Seattle has a problem with homelessness. We live in a temperate climate and amongst bleeding hearts that don’t know better.

When confronted by this problem on Reddit, the standard response is typically one of two extremes: “fuck ’em,” or “just give them a home.”

In my humble opinion: both a dead wrong.

If you look at the problem of homelessness you can take the first order approach of “well, they lack a home.” Alternately, you can treat them like rats. This misses the point.

The problem with being homeless isn’t the lack of a home, as crazy as that sounds. The problem boils down to not having the ability to have a home.

There can be simple and benign reasons (relatively speaking) like losing a job. This can be remedied by getting another job. Most people who are homeless due to this problem aren’t homeless after a little bit of time. Assistance in finding a job and temporary shelter while this process is playing out could very well help. Not being able to get a job can be mitigated with job training.

There’s another slice of the homeless that disproportionately affects LGBT youth: being thrown out of your parent’s home. Again, shelter is a good idea. Shelter, caring, and acceptance.

Those are the relatively simple cases. Simple because the people aren’t broken. Simple because they don’t want to be homeless. Simple because they want to be able to help themselves, but can’t due to circumstance.

Simple because by and large they are not the problem that everyone is pointing at as “the homeless problem.”

Then you walk down Aurora Ave. and you see all the meth faces. You see the heroin addicts shooting up in broad daylight in Denny Park. Simply giving these people a home isn’t solving the problem. The problem isn’t lack of a house. The problem is the fucking drugs they’re strung out on. You give these folks a house and I guarantee that half of them would strip the copper out of the walls and trade it for drugs. Helping these people get off drugs — and just as importantly to not commit crimes against people of property — would do a world of difference.

Or they could just be self-medicating. Which gets us to the other category: mental illness. We don’t like thinking about this much, especially after shuttering the institutions in the 1980’s. Treatment. This would do a lot of good for all of the mass shootings and so forth. Crazy is unpredictable. Crazy can get all stabby (Pioneer Square comes to mind). Crazy is what makes people take a wide berth around the folks sleeping on benches.

Simply giving a home isn’t solving the problem.

You need to solve the underlying problem before you can solve the visible problem.