Are Homeless Being Bused Into The Tri Cities?
Franklin County Commissioner Clint Didier said in a public meeting that a state trooper north of Pasco told him homeless people were being bussed in from Seattle. Didier claims he was by the 395 overpass.
“I hate to admit it, but I got pulled over by a state trooper here last year, going over the overpass, there at King City,” Didier said. “Didn’t have my seatbelt on. And in the process of talking to him, I said ‘Hey I just saw three people under the overpass there…three transients.’ I said, “Where are these people coming from?” And he said they are busing them in from Seattle.”
Didier has told this story numerous times though the State Patrol’s office says they have had no contact with Didier in either 2020 or 2021.
There are busing programs like King County’s Homeward Bound where people are given a one-way ticket to reunify with family. Usually, before tickets are issued, those receiving the participant agree to house them.
Human Services Manager Benton and Franklin County Kyle Sullivan says he has only dealt with residents in the county experiencing the housing crisis and not people from Seattle.
“The people we have encountered that are experiencing homelessness lived here,” Sullivan says. “It doesn’t really matter if someone is homeless and living in a community, we help them. Our local money is geared for Benton and Franklin county residents who are experiencing a housing crisis.”
Didier’s repeated claims that homeless people are being bussed into the county from Seattle is misleading and skews the view of who the homeless are in the community.
Dr. Rachel Moran of the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public explains.
“Some people might be more inclined to believe that information about homeless people already because they have an ideological worldview of about how the world should work, and houselessness doesn’t fit into that,” Moran says. “But once they receive that misinformation and they take it in as fact, it’s a kind of weapon in their arsenal as to why it’s right.”
Combating misinformation takes time. Dr. Moran studies how misinformation is spread and how experts can debunk it while gaining the public’s trust again.
“What makes misinformation really salient sometimes is that there’s often a little kernel of truth,” Moran says. “We know there’s been times when the temperatures dropped, for example, in Seattle, and they’ve opened warming centers. And there have been programs to bring people to those warming centers, and that piece of factual information gets spun off to, “Oh, we’re busing people into Seattle or out of Seattle.”
In a follow-up interview, Didier said he was pulled over in 2020 and was asked about the Trooper to verify the claims.
“He’s probably already been relieved of his duties if he didn’t take the vaccination,” Didier said. “They’ve let a lot of them go, you might not ever find this guy again.”
Public records show Dider was pulled over in March of 2021 for speeding by the county sheriff’s office on North Glade Road. He was not near the 395 overpass where he claimed to see homeless people.
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