Homelessness and the Urban Frog
I used to be quite sympathetic to the homeless' plight. But as a new homeowner--a flat on a gentrified block next to a rundown area of San Francisco--I deal with the homeless every day and wonder where the middle ground lies. Certainly not hard-hearted conservativism, "Arrest them and let urban property owners enjoy a homeless-free existence." And not knee-jerk liberalism, "It's a societal failure. As long as one homeless person lack a better place to live, no one has the right to remove the homeless from our streets."
Here in Babylon by the Bay, we have a program that really works--gets the homeless off the streets and into housing they can call their own, but does that excuse the city from utterly failing to help me deal with the homeless that refuse assistance? San Francisco requires that I keep my sidewalks clear of trash and debris, even trash thrown down by the homeless who sleep on our stoop. I'm required to clean up urine and feces. I routinely have to chase loiterers away from the front of our building because the police will not respond to anything less serious than an assault. Their position is that the homeless are not trespassing. It's city property, even though I'm required to maintain it.
My position is this: If I approve expensive bond measures, funding programs that help the homeless get off the streets, the city should do me the courtesy of helping me make my block a nice place to live, and in that sense I sympathize with an antiques dealer who wants to run a business that people want to visit. Does that make me hard-hearted or practical?
Please forgive me for saying, but many arguments I hear about how we must show compassion for the homeless sound like they come from people who don't deal with the problem on a daily basis. The 'failure' isn't just society failing the homeless, it's society failing to assist those who try to deal with the problem, however compassionately.
I see you point though and do understand where your coming from. Here where I'm at now I see many homeless people daily. Some of them panhandle, while others go to the daily job companies that offer day jobs. Those are the jobs where they show up for work, work the day and get paid at the end of the day.
I also see those who spend whatever money they have on booze or drugs and appear not to care what happens to them. Besides those who have mental problems I really don't see anyone trying to do anything to find a solution to this issue. Though there are some out there who do try to help.
The other issue I see is those who are or so I feel, too proud to ask for or accept help. Those include many who have had financial problems due to job loss or costly medical issues that have left them broken. They don't understand how in America they lost everything and are ashamed to even considering asking for or accepting help.
There are a lot of families and veterans who have been broken by the Iraq war or wounded to the point they can no longer support themselves or their families and more than likely wish they had died instead of coming home in the condition there in. These are also some of the worse tragidies that face our returning soldiers and we as a nation out to be ashamed of ourselves.
What the answer is I don't know, but as a country that is suppose to be the greatest in the free world its a disgrace. Perhaps like most policies we currently follow we should change them and put our citizens and country ahead of all else.
Just my thoughts. Sorry for the rant.
Betmo...but isn't it ironic, San Francisco is really going all out to get the homeless off the streets and yet won't lift a finger to help homeowners directly who deal on a daily basis.
AnonP...not a rant at all. Don't apologize.
No solution will work with out a partnership between government and citizens--resources and compassion. Would our NY antiques dealer have sued if the police had been willing to help him clear his door and get the homeless into a shelter? I personally don't think so.
I don't live in an area frequented by homeless people, but there sure are no simple solutions. You have my sympathy.
Tom, I supspect that many of the people we encounter here are not just homeless but have substance abuse problems as well. Does this make them more likely to want to remain on the street? Probably. I frankly don't see many people that just strike me as down on their luck. A few, but they're the minority.
Other than "force" (incarceration), I really don't see much of an answer. There will always be those who simply refuse to take even the slightest responsibility for themselves, even when it means going to free shelter. And if we start incarcerating every homeless every morning....we better start building now!! It's impractical, obviously. Society can only take so much strain of taking care of those who won't take care of themselves, then society itself starts to bend and break.
Most people who live on the streets choose that life, there are lots of government and charitable organizations who will help someone out who really need it, these people have chosen the lifestyle.
But I also understand you have rights as well, the right to protect your investment from losing value because someone has decided to make your stoop their own personal rest stop. Not to mention the unsanitary conditions that creates. I don't think that makes you hard hearted, every citizen has a duty to respect that their rights end where yours begins.
It might sound cold. But many people are happy that somebody wants to provide assitance to them. If they resist assistance, I feel it is probably for two reasons.
1. They are too proud.
2. They suffer from some form of mental disability.
They need to be taken to a hospital or some other facility to determine if they are mentally fit. It is unsafe and unfair to have someone on the streets because they have a disability.
However, if it turns out they are simply proud, then they must be required to enter some form of program. Once again, it may sound cold, but using up public and private resources when alternatives have been offered is simply unacceptable in my opinion.
Very though provoking. I will add this blog to my list!
Here in Sodom by the Sea even loitering isn't against the law (I don't think) but publically relieving onself, littering, public drunkeness, and aggressive panhandling...are, and I'd expect some help that I'm not getting from the police.
Lew, not so the 10 feet between my front doorstep and the street. That's city property, I'm just forced by ordinances to maintain it.
Fred, one kind of freedom, huh? But not the kind that most of us would choose.
Romunov, I not trying to be condescending, but am genuinely curious when I ask: How is the Gypsie problem more serious?
The thing that strikes me about homeless people here is that they tend to be friendly. I've seen them sorting through the trash bins on the street freshly showered. Although one time I did see an S.F. type talking to herself while going through the trash. And often they beg on their knees with their forehead on the ground and hands together outstretched as in prayer. Beats the hell out of "I need gas money to get to .... ."
Gypsies usually have housing, but very poor housing. In general, they are not interested in working (90% of them) and they steal anything they can get their hands on. It is a problem with no easy solution. I hate to sound racist, but once you live in Europe for a while, you lose tolerance. They will steal the support beams out of your roof for firewood. Same for antique wood windows. They send their kids into the train station to pickpocket and when they get caught they will deny that they are the parents. Eventually the cops let them go. I've seen kids crying "Mami, Mami!" and see the Mom just ignoring them while the cops haul them away. They spit in my face when I saved a lady from getting her wallet stolen on the tram.
You get sick of it after a while.
Praguetwin, I've encountered the children, obviously, on visits to Italy and Spain, but haven't traveled in Eastern Europe. I'm surprised about your observations of the homeless there. Wouldn't "freshly showered" indicate that someone was not, in fact, homeless in the strictest sense? I sort of like the I need gas money/BART ticket schtick. I always have low-value BART (or other public transit) tickets with me, and I just give out when somebody asks to get somewhere. Of course, that's often not what they're really after.
No, those guys are not looking for bart tickets. I appreciate the honesty. I've had dudes just ask me for money so they get hammered. I like that better than the shtick.
Thanks for the heads up on this post, Kvatch.
If EVERYONE had to deal with what you see as YOUR PROBLEM (not the problem of the homeless), they you can damn well bet it would get fixed.