Lynn and I penned the following letter over a month ago and have been wondering if it is a true perception of our experience or just a way to vent our frustration over our ineffectiveness as providers of homeless services.
The recent articles by Mayor Jon Nehring, Police Chief Rick Smith and Editor Steve Powell have confirmed our thoughts. Prostitution, sex slavery, drug cartels, theft rings and threats to our public safety in Marysville are real.
As a community of city leaders, school officials, tribal officials, ministries, churches, government agencies and other providers to the homeless/hopeless in our city, we need to examine our collective approach. What we are doing is not and will not work. We need a summit soon to address that with all of the stakeholders or we will be overwhelmed by it.
Marysville is a destination, a safe haven for the homeless people, especially young men coming to take advantage of our good hearts.
Our work at the Women at the Well and the HR Project has been rewarding but difficult. Victories are hard fought and rare. In our mission to address the crisis of women and children we have come to recognize a painful reality in that satisfying the needs and wants of these broken women has actually helped perpetuate their circumstances.
One very visible, popular and sick woman has turned out to be a drug dealer. Frankly, most have lied and deceived us. The free clothes, food tents, sleeping bags and cash the good people have given has allowed them to trade for or buy their choice of drug(s).
The one good thing about that is it reduces their “need” to steal, sell themselves or grab onto yet another bad man for safety and provision. It’s a subtle bribe or extortion from the community and maybe even a plus to a degree. As Christians we are called to plead for the widow and defend the orphan but we may be killing them with our kindness instead. Nevertheless they are women and children so Lynn never says no. Stopping the generational curse from being passed onto their children is her biggest objective. We have over 400 homeless children in Marysville schools, and the majority are being raised by single moms. We are working with other stakeholders on a plan to work within our community to help address their plight and help them develop the kind of healthy relationships that can be sustained. However, the young addicted men on our streets is another matter and, as you know, frightening and costly to our city. It is hard for untrained people to know if the young men they want to help are on heroin. Heroin helps them act fairly normal, unlike meth, and all we see is a poor man with another sad story, and we want to help. In most cases they are liars, and we are fooled. Are we killing them with kindness? Most of these men have no connection to our community and don’t desire one. They are able-bodied, well-networked to each other, trading drugs, fencing stolen items, abusing women, intimidating others, and using our grace and gifts to remain in their lifestyle while avoiding personal responsibility and becoming a burden on the healthcare system, courts and police. Our charity helps finance their lifestyle and personal destruction. We know also that investors are buying homes to rent out to the addicted, and these landlords are picking up big cash and government vouchers with little or no accountability. Now with Seattle cleaning out the jungles we can anticipate more young men coming to our town and they are bringing young women with them. The summer crowd will also escape the heat of the south and will soon be here again.
Marysville’s terrain and woods plus easy access to public transportation coupled with our naive charity has made our community a destination for them and more dangerous. I have witnessed numerous drug deals in our own neighborhood and been propositioned by two women for prostitution. We have been stolen from several times, and we don’t bother calling police, which is a sad trend for victims. As Chief Smith said, panhandlers are becoming more aggressive.
So, what to do” Do we need more police presence? Do we need to rally the men of our community to be organized and trained watchdogs 24/7? Should we ask the homeless ministries and providers to be more discerning in what they do? We plan to address the City Council soon. Your advice as to a community approach is important to us. We yield to your authority and respect civil rights and the laws that protect the disadvantaged. However, it is increasingly hard to tell who is actually the victim in this situation. We can be kind and not be foolish at the same time.
Steve and Lynn Reid