The homepage of the Seattle Times on Thursday morning featured Eric Jordan, whose story was used to paint the picture of a terrible homeless shelter system in the city. However, eagle-eyed readers found plenty of factual issues with the story, especially the article’s picture which poked holes in writer's narrative.
The article by Daniel Wu, said about Jordan, who was chronically homeless since long before 2008 and claims to be a recovering addict, "Jordan doesn’t want to live around drug use. Alicia Wade, a friend of Jordan’s who lives in her car near the encampment, agreed." The majority of Seattle’s homeless residents refuse the shelter system for various reasons, most notably that many of the shelters prohibit drugs.
However, despite Jordan's claims of wanting to avoid drugs, in the article’s headline picture, in the tent next to him on a table was a crack pipe. On the same table is a stereo with a used needle on top of it.
Another object on the table is a mini scale, often used by dealers to measure product.
According to lawsuits filed by the city of Seattle and King County against big pharma, over 80 percent of the people living on Seattle’s streets have a substance abuse issue.
Jordan was also the self-appointed former 'mayor' of a homeless encampment near the I-5, I-90 interchange which was recently cleared after residents of the encampment threw over 200 items at cars and trucks on the freeways, causing dozens of accidents and several injuries. Luckily no one was killed. Once the encampment was cleared, the incidents of objects being hurled at cars stopped.
When Jordan was forced to leave the encampment, he moved with several of the other people from the camp to a nearby part of the city and illustrated the problems associated with those deemed "chronically homeless." According to the article, "They’ve lived together for years… and none of them wanted to take separate referrals to shelter spaces across the city. Jordan’s neighbor, Lisa, suffers from schizophrenia…"
Yvonne Nelson, an outreach worker mentioned in the article who offered Jordan and other encampment residents shelter, appears to be enabling the transient behavior by making excuses for the campers. According to the article, Nelson "doesn’t blame them for their reluctance."
The article laments the encampment being cleared on two days notice, while failing to mention the rush to clear the encampment due to the criminal behavior of the residents repeatedly throwing objects at vehicle on a busy freeway. Jordan claims, in the 31st paragraph of the article, the first time the throwing of the objects is mentioned, that no one from the encampment had anything to do with it, even though incidents ceased once the encampment was cleared. The article also only says, "Rock throwing" and ignores the cinder blocks, bicycles, rental scooters bottles and various other objects thrown at vehicles.
"If I build relationships with those folks, [I can] get to know them a little more intimately and find out what it is that they actually want," Nelson said. "Coming down a day or two before they’re supposed to move and offering them shelter is just, it’s cruel."
The article added that Nelson called shelters "dangerous and traumatizing." Before city and state crews cleared the encampment in mid-July, Nelson offered to refer Jordan him to a homeless shelter. Just up the hill, two spots were open at the Navigation Center. Transportation would have been provided. Jordan told the outlet, "I would never," two weeks later, while in another encampment a few blocks away from the original, "The shelter system here is atrocious."
The Seattle Times Project Homeless has a track record of running stories about the homeless that selectively edit or omit the facts of the individual and circumstance to paint a narrative. According to Safe Seattle, "Whenever the Times runs a story about "homeless" people where they show pictures or give names, readers who know the score will contact us and say something like, 'I know that guy, and did they ever get it wrong.' I can't tell you how many times I've heard that."
The article itself boasts the city’s outreach team’s numbers of referrals to shelter as being “the most referrals and enrollments in a quarter since records began, but failed to mention how more and more homeless have been coming to Seattle from across the country due to the lax policies.
Meanwhile the team itself has been dogged by allegations by the homeless themselves of providing drug paraphernalia as opposed to services, and not following up after initial contact with campers. Many have questioned the accuracy of the data when the majority of campers refuse services and move from one location to another after and encampment is cleared. At the same time, many encampments across the city continue to grow and more appear every day.