I am writing in response to the recent article in the Jolt, written by Pat Cole about candidates for the Olympia City Council. I am one of those candidates. I appreciate that the Jolt has taken time to publish this article, however I must say that Pat Cole has misrepresented my position, as a candidate in this Olympia City Council race against Lisa Parshley. Pat Cole wrote his article, and The Jolt published it in support of the City Council incumbents, just as the ballots were mailed out this week. The Jolt says, “It does not endorse candidates”. But that is what it has done. This seems unethical, and I hope to lay out my concerns here;
In his article in the Jolt, Pat Cole is endorsing the incumbent members of the Olympia City. These people have been a part of decision making that has led to areas of significant decline for the homelessness situation here in Olympia, and the lack of affordable housing. Certainly this is a regional, a state, and a national problem with inadequate housing for the poor and disenfranchise community. None of us have all the answers, but we are all looking for tools and ways to afford all the people in our community a safer, saner approach to having a roof over the heads of everyone.
For this Olympia City Council race, Pat Cole wrote, that "Talauna Reed may have good intentions, but Reed does not know about all the programs this council has put in place and what Olympia is actually doing for the homeless in Olympia."
I have never claimed to know all of the homeless programs that the Olympia City Council, Thurston County, or the state of WA have put in place, but I have actually worked with the homeless here in Olympia visiting encampments multiple times per week with my coworkers and other social service groups (this is far more experience than my opponent Lisa Parshley has done with the homeless). City Council members can attend lectures until the cows come home. But to work with this community brings insights, and problem solving that City Council study groups and lectures, will never give.
It seems that many of the various City encampments are growing in numbers daily, and that the services that are being provided to the homeless are not adequate. Lisa Parshley claims that homeless residents are being provided “wrap around services” due to the work being done in the “scattered site program”. It is my thinking that she just is not being honest with the community regarding this situation with the homeless.
What I contend is that city homeless services that the city claims to be providing through the scattered site program are inadequate. Examples of programs that help the homeless are the: drug and alcohol, mental health, domestic violence assessments, appropriate referrals to services for the minors/ youth in the encampments, equitable access to outreach supplies, referrals to housing, and general triaging. These programs are not adequately available for those in need, to many homeless folks, these services are not happening.
There are no treatment providers being sent to the encampments through the scattered site program and by the City of Olympia. Proper referrals to services cannot be provided by folks who are not qualified to assess certain disorders. Currently it is impossible to chase down all the folks that need services, mental health being one of the foremost. (During the 1980’s our President Reagan shut down thousands of mental health hospitals and facilities. This decision about throwing people out onto the streets who desperately need mental health help is awful. These people who are trying to seek help out on the streets , self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. This has been going on for decades. We are reaping the results of this, done decades ago. This is not easy work).
It seems to many of us, that the contracted organizations that work for the “scattered site program” do not have a large enough or diverse enough staff to tackle all of this. This is a huge issue. Also, there have been small, or no provisions made to prioritize our most marginalized houseless folks such as Black and Brown Indigenous houseless residents in the encampments.
Providing one or two porta-potties and dumpsters at only 3 of the encampments throughout Olympia is inadequate. There are not enough services to improve the quality of life of those in the encampments. It is certainly not enough to protect the environment. If these listed provisions worked, at least we could have more of these in the encampments. We need more of them, with better access for homeless folks. The vandalism, graffiti, and destruction in the homeless camps, and around Olympia, is an example of the rage these folks have regarding their living conditions. They self medicate to deal with their frustration, their rage. Many of them were thrown out of their homes, and have nowhere to go. They live in cars, trucks, tents, RV’s. They cannot seem to change their behaviors by themselves. We need to do better to solve this problem. (Thurston County is now discussing a “Home Fund” to pay for more homeless services, like the City of Olympia passed years ago. Let us hope and pray that we can get enough funds to pay for hotels and buildings to house people, and staff these facilities with mental health services).
The other issue in this discussion that Pat Cole tried to address, is adequate housing for the poorest members of our community, the elderly and the handicapped included. The current Olympia City Council voted for the “”Multi-Family Tax Exemptions (MFTE). My opponent Lisa Parshley and the other incumbents (except for Olympia Councilman Clark Gilman), voted for these tax exemptions for the rich. These tax exemptions were given to rich "out of the area" developers, who build expensive condos that most people cannot afford. (They call this “market rate” housing. Yet only the rich can afford it). This Tax abatement gives millions of dollars in tax abatement to the rich developers, while the rest of us struggle to pay our own house taxes, or rising rents. This is not right or fair to the citizens of Olympia. But it is what my opponent and other Olympia City Council incumbents voted for.
What Pat Cole wrote in the Jolt is propaganda for the rich developers who are trying to permit more and more expensive housing down by Budd Inlet. The Olympia City Council has hand picked City Planning Commissioners, who go along with this scenario for the rich. All of this works to hurt low income people who seek local housing. Several of the new Olympia City Council candidates running for office, now work in real estate! These people make their money by buying and selling property to others. They stand to make a great deal of money by approving these permits for expensive condos and apartment buildings for the rich. So it is not just the incumbents that are the problem in this November election.
Pat Cole is entitled to endorse whomever he chooses, but based upon his misrepresentation of statements made by me, his lack of understanding of the inner workings of the homeless encampments and staff, and his bias to the incumbents who hold the power here in City Council, I think that he should be apologizing in his article, for his lack of knowledge in these issues.
Talauna Reed, Olympia City Council Candidate