New grass-roots group calls foul on Seattle's homeless plan
by: Gary Horcher
SEATTLE - Seattle's ever-growing homeless crisis has inspired a growing grass-roots organization which intends to amplify the voice of the city's silent majority.
"Speak Out Seattle!" was founded by Elisabeth James, a Seattle paralegal and grandmother who quietly published an online petition opposing a city ordinance allowing homeless tents in Seattle parks last October.
James' petition went viral, members of the city council noticed, and James realized the power of a movement motivated by crisis.
"I figured, instead of quietly being dissatisfied with what's going on, people need to speak out, and not just to their friends," James said.
James and Jaliar Box from Ballard reached out to neighborhood organizations and business owners to grow Speak Out Seattle! in January. The group has already hammered out strong opinions on city policy, and it intends to follow the money the city's spending on the homeless crisis.
"We'd like to have some accountability for both where the money being spent now, where it goes and why it hasn't noticeably made any affects," James said.
One of the SOS platforms demands the city spend more on detox and drug treatment for the homeless.
"My feeling is we should focus first on detox and treatment and really do that well," said Box.
"The spending on addiction rehab and detox by King County has gone down while homelessness has skyrocketed," James added.
The group strongly opposes safe injection sites.
"If you have heroin and methamphetamine being used illegally, and by federal law the site itself is illegal, then you are asking your law enforcement to stand down," said Box.
Speak out Seattle! is pushing for the city to hire 300 more police officers to deal with public safety issues related to the growing homeless crisis.
"It's happened to me, too, call 911 when something's happened and not being able to get anyone to even come out," James said.
Speak Out Seattle! will participate in an addiction-focused meeting in Thursday at 6:30 p.m., when the Lake City Neighborhood Association will be hosting a Forum on Addiction Services.
The panel will include the King County Opiate Addiction Task Force and Speak Out Seattle! will be offering a differing perspective.
The panel will also feature Councilmember Deborah Juarez and officers with the Seattle Police Department.