I testified today in support of legislation to legalize homeless encampments, but also for the City Council to take additional steps to ensure the homeless are not marginalized exclusively into industrial zones. Last year during the One Night Count of the Homeless, where 3,772 people were counted without shelter, my team discovered Kathryn Blair, who had died from exposure. We must do better, please read my testimony here:
Good Afternoon Council Members,
My name is Jonathan Grant and I strongly urge you to pass this critical encampment legislation, but to also improve it, so that residents of tent cities have greater self-governance and greater access to the city by not exclusively pushing encampments to industrial zoned areas.
The residents of Tent City 3 and Nickelsville have demonstrated that they are good neighbors, and offer an effective survival strategy for our city’s homeless. We desperately need this legislation to work.
For the past 10 years I have been a team captain for the One Night Count of the homeless. Two years ago my team was the first in the history of the Count to discover a homeless person who had died during the night. Her name was Kathryn Blair. I often wonder if Katheryn had other shelter options, like more self-governed encampments close to transit, jobs, or services, whether she would still be alive today.
It was in that same year that this Council voted to not approve encampment legislation. It’s been a tough road to get to where we are today; and I encourage you to improve this proposal so that we get it right the first time. We’ve already lost so much ground. Now, I apologize for this gruesome detail, but I think it is important, and it’s been stuck in my mind for two years. When we found Katheryn, she was partially naked, some of her clothes removed. I didn’t know this then, but it turns out when you are dying of hypothermia, your body gets a sudden burst of heat, and you start to take off your clothes to cool off, even though you are actually freezing to death.
Kathryn wasn’t just stripped of her life. She was stripped of her dignity. It’s the same dignity that residents of homeless encampments are fighting to keep alive with this legislation. Please pass this bill, and allow residents more self-governance, and greater access to the city to make sure we get this right. People’s lives depend on it.
To watch my testimony you can click here for the video, starting at 7:45