FACE OF AN ECONOMY: The homeless and ‘no sit, no lie’ ordinance near Seattle

A Journal of People report

j seattle

On March 16, 2021, Everett City Council, Washington, a city 30 miles north of Seattle, passed a local ordinance, which will bar people from sitting or lying down in a ten-block belt of the city. The controversial ordinance passed in 5-1 vote.

The ordinance covers a section of the city’s industrial area. Violators will face either a $500 fine or 90 days imprisonment.

The majority of city council members, Everett’s mayor, and the business community in the 10-block area supported the ordinance.

The ordinance, detractors say, criminalizes and discriminates against homeless individuals.

Councilmember Liz Vogeli, the sole opposition vote, said: “Arson is a crime, property damage is a crime. I don’t think sitting and lying down is a crime, nor do I think that it is a good idea to create it as a crime.”

According to KING-TV, during public comment ahead of the vote, some community members spoke out against the ordinance.

“This actually gives the public permission to hate them,” a community member said, according to KING-TV.

“The harmful thing that will happen is the increase of public discrimination towards the homeless,” another community member added.

According to the Daily Herald, before the vote, the American Civil Liberties Union and National Homelessness Law Center asked the city to rethink the legislation, arguing that it is a violation of the U.S. constitution and the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The Daily Herald reported city officials said the city spends $100,000 a year on street clean up in areas with encampments.

“There is no perfect solution to addressing homelessness in our community, but every incremental step can make a difference,” Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said after the vote. “Tonight’s action allows us to move forward with an opportunity we have right now – one which will provide new stability, support, and shelter to up to 30 more people.”

In Everett, homelessness has grown in recent years, according to local news station KING-TV.

An encampment was set up along the street of the Everett Gospel Mission, a homeless shelter. Everett’s local government said there are almost 200 people experiencing homelessness in the city, and this is since 2016. This number has risen.

Penelope Protheroe, the director of local nonprofit Angel Resource Connection, told The Daily Herald that Everett’s homeless population would be hurt by the ordinance.

“I consider it like a trap zone for people who go and get meals twice-a-day from the mission,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Here is your food, come and get it. I know you’re hungry, but you can’t sit down or take a load off.'”

Before the ordinance was voted on, local officials called for 20 “pallet houses,” to be built behind the Mission in order to house 30 people.

According to the Daily Herald, the tiny homes project will cost around $1 million dollars and will be funded by a state grant and tax dollars. The Mission will be responsible for operating and providing for the project, with city assistance.

Following a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Martin v. City of Boise, a judge ruled that a no-sit and no-lie ordinance is legal should it be written with a defined and limited scope and timeframe, for example, if alternative services and lodging are offered. Everett city officials told the Herald that as the ordinance goes into effect, they are confident of withstanding legal challenges.

A Bigger Picture

Smiljanic Stasha wrote (The State of Homelessness in the U.S. – 2021) in PolicyAdvice, a website that is a one-stop-shop for all insurance needs, on Feb. 27, 2021:

“Approximately 17 people per 10,000 experience homelessness each day. (HUD Exchange)”

About the figure above, she wrote:

“Perhaps not the best figure when looking at the bigger picture. However, when you translate these into overall numbers, things begin to look a lot different.”

The article added:

“The number of homeless in the U.S. is estimated at 552,830. (Whitehouse)

“With around half a million individuals living in a state of homelessness, things are not looking great. Still, on the bright side, it is a small percentage compared to the overall U.S. population — which counts over 327.2 million.

“Percentage-wise: 0.2% of the American population lives in a state of homelessness. (Whitehouse)

“While the low percentages don’t make the fact any less serious, in the grand scheme of things, these figures show that the U.S. homeless problem could be managed adequately with some proper structures in place. Though, monitoring the exact number of the homeless population in the U.S. is no easy task. Seeing how there are no fool-proof ways of identifying them, there could be even more of them on the streets.

“Every year, roughly 13,000 homeless people die in the US. (National Homeless)

“Approximately 2.4% of homeless persons die every year — about 13,000 out of half a million. When you think about it, homelessness is a significant health risk for individuals. Having a roof above your head becomes a matter of life and death, according to homeless statistics.

“Homeless people have an average life expectancy of just 50 years. (National Homeless)

“In a country where an increasing number of people are becoming centenarians, it is evident that homelessness is still a long way from that — if not medieval. Plus, aside from the rough living conditions, a lot of people who become homeless already struggle with various health issues.”

Smiljanic Stasha added:

“6. 89.7% of homeless persons are 24 years old or more. (Forbes)

“When it comes to age, almost 9 out of 10 people who live in the streets or shelters are adults aged 24 or more. Meaning, homelessness predominantly affects adults and not children, which is a fair assessment of the situation. Indeed, housing and social policies are specifically designed to protect children, making sure they stay safe and sheltered even when they do not have a home.

“Stats on homeless demographics reveal: age disparities are a common occurrence on the street — only 15.6% of homeless are aged 51–61. (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

“When you consider that living in a state of homelessness can put your health at risk, it’s easy to understand why less than 16% of the homeless are aged 50–60. Many adults cannot find the support they need to recover from dramatic life changes after their 50s, in terms of unemployment, health costs, or even divorce. But, more importantly, long-term homeless individuals face extreme challenges to stay healthy in their old age.

“Only 3.2% of homeless individuals are aged 62 or more, according to statistics on homelessness. (National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty)

“Indeed, their rough living situation makes it almost impossible for homeless people to experience old age. Homeless persons tend to be older individuals who, for health or income reasons, find themselves without a home.

“Over 70% of homeless persons are young adults below the age of 50. (National Law Center on Homeless & Poverty)

“As terrifying as it sounds, homelessness is more likely to affect people aged 24–50; hence, the homeless population is comparatively younger than the total U.S. population. This means two things. Firstly, with the appropriate support, these individuals could rebuild their lives. Secondly, prolonged exposure to rough living conditions on the street will aggravate health problems and reduce the percentage of seniors among the homeless.

“10. 20% of homeless individuals are, in fact, kids. (HUD Exchange)

“Child homelessness stats paint a tragic image. More and more children are victims of unhappy family or household circumstances. Whether they have to flee their home to escape unfair treatment or they are left in limbo when their parents cannot cope with payments; as such, homeless children account for approximately 1 in 5 homeless individuals. Thankfully, they are more likely to be placed in shelters than left on the streets.

“11. 42% of street children identify as LGBT. (Street Kids)

“The youth living on the streets are more likely to be homeless after a conflict with their parents. In over 4 out of 10 cases, their sexual orientation is a detrimental factor of their homelessness. Parents who reject LGBT children tend to accentuate the phenomenon — hence the high number of the homeless LGBT population among the youth.

“58% of homeless individuals in Texas, California, and Florida entail youth, homelessness statistics from 2018 reveal. (AHAR)

“Homeless youth stats reveal that a high rate of young individuals among these 3 states are, in fact, homeless. Hence, it just goes to show that these states lack sufficient facilities and policies to help young people thrive; especially those down on their luck.

“13. 58,000 students identified as homeless in 2013. (AC Online)

“For an increasing number of U.S. students, going to college is a financial challenge. Without supportive families or sufficient student loans, many do not have a place to call home, homelessness facts reveal. There is not enough student aid to help everyone, which makes it hard for the most vulnerable individuals.

“But if you thought that age was the only differentiating factor, you’re wrong. Homelessness is also a racial issue, as per our next stat:

“According to the latest stats, only 48% of homeless individuals in the U.S. are white. (Forbes)

“Almost half of all the homeless people in America are white.

“39.8% of homeless individuals in the U.S. are African-American. (Forbes)

“Yes, that means that 4 out of 10 people living on the street are black. It is a huge disparity, especially when you consider that the African-American population only represents 13% of the total US population. In other words, there are 3 times more homeless African-Americans than their overall percentage of the total population.

“Native Americans make up 2.8% of all the homeless, homelessness statistics reveal. (Forbes)

“For comparison, Native Americans only represent roughly 1.5% of the total U.S. population. However, they have almost doubled their representation when it comes to homelessness. Hence, many Native Americans fail to make a living in a country that still fails to recognize their culture, needs, and rights.

“17. 13% of the homeless are of Hispanic origin. (Forbes)

“Hispanics and Latinos represent around 8% of the total U.S. population. Their share of homelessness is significantly higher, showing that disparities are a significant problem when it comes to tackling homelessness.

“According to homeless demographics, 61% of homeless individuals are male. (HUD Exchange)

“6 out of 10 individuals who live on the street are male. The stats reveal that men are not only more likely to be affected but they are also less likely to live in a shelter, putting them at an even greater risk.

“19. 40% of all homeless men are veterans. (PBS)

“An army career is one of the most significant factors of homelessness in men. It is a testimony to the failure of the government to establish supportive structures for people who join the military forces.

“20. 8% of homeless veterans are women. (AHAR)”

There are more facts about the homeless in U.S. National Alliance to End Homelessness said in its State of Homelessness (2020 editionhttps://endhomelessness.org/homelessness-in-america/homelessness-statistics/state-of-homelessness-2020/):

“Seventeen out of every 10,000 people in the United States were experiencing homelessness on a single night in January 2019 during HUD’s Annual Point-in-Time Count. These 567,715 people represent a cross-section of America. They are associated with every region of the country, family status, gender category, and racial/ethnic group.”

The NAEH said:

“Seventy percent of people experiencing homelessness is individuals who are living on their own or in the company of other adults. The remainder (30 percent) is people in families with children.

“Homelessness is significantly defined by gender. Sixty percent of all people experiencing homelessness are male. Amongst individuals, the numbers are starker — 70 percent are men and unaccompanied male youth.

“Far too many people in America sleep outside and in other locations not meant for human habitation. This group includes more than 200,000 people (37 percent of the overall population). Among individuals experiencing homelessness, the numbers are more dire — 1 in 2 is unsheltered.”

About the “Most At Risk”, it said:

“Numerical size is one reason to focus on a subpopulation within homelessness. Risk is another. Some groups are much more likely to become homeless than the national average.

“Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are most likely to be homeless in America when compared to all other racial/ethnic groups. Within the former, 160 people experience homelessness out of every 10,000 compared to the national average of 17 out of every 10,000. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans are numerically small groups within the U.S., making it more difficult for the U.S. Census Bureau and homelessness services systems to count them accurately. Nevertheless, available data suggest they face significant challenges.

“Black Americans, multiracial Americans, and Hispanics/Latinxs are similarly situated. Group members are far more likely to be homeless than the national average and white Americans.”

Focusing on geographic regions, it said:

“One approach is to examine the locations with the highest homeless counts. They include states such as California, Florida, New York, and Texas as well as Continuums of Care (CoCs) serving New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Texas’ Balance of State. These locations share a common characteristic — relatively large general populations. They include major cities and Balance of States encompassing broad expanses of land (with numerous towns and cities).

“Fifty-six percent of people experiencing homelessness is in the five states that have the largest homeless counts. More than 1 in 3 are in the twenty CoCs with the highest numbers of people experiencing homelessness. Thus, much of this national challenge is located in a small number of places, with most jurisdictions having a much smaller problem to manage.”

On populations at risk of homelessness, the report said:

“Many Americans live in poverty, amounting to 38.1 million people or 11.8 percent of the U.S. population. They struggle to afford necessities such as housing.

“In 2018, 6.5 million Americans experienced severe housing cost burden, which means they spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing.  This marked the fourth straight year of decreases in the size of this group. However, the number of severely cost burdened Americans is still 13 percent higher than it was in 2007, the year the nation began monitoring homelessness data.”

Urban areas

A Forbes report – “The American Cities With The Highest Homeless Populations In 2019” (Jan. 14, 2020) by Niall McCarthy said:

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has released its latest report detailing levels of homelessness across the United States. Its 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report found that there was a 3% increase in the one-night estimates of people experiencing homelessness between 2018 and 2019 despite the fact that most states recorded reductions. The national increase is primarily due to a leap in homelessness in California where it grew 16.4% between 2018 and 2019 or by 21,306 people. In terms of absolute numbers, California has more than half of all unsheltered homeless people in the country at 53% or 108,432, nearly nine times as many as the state with the next highest number. That is Florida, which is home to 6% of the American unsheltered homeless population or 12,476 individuals.

“Despite several years of progress in many parts of the country, more than half a million Americans are still homeless today with approximately 63% of them staying in sheltered locations. … When both sheltered and unsheltered individuals are taken into account, New York is actually the metropolitan area with the most homeless people, 78,604. Despite that, the grim situation in California is plainly evident with six out of the top-10 CoCs with the most homeless people located in the Golden State.

“Nearly a quarter of all people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are in either New York or Los Angeles and the latter comes second on the list with 56,257 people with no home. Seattle/King County in Washington rounds off the top-3 with 11,199 while another two Californian CoCs, San Jose/Santa Clara City & County and San Diego City and County complete the top-five. Unlike New York, a significant share of California’s homeless population is sleeping rough. The research found that an estimated 71.7% of all homeless people in California are unsheltered compared to just 4.4% in New York. The two CoCs with the highest unsheltered rates are largely rural and both are also in California. Lake County in the Northwest of the state reported a 94% unsheltered rate while Alpine, Inyo and Mono Countries on the border with Nevada reported 92%.”


Children’s Defense Fund’s The State of America’s Children: 2020 (The Affordable Housing Crisis Leaves Children Vulnerable, https://www.childrensdefense.org/policy/resources/soac-2020-housing/) said:

“Nearly 1 in 3 children (31 percent) live in households burdened by housing costs, meaning more than 30 percent of their family income goes toward housing. Sixty-one percent of children in low-income households are rent burdened.

“5.9 million children live in families with “worst-case housing needs” meaning they are extremely rent burdened, have low income and receive no housing assistance from the government.”


“Almost 1.4 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2016-2017 school year, excluding younger children and youth not enrolled in school — double the number at the start of the Great Recession.”


Sarah D. Sparks wrote (“Number of Homeless Students Hits All-Time High”, Education Week, February 10, 2020, https://www.edweek.org/technology/number-of-homeless-students-hits-all-time-high/2020/02):

“A record-high 1.5 million students were homeless during the 2017-18 school year, 11 percent more than the previous year and nearly double the number a decade ago, according to new federal data.

“To put that in perspective, imagine a school district bigger than New York City and Miami-Dade put together, made up of children who are trailing other students — even those in poverty — by 10 percentage points or more in math, reading, and science. Eighteen percent of them have learning disabilities. Nearly that many are still learning English. Virtually all of them experience stress and trauma.

“Sixteen states have seen student homelessness rise 10 percent or more in the last three years alone, according to the analysis released this month by the federally funded National Center for Homeless Education, part of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.”

All the information mentioned above present a picture of the state of homelessness in U.S. But this is not the full picture. Full picture needs fully go through the reports.

But there will be questions that why homelessness in an economy rich with wealth, why so many people go homeless will gambling by the rich eat so much money, and why so much spending for war?

Commodification of the Homeless

Tamar Diana Wilson writes in “A Note on Capitalist Commodification of the Homeless” (Review of Radical Political Economics, First Published July 12, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1177/0486613417741308):

Under capitalism, the homeless are an oppressed and an exploited class. They are exploited sometimes as part of what Marx identifies as the lower reaches of the surplus labor force, but most usually through their commodification. They are subject to Althusser’s repressive and ideological state apparatuses. The long-term and recurrent homeless are commodified by being a source of both money-making employment and power among the police, the legal system, and psychiatrists and social workers.

Capitalism’s inability

Sophie Jaggi writes (“The Economics of Homelessness”, March 4, 2020/in Blog, JOIN, https://joinpdx.org/homeless-economic-impact/):

“In the United States, we live in a capitalist society. Capitalism refers to the political and economic structure based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Many capitalists believe that over time capitalistic investments can raise wages and dramatically improve the lifestyles of the working class. It is also commonly said that the economic competitiveness created by capitalism can have a beneficial effect on business and have a positive impact on society.

“However, one consequence of capitalism can be extreme income inequality and the monopolization of wealth production. This leads to unfortunate circumstances including poverty and homelessness. One of the most common criticisms of capitalism is its inability to provide adequate and affordable housing for the individuals producing society’s wealth (i.e. the working class). Many argue that this is because capitalism inherently places profit above human needs, and treats the basic need for adequate housing as a private commodity to be sold for a profit. As a result, wealthy capitalist countries have larger homeless populations, compared with other developed nations. The largest capitalist countries, The United States, Canada, Germany and the United Kingdom have homeless rates of 0.17%, 0.36%, 0.37%, and 0.46%, as calculated in relation to their population density, more information here.

“As of 2018 United States, there are over 17 million vacant homes according to the US Census report here, with about 552,830 individuals experiencing homelessness on any given night, according to this report. This results in a shocking 30 empty housing units per homeless person. It’s important to note that the data is from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) captured through what’s known as the Point-in-Time (PIT) count which has received rightful criticism of being an under-count that fails to capture an accurate account of people experiencing homelessness, learn more here.

“In Portland, the scope of homelessness has only recently been accurately portrayed in Portland State University’s Homelessness Research and Action Collaborative Report that found 38,000 people had experienced homelessness at one point in 2017, over 100,000 more people are living in the margins across the metro region, that report is here. Important to note, this is not Portland specific – nationally, 40% of Americans cannot afford a $400 emergency noted in the Federal Reserve Report here. Overall, homelessness is persisting because wages do not cover rent, cost based health care is a barrier, and the lack of affordable housing, though progress is being made through the 2018 Housing Bond Measure, more shared here.”

Should not these facts be considered?

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