My response to Ken Burch:

“Originally, I questioned whether this person was who she said she was. I can now tell you who she actually is and how “progressive” her activism is not:

Ms. Mercer is with an anti-homeless(not anti-homelessness, anti-HOMELESS) group that runs a Facebook page called “Olympia Looks Like Shit”.”

I am a member of that page. I post my reports there and do fact checking as a public service and as an attempt to educate and elevate the debate. I am not a founder, mod or “with that page” in anyway. I am actually a journalist covering homelessness and housing policey, and there are links to my work on the issue later in the post.

“They are convinced that homelessness is mainly caused by substance abuse-and that substance abuse is simply a deliberate, willful “bad choice”, rather than a desperate attempt to soothe intolerable levels of human pain.”

There is no argument that substance abuse contributes to homelessness: a/breakdown over family ties due to addiction b/inability to maintain employment due to addiction c/spending money on drugs. Drugs do numb a person, but are only a destructive force keeping people unhoused, and should not be encouraged.

The group definitely is aware that the homeless are not an homogenous group. They want to help people who want help, but do not want people who are only in it for a free ride. These are generous people who donate, but do not want to be taken advantage of. They are sick of having property stolen and cars broken into due to “survival crime” aka getting drug money.

“They have no positive recommendations for dealing with homelessness in Olympia; rather, they simply push to close homeless encampments-and have succeeded in having the local police drive homeless people out of the encampments , in some cases using force, without offering anything to replace the encampments as a locale for the homeless to stay.”

The group is full of solutions and many group members go to council meetings, write lawmakers and providers with ideas. We cannot solve the problem, nor is it our job to. It is above the pay grade of a Facebook group to solve an intractable problem, this is a ridiculous argument.

“They have also falsely implied that no one is picking up garbage or attending to sanitation groups in the camps, when in fact there are several “mutual aid” organizations in the community,”

Most camps do not get aid, and this is an irrelevant straw man of an argument. Most OLLS members are well aware of Just Housing and their support of the camps.

“and repeatedly claimed that an Indigenous nation in the Olympia area supported the closing of an encampment that happened to have been created on the historic territory associated with that nation-while leaving out the fact that the same Indigenous group also insisted that the “settler” community had a responsibility to provide alternatives for the homeless from the moment the camps were removed.”

The official Squaxin tribe repeatedly told the city that they did not want the camp at the 4th Avenue Bridge and wrote an official letter speaking to the destruction of the environment as well as distress over poaching and the cultural importance of the land not being respected. I broke this story. We would not have been aware of their objections except I was tipped off by a tribe member. Here is my reporting on that issue:

For those who do not want to read the article, here is the quote from the letter from the Squaxin:

For the Squaxin, it has to do with cultural heritage and “literally decades” of environmental remediation to sensitive areas. “To put it succinctly, we cannot imagine a worse location to allow an unauthorized encampment to persist.” Their work preserving salmon habitat “has been pursued with an understanding that protecting and restoring fish runs in Budd Inlet and the Deschutes River was as much about Olympia’s community values as it was about the Tribe’s treaty protected rights to those resources.”

The letter continued, “The shoreline landscape has been denigrated by people who apparently have little respect for our shared community resources. The area around the bridge has been denuded of vegetation that provides stability to the shoreline and helps to control erosion. Human waste is polluting our lands and waters resulting in a significant health emergency.

“Illegal drugs are adding another component of pollution to the environment, one that has been documented to have an adverse effect on fish and other aquatic resources. We have seen evidence that our Chinook salmon are being poached in the immediate vicinity of the encampment . . . The theft of salmon is a very personal affront to a people that regard the fish with spiritual reverence. No one has the right to intrude on the Tribe’s precious resources; not the misguided state officials of 50 years ago who fought with Tribal members about their fishing rights, and not the people of this encampment who are trashing the marine resources through their own misguided attempts to secure shelter.”

Here is my other main reporting of general interest on this issue. You can see for yourself my views.

Burch here cannot refute ME or MY ARGUMENTS so he is trying to tar me by association with a group, while having a profane name, has 7200 members, a large amount who are former substance abusers and homeless. It is a political force, and has seen steady growth as the majority of Olympians are affected by the crisis. The page is not anti-homeless, it is actually anti-homelessness. It wants to see people off the street. It does not want them there.

I am an autodidact nonpartisan freethinking board gamer from Olympia, WA. I am currently running for Olympia City Council. OlympiaFTW2021. #decencyFTW

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store