Covering the Olympia Heritage Park encampment Monday evening (12-12-11) as well as Thursday evening, night, and Friday (12-15-11 through 12-16-11) revealed it was not safe. Threatened by a homeless man named ‘Brian’ who had recently done a stint of 10 years down South for murder who was talked out of the encampment a day or two later by a camp resident named ‘Sly’ for assaulting another resident with a large knife, it was evident photojournalists and visitors were at considerable risk Nor were these incidents (story still developing) isolated, but they should be of interest to the public.
Having said that, it must be noted the residents did a BETTER job of reducing violence/conflict than the well trained WSP contingent of the Capitol Police. The police (the audio is still being edited for posting) can be heard through Sgt. Zachary Elmore engaging in extremely selective law enforcement. Sgt. Elmore opines it isn’t their duty to protect photojournalists–substituting his prejudices for the proscriptions of the law. This selective enforcement is often complained of in minority neighborhoods too. Camp residents candidly observe they’re treated very differently than a man in a business suit or connected to the powerful.
But despite the many warts displayed by the homeless (violence, alcoholism, drug addiction, failure to maintain sanitation, shoplifting, etc.) the biggest shame belongs to the State and the City of Olympia. In clearing the tents left behind, State workers were forced to discard many into trash truck compactors because they were fouled with feces and urine. The State had no ready means to decontaminate them. Most are offended by such human filth. We’re all potty bigots by nature of our early training. Why, one should ask, would anybody crap in their own tent/bed when the state opened the public restrooms in Heritage Park 24/7?
First, consider, normally those restrooms are locked at 5:00pm each day. Officials admit that is, in part, because they fear vandalism (grafitti, stopping of drains, damaging fixtures, etc.) and even cite a desire to avoid ‘attracting’ the homeless. Yet the homeless are condemned for not using (under more ‘normal’ conditions) the very bathrooms the community locks them out of. Still, with the restrooms at Heritage Park open (temporarily) 24/7, why the disgusting feces and urine in their own tents and sleeping bags? Furthermore, where did they get these tents and sleeping bags? Camping gear costs some money…charity? Or, are these the ‘Cadillac welfare queens’ President Reagan so glibly referenced when he was alive?
Having worked in hospitals and nursing homes, the answer is self evident. People DO crap in their own beds when they’re quite elderly, incontinent, failing, or SICK! Alcoholics and drug addicts vomit and crap on themselves regularly. People relieve themselves whether bathrooms are locked or not–but the sick don’t make it that far else there’d be no need for bedpans or diapers. So why is the greater Olympia community forcing our most elderly, or most disabled, the sickest and most vulnerable to live under bridges or in the woods while locking its public restrooms to ‘protect’ itself?
Even the poorest of nations maintain public restrooms. So what’s with America? What’s with Washington State where hepatitis outbreaks occur periodically? “I have seen the enemy…and it is us!” -Pogo-
The City of Olympia maintains public trash cans on its blocks despite the possibility of abuse (trash can fires) without them being coin operated. The City wants people to place their refuse deposits in the proper container else its streets would become rubbish heaps. We do NOT lock the trash cans. A high percentage of street people in Olympia are homeless. So what’s with preventing them from making deposits in the public commodes? Has the sewage treatment plant become restricted to only the well heeled?
One woman at last Sunday’s GA (general assembly) meeting in the Capitol Rotunda observed that we all have human failings, but those of us with homes are able to shield them from public scrutiny. The homeless are less fortunate and unable to do so.
A community that thinks it can improve its quality of life by locking its public restrooms to discriminate against the poor/homeless is hopelessly naive and immoral. The fouled tents discarded by the State bear witness to the public health crisis about us whether we sweep it into the woods or deal with it more candidly.