Seattle is known as the home of Starbucks, the current Super Bowl champion Seahawks, and endless rain. And now, if things go according to plan, it will be the first American city to provide free internet access in the city’s homeless camps.
Reuters reports that “Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant wants a portion of a proposed $100,000 in the upcoming city budget that has been earmarked to improve conditions at homeless camps to include access to Internet, including possible wireless availability.”
Sawant recognizes the vital place that the internet plays in today’s world and that the city’s neediest residents need internet access if they are to climb out of that crushing poverty. He contends (and we agree, by the way) that internet access would help renew hope among the most financially-challenged residents, allow them to seek jobs online, contact medical professionals and communicate with their families.
“We are no longer looking at Internet as a luxury,” Sawant told KOMO-TV. “We have to make sure we provide humane services for everybody.”
As you might expect, not all Seattle residents are as enamored with the plan as Sawant is. Many of them believe it would make more sense to spend the money on other projects.
“There are public libraries, and other public resources such as WorkSource,” local resident City Phillips said in an interview with KING-TV, “that can better assist the homeless in finding the jobs, or other resources they need.”
Where would Sawant find the money in a tight city budget to fund her plan to bring internet access to the homeless? She believes she can carve it out of a larger allocation earmarked to build showers and cooking facilities in Seattle’s homeless tent cities.
Opposition to the measure isn’t restricted to local residents. A number city council members are also expected to vote no on the plan.
Although we support Sawant’s plan, we must ask the question “Why stop with the city’s homeless tent cities?” Why not expand it to provide free internet access to the city’s many homeless shelters, too? Homeless is homeless and we see no reason to discriminate against those who’ve been lucky enough to find a warm, dry place to stay. If anything, Sawant should expand her approach and help far more needy Seattleites.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes, we know “Seattleites” is a very strange looking word. We Googled “What do residents of Seattle call themselves?” and that was the answer. We thought the correct term was, perhaps, Seattleans. But our spellcheck preferred the former rather than the latter and who are we to question spellcheck?)
Sawant’s proposal, we think, is on the right track and exactly what America needs to dig itself out of the fiscal morass in which it currently finds itself. Keep your fingers crossed in hopes that the concept spreads across the nation.