Seattle’s new drug bill will harm people

This new law wastes lots of  taxpayer money and only makes the problem bigger.

by Carl Nakajima, a Real Change vendor. Real change is the Seattle homeless paper, Oct 11-17, 2023, page 9

I am very strongly against the drug enforcement bill that the (Seattle) City Council passed.

People I know have died from overdoses of drugs shortly after being released from jail. This is because the amount of drugs that the body can accept changes while they are incarcerated. Upon release, they took the same amount of drugs as before entered the jail.

Drug use is not a habit that can be easily changed through physical punishment. On the contrary, it is a habit that can be made worse by making someone’s life miserable. Being arrested and detained has many negative consequences. It creates barriers to housing and employment. It causes loss of contact with people who are trying to help. It causes people to lose their shelter spots, housing opportunities, tents, cars and belongings. They are taken back to square one. The council (except for Councilmembers Tammy Morales, Teresa Mosqueda, and Kshama Sawant) did the worst thing to the people in the city who need help the most. What they are doing is not a solution but a temporary deception. If you round up homeless people and temporarily put them in jail, sure, the city will look cleaner. It will look like the politicians are doing a great job, making them more likely to get reelected. But the main problem isn’t going anywhere, it’s going to remain and it’s probably going to get worse.

What our elected officials need to do is accept the problem and confront it (like Portugal, etc.)

Addicts should be accepted as addicts. We should give people a place to live or give them a place where they can make their own home. Then we can start helping with their other problems. Don’t spread problems around. Even if our unhoused neighbors have problems, they have the human right to live a normal life, just like addicts who have a home.

Jails are the most expensive shelter in our city besides hospitals (in terms of cost per bed per day, cost of Medicare care, staffing, etc.) More than anything, court costs and other legal fees will stack up that homeless or mentally ill people can’t afford. Who do you think will end up paying this expensive bill in the end? Taxpayers!

Worse yet, we won’t get our money’s worth. Putting more people in jail might make some people quit drugs. But most people will use drugs again, sooner or later after being released. As Mosqueda and Morales said, the bill doesn’t contain any new funding for treatment. This law was not written for addicts and does not solve the root of the problem.

Sadly, six council members voted in favor of the new cat and mouse game. Chasing homeless people around without giving them a proper place to live and cleaning up after them is a waste of budget. We’ve tried it for a long time, and it’s been proven to be useless.

Some council members may think we just set out to find a solution. But if you take a step in the wrong direction, there are things you can’t fix. This new law wastes a lot of taxpayer money and only makes the problem bigger.

Mayor Harrell said, “The ultimate answer to solve homelessness …is housing.” And he also said, “We cannot and will not sit idly by while people suffer and die from the effects of drugs and substance use disorder.” I hope that the Mayor is saying that we should not criminalize drug users. It takes a huge budget to provide housing and treatment for people who are homeless and suffering from substance use disorder. We should be spending our money on real solutions for those people.

People suffering from substance use disorder need help, not punishment.