to draw more people into Seattle, as we also espouse some libertarian minded ideas that include freedom to camp, possess drugs without fear of criminalization, not forcing people into treatment or services by way of criminalization. Some feel those on the street should just be left alone. A forced intervention that often interrupts a cycle of addiction or mental health is not the goal. They should seek help "on their own". But Seattle cannot provide services or housing on their own either and they don't get enough help. Receive little to no help from a libertarian minded state and other cities. There is a decentralized system in place, to provide services and housing that is failing. That's libertarian. Many also receive services in Seattle they cannot receive elsewhere.


Anonymous said…

Check out 9th circuit court rulings on homelessness. It’s been ruled unconstitutional to penalize people for having bodies and taking up space, so the ‘Seattle approach’ is beyond Seattle. Until the Supreme Court rules otherwise, camps can only be cleared when the camper is offered an alternative. I don’t think your comparison of Seattle to E Coast cities is apples to apples.

Balancing Test
Anonymous said…
@ Balancing test Some campers that offered an alternative, sometimes refuse that alternative as presented. There are many reasons as to why that is the case, but it is also true there are those who hold an ideology that is camper's choice to refuse any shelter offered as an individual. WA state Laws indicate quite a difference in ideology. States also largely differ in response and access to mental health. Example it can be near impossible in WA state for a family member to help a mentally ill family member access treatment. We rank 47th at the bottom, it's very difficult in WA state. Family members certainly cannot "commit" individuals into treatment. When an individual accesses treatment it is often minimal and very brief. I know of a story where relatives of a very severely mentally ill individual were trying very hard to get the family member back to an East coast state, in order to have more power helping them get the treatment they needed.
hschinske said…
I would not take We Heart Seattle at face value. They have done some pretty crummy things and I don't consider them a legitimate advocacy group.

Helen Schinske
Anonymous said…
@Balancing Test

There are major differences in approaches, services etc. between cities within WA state, which is one reason why Seattle draws more homeless. Most became homeless in another part of the county or state prior to coming to Seattle. There are also major differences between states, which is why Seattle has such a visible homeless population. Each state has different laws, social services and medical policies, and other conditions which influence the number of homeless persons, and what services are available to homeless people in each state. WA has the homestead act that allows campers. There are ideological differences definitely as to why this is the case, with WA being more libertarian. E Coast states with a long history of densely populated cities have a different history. NY state had provided a constitutional right to shelter since the early 80's that greatly reduces the number of visibly homeless.

NE Parent said…
My question is, what happens after the district finds housing for the current 40? Unless they build a fence or change their approach, what's to stop there from being a constant stream of new campers? Without a long-term plan, there is no urgency to find a solution for the current campers, because they will likely just be replaced.

The best strategy for district leadership, given its goal of city-wide policy change, is to leave the campers exactly where they are at so they are an irritant and draw attention to the district's cause.

The unfortunate reality is that this is now a political game and district leadership is using kids and families as pawns.

Welcome Home said…
The district definately needs a long term plan.

Here is the problem with Chandra Hampson, DeWolf and Rankin's demand: The city is dealing with thousands of homeless and services might need to be triaged.

What is stopping more people from moving onto district property?
Anonymous said…
This is from the Seattle Times, read the comments as well.


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