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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I Don’t Hate the Homeless

posted by on December 12 at 13:30 PM

Really, I don’t. I have empathy. I give ‘em money—and I give it to them, not to some patronizing charity that tries to make me feel guilty about a homeless person deciding to blow my change on booze and not sock it away in his IRA or whatever. But whenever I post something about the homeless on Slog I get called out for my lack of compassion. So I’m just wondering…

I’ve been sitting in a cafe downtown working for a couple of hours and just now a few homeless guys came in, bought some drip, and gathered around the table right next to mine. And, hey, they have as much right to be in here as I do—they had the cash, they bought some coffee, and they need to get out of the cold. It’s all good.

But I have a question for the armies of compassion that lurk in Slog comments: How long do empathy and compassion require me to sit here and breathe their booze-cigs-piss vapors? Is it bigoted of me even to notice? Is the woman that just got up and moved to a table on the other side of the cafe a bourgeois bitch? And am I going to hell for packing up my shit and moving to another cafe?

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It doesn't matter if someone is homeless or not, if I don't want to be around them, I get up, I leave.

The only time it would be a problem is when you get up and tell them to leave. Then you're just an asshole.

Posted by Mr. Poe | December 12, 2007 12:44 PM

dan, as long as you arent tasing the homeless indiscriminately, you're okay.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | December 12, 2007 1:38 PM

as long as you don't say anything rude to them or treat them like crap, go wherever you like. If you have a good sense of smell and can't take it anymore, move.

Posted by hunter k | December 12, 2007 1:40 PM

This is what you get for spearheading a charity auction for the homeless.

Posted by JMR | December 12, 2007 1:41 PM


it doesn't matter if you're sitting next to a stinky bum or a stinky hippie who insists on either NOT wearing deodorant or the useless crystal kind; stinky is stinky.

and that goes for Bellevue society ladies and young men of all sexualities who choose to bathe themselves in the stinky cologne of their choice.

Posted by michael strangeways | December 12, 2007 1:42 PM

Typical passive aggressive Seattle reaction. I don't think getting up and moving away is wrong and I don't think asking someone who stinks to take it somewhere else is wrong. They don't have to listen to you of course but that doesn't mean you have to sit there and suffer in silence.

Posted by PA Native | December 12, 2007 1:42 PM

Yes, they have the right to be there. No you don't have to patronize a place that allows them to sit and disturb the senses of their customers. Liberal guilt should not extend to having to smell shit like that. I would get up and move and not think a minute about it.
Side note: I went into a restaurant recently with my boyfriend and it smelled so bad of B.O. that we left. The offending smellers weren't homeless, just trashy.

Posted by max | December 12, 2007 1:43 PM

@2 - I read your comment at first as "tasting the homeless indiscriminantly." Now that would be just icky.

Posted by MGD | December 12, 2007 1:44 PM

You're going to hell, but not for leaving the cafe. I think all that sodomy is going to be your ticket.

Also, asuming someone stinks based on their ethnicity or national origin is bigoted. Noticing actual stink means they stink. Not tolerating said stink make you a prissy fag, not a bigot.

Posted by Mike in MO | December 12, 2007 1:44 PM

I’ve been sitting in a cafe downtown working for a couple of hours

Is this the FareStart cafe? Then your experience must be expected.

Posted by JMR | December 12, 2007 1:46 PM

You're downtown. Unless you want to go up to the Nordstroms cafe or somewhere a little more exclusive, you're gonna end up (sometimes intimately)encountering stinky people... I'd say, pick someplace a little more hidden away/snobby if your two requirements are that you can stay there for a long time and that it smells good.

Posted by Katelyn | December 12, 2007 1:46 PM

How long? One to two minutes sounds good to me.

Posted by mao | December 12, 2007 1:46 PM
One to two minutes sounds good to me.

Seconded. And don't do any passive aggressive stuff like sighing or slamming your laptop shut. Not that I think you would do that, but plenty of other people would and it's not cool.

Posted by keshmeshi | December 12, 2007 1:53 PM

How do you know people are homeless? Do you ask them? Maybe they have a home and no sense of smell? Or have a home, but serious mental health issues that prevent them from bathing?

When some frat guy with rank cologne sits next to me at Smith on a Saturday night, I change tables.

Posted by Finishtag | December 12, 2007 1:55 PM

Fucking smelly-assed homeless...

Posted by Justin | December 12, 2007 1:55 PM

If it helps you resolve your intense moral dilemma, the homeless guy was probably looking at you thinking the same thing.

Posted by G | December 12, 2007 1:58 PM

Isn't this a question for Ask an Uptight Seattleite?

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 12, 2007 2:03 PM

The appropriate response is to direct them to the Urban Rest Stop and move to the other side of the room.

Posted by Gitai | December 12, 2007 2:03 PM

what race are the homeless guys though? if they are non-dominant culture you are going to have to sit it out.

Posted by Jiberish | December 12, 2007 2:05 PM

If someone reeks of piss and sits next to me on the bus, I'll probably move -- just as if they reeked of cologne or any other smell I find offensive. I won't be a dick about it but will probably move.

I think why you pissed off so many folks last time is your total lack of respect in your comments. There's nothing offensive about not liking body odor.

Posted by Joey | December 12, 2007 2:08 PM

I got off the bus last week 'cause some dude was stinking the whole thing up. And I wasn't alone.

Posted by DOUG. | December 12, 2007 2:12 PM

It is way more respectful to speak up. Not speaking up is treating the other dude as beyond contact, the other, etc.

Posted by unPC | December 12, 2007 2:18 PM

Since most of them come from the suburbs, we need to build more homeless shelters and services there, not here.

But it might also help if we had more shower and toilet facilities too, that weren't only for those wealthy enough to afford them.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 12, 2007 2:18 PM

You are never required to breathe in booze-cigs-piss vapors in an effort to show you have empathy.

Get the fuck up and move. That organic festering assault will burn your nostrils.

It's too bad Urban Rest Stop is so underfunded. It is almost like a charity drive should be...oh, wait...nevermind.

Posted by Miss Stereo | December 12, 2007 2:21 PM

"I give ‘em money—and I give it to them, not to some patronizing charity that tries to make me feel guilty about a homeless person deciding to blow my change on booze and not sock it away in his IRA or whatever."

I'm surprised no one has jumped on you for this one yet.

I have favourite bums (and yes I call them bums -- whatever), and what I like about giving them money (or the occasional beer) is that it establishes a relationship. You look at them, they look at you, you maybe have a chat. In other words, you get a chance to treat them like a human being.

Refusing to give change "for their own good" strikes me as patronizing. And giving only to charity, while helpful, also means you've bought the right to ignore them.

Posted by Irena | December 12, 2007 2:22 PM

There are armies of compassion on slog?

They stink and you move! What is wrong with that? It has nothing to do with compassion. It has to do with truth.

They don't mind stinking and that is fine but the truth is I have an over sensitive nose and I can vomit at just the suggestion of something gross so I'm moving fast when a stinky person walks into a cafe.
I work around poor, down and outers all day and I have no problem moving away form the stinky people.
And no you wont go to hell for not wanting to be around stinky people.
You will go to hell for rejecting fatties! It is written.

Posted by mj | December 12, 2007 2:29 PM

Just talk to the guy and tell him that reeks. Maybe he doesn't understand that it's really bad. And if is that bad, someone's gonna tell him. The urban rest stop place isn't that far away.

Posted by right guard | December 12, 2007 2:30 PM

"I give ‘em money—and I give it to them, not to some patronizing charity that tries to make me feel guilty about a homeless person deciding to blow my change on booze and not sock it away in his IRA or whatever."


I actually just assumed no one "jumped" on that one yet because Mr. Savage was only really chastizing the two or three Slog readers - myself included - who publicly stated the other day that giving money to charities that try to help the homeless not be homeless anymore was a good idea.

It's his website; it's his platform. I don't know about the other two or three folks who made similar suggestions - but I don't have a comparable soapbox. So, I figured I'd cut my losses, hang my head not-so-high, move on, and... yeah... make another charitable donation.

Posted by James | December 12, 2007 2:47 PM

Being civil to the homeless should be a natural action. As an ex-drunkered myself I realize that except for a form of providence I probably would be a homeless smelly drunk too. What really pisses me off is that I take exception with the political correctituding of this issue by Nick "the political panderer" Licata and others. Licata is not that good for much other then standing up for political softball positions like this one. He mostly runs for the hills when there's any controversy involved.

It has always been against the law to harass anyone including the homeless.
The action of the city council to make it malicious harassment is led by the over archiving phony do gooder moralistic Licata is to gain feel good political points rather then because of a need for such addition law.

Posted by artistdogboy | December 12, 2007 2:49 PM

what #9 said

Posted by chi type | December 12, 2007 2:57 PM

I know what you mean. Walking back from lunch today, we were behind a nicely dressed woman who stunk of poop. I wondered if maybe she wore a colostomy bag. My friend and I looked at each other and walked quickly around her to get away from the odor. I didn't feel bad about doing what I had to do to avoid someone else's funk and neither should you, even if these guys were homeless looking.

Posted by Action Chimp | December 12, 2007 2:57 PM
Refusing to give change "for their own good" strikes me as patronizing. And giving only to charity, while helpful, also means you've bought the right to ignore them

It's not patronizing, it's recognizing the simple fact that a lot of them have real substance abuse problems that you're potentially encouraging. Whether this bothers you is your business, but I wouldn't be harping on others for deciding to not be a part of that.

Posted by tsm | December 12, 2007 3:00 PM

"I'm not racist, but..."

Posted by Kiru Banzai | December 12, 2007 3:10 PM

If someone stinky sits next to you, you move unless (a) it's not bothering you that much, or (b) you lack the guts.

They're homeless, so I'm pretty sure they know they don't smell so fresh.

Posted by Jason Josephes | December 12, 2007 3:16 PM


A report of the National Coalition for the Homeless found that between 1999 and 2002 Seattle ranked as the seventh most dangerous city for homeless people in the United States.

The charge of *malicious* harassment is not the same charge as harassment. Under this charge it is a gross misdemeanor to harm the person or the property (or threaten to do so) of a person because they are homeless or perceived to be.

With this new law, a prosecutor can prosecute each individual charge- for example, an assault charge and a malicious harassment charge. In sentencing, the individual could be convicted of two crimes. Sentencing is up to the discretion of the judge, but a successful prosecution of a malicious harassment charge would lead to a more serious penalty.

Licata introduced the bill in question at the request of the Seattle Human Rights Commission and the Seattle King County Coalition for the Homeless. It was drafted by the Office for Civil Rights. Councilmember Licata was the Council sponsor to the bill because homeless advocates and the homeless themselves came to him and asked for his support.

Maybe you'd like to view some of the testimony of the people who came to Licata's committee to support the bill? It's compelling testimony found about 18 minutes (drag the bar) into the meeting here.

Posted by LH | December 12, 2007 3:18 PM

For all the people who complain about homelessness, it's suprising that nobody is willing to flit the bill for real solutions.

1. Hospitalization and treatment as wards of the state for those who are mentally ill until they are capable of maintaining their treatments and functional.

2. Hospitalization and rehabilitation as wards of the state for the alchoholic and drug addicted homeless until they are functional.

3. Training programs, employment assistance, and housing assistance for the functional homeless and homeless families.

4. Foster programs or other half-way housing programs with training for homeless teens who refuse to return to their families.

There isn't just one type of homeless, there are many causes and so there must be an equal number of solutions.

Either that, or you can just keep complaining about them.

Posted by Packratt | December 12, 2007 3:18 PM

Beat me to it @ 33.


"Some of my best friends are homeless, but..."

Posted by Mr. X | December 12, 2007 3:36 PM

@28 & @32,

Don't get me wrong; I think giving to charities that help the homeless is a good thing -- I do it myself. And I don't mean to harp on people who don't give homeless people change. In fact, I don't give change to all of them, certainly not the meth heads or people who are really, really messed up, because spare change is not going to help them. But there are a few weatherbeaten old souls who I like to make happy once in a while, and some change or a beer makes them smile. They live in my neighborhood, and I don't like to ignore them.

But these are thoughts I've struggled with over the years, and I don't pass judgement on people who do things differently. I do, however, believe that these people have a right to be recognized as human, and not stepped over like so many rags. Giving them change or a beer or a coffe, or smiling and saying hello, feels so much better than just signing that cheque.

Posted by Irena | December 12, 2007 3:46 PM

Well, Seattle city just passed the "Harrassing Homeless = hate crime" initiative today, so, Dan, as long as you don't demean the homeless verbally, you can walk way and you won't be charge with a hate crime.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | December 12, 2007 3:48 PM

And tsm, that old guy I buy the beer for? I'm guessing the benefits of being recognized, smiled at, talked to, and given his favorite gift outweighs the harm of that tiny bit of alcohol by a pretty wide margin. I feel no guilt about that.

Posted by Irena | December 12, 2007 3:52 PM

sigh, @39 - as I tried to explain in my post at 35 to artistdogboy, verbal harassment is not the crime of "malicious harassment."

From the ordinance passed yesterday: "it shall not constitute malicious harassment for a person to speak or act in a critical,
insulting, or deprecatory way so long as his or her words or conduct
do not constitute a threat of harm to the person or property of another person or cause physical damage to or the destruction of the property of
another person.

Posted by LH | December 12, 2007 4:02 PM

That's pretty much the pre-existing definition of assault.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 12, 2007 4:09 PM

i also don't give directly to individuals money. but mostly because the few dollars i give to organized charities/group go a lot farther than if i gave it directly to an individual. then, there have been the times that it's cold as shit out and i'll give someone $10 with the stipulation they must buy alcohol!!

Posted by joey | December 12, 2007 4:13 PM

what really is a shocker is when you strike up a convo and find out they your cousin....

Posted by Jiberish | December 12, 2007 4:19 PM

Nap XIV - YES! but the idea is that it is an assault because one is homeless. Haven't you people heard of shit like this happening:

Posted by LH | December 12, 2007 4:29 PM

Rent office space to work in like the rest of us. No one "works" in a cafe.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | December 12, 2007 4:36 PM

Assault is already a crime, no matter the reason for it.

I doubt the existing City or State criminal codes have a homeless victim exemptions written into them.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | December 12, 2007 4:38 PM

@36 I am more than happy to foot said bill, or at least my share of it. I am one of those who thinks my taxes are too low.

The problem though is not just a lack of funds, but also the lack of forcible confinement in mental and treatment institutions. Most mentally ill homeless types refuse treatment even when it is available due to mental illness.

In the end the true fault lies, as always, with Ronald Reagan.

Posted by giffy | December 12, 2007 4:40 PM

Nap XIV - I did not say there was an exemption, smart ass (smile). read my post at #35, paragraph #3.

Posted by LH | December 12, 2007 4:54 PM

Nap XIV - I did not say there was an exemption, smart ass (smile). read my post at #35, paragraph #3.

LH, you're an arrogant, out of touch piece loose lipped crap, Not trusted by anyone on your second floor...

Posted by Bathed | December 12, 2007 5:01 PM


So is there an exemption for assaulting smug anonymous pricks (or is it just Mayoral flacks?) like you, then?

Just wondering.

Posted by Fan of the Licata office | December 12, 2007 5:18 PM

and again they might not really be homeless. cnn is reporting that a lot of people pee on themselves..a LOT of people...
1 in 4

Posted by reverend dr dj riz | December 12, 2007 5:30 PM

As long as your soul is foul and your heart is a cold, hard stone, Mr. Savage, you must sit and breathe deep the fumes of righteousness mercifully cleansing the air of iniquity that follows you everywhere you go. Sit where you are until you feel at least a spark of humanity come to life somewhere deep inside you, and then thank these homeless angels for giving you the chance to be a pale ghost of a decent man, if for only a moment.

Now if it were me, already being pure of heart and beloved by grateful wretches everywhere, I'd be free to leave at once.

Posted by elenchos | December 12, 2007 6:09 PM

The real question is whether the cafe should have to tolerate the stench

Posted by fsfdasf | December 12, 2007 7:51 PM

The fact that you didn't hose them down with napalm is a clear demonstration of compassion, sir.

Posted by Dr. Savage Mudede | December 12, 2007 7:57 PM

In San Francisco, we quietly and politely move away. Do we have a higher homeless population than Seattle anymore?

Why not give money to 1811 Eastlake, where homeless acoholics can live without having to be in a program:

Posted by meave | December 12, 2007 9:40 PM

Doesn't matter what the situation, homeless, annoying gay men in bars, loud jocks after the game, just move because someone somewhere is going to stink, be obnoxious or talk on a cell phone like an idiot. Just move because some people just do not have consideration for others.
I think if someone is directly in your face over something then ok, let em know. Homeless or not homeless, people can be jerks but I have met some great homeless people and usually at this time of year I go buy cool socks and warm hats for old people and kids that definitely are homeless on the street sleeping because no one purposely sleeps in the cold. So it doesn't hurt to hand out some homeless kid funky new socks or a hat just because you can while on your way home.

Posted by -B- | December 13, 2007 1:24 AM

"How do you know people are homeless? Do you ask them?"

@14, I'm just going to assume that was meant as a joke.

Posted by Toby | December 13, 2007 7:58 AM

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