I want to give Larry Stone, producer of the video “Curing Spokane,” the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he has experience working with people from varying socioeconomic backgrounds. Perhaps he donates money to the numerous agencies and nonprofit organizations in Spokane that are working every day to address the same issues he claims afflicts the city.
However, that is not reflected in his video, which stokes fear and offers no tangible solutions except the same unproductive rhetoric we’ve heard before: More jails, more police, harsher sentences for misdemeanor crimes. While the video is quick to point out that it is not about punishing homelessness, it is also quick to use anecdotal testimony that paints mental illness, drug addiction and transients in a criminal light.
Many of my family members live in Spokane. I lived there while going to Spokane Falls Community College, and I still visit quite often. I love Spokane and am no more afraid of downtown than I was as a young college student who used STA public transit every day. Have I had uncomfortable experiences with homeless and mentally ill people? Yes. But there is a huge difference between discomfort and a person’s well-being being actually threatened.
If Spokane is as compassionate a city as the video claims — and as I like to think it is — then we cannot let our anxiety overrule good judgment. I cannot help but think that the underlying, subconscious message of Stone’s production is, “Make the poor people go away.”