Once and a while I check Fox. Mostly it’s about the coup-by-impeachment attempt in Washington. Yesterday an easy-to-miss article with comments by a Fox medical consultant talked about San Francisco’s crisis of Homelessness. “Isn’t it ironic that a city of germaphobes, of exercise-conscious, environmentally conscious [people] … are now in a city that’s awash in human waste, which is spreading hepatitis A outbreaks every year,” Siegel said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Tuesday. “Big outbreaks of hepatitis A, rats in the streets feeding off of the garbage in sewage, typhus, typhoid fever, rotten bacterial infections and even the plague may be coming,” the consultant said.
In Medford, OR, there are more and more homeless. My daughter, who lives there, said that many are arriving by bus from Portland, OR. The remedy for homelessness in Portland is for the city to buy a bus ticket for homeless people who are picked up by police. Apparently it all started with Seattle, according to my daughter, where the homeless were sent from Washington State across the state line into Portland, OR. The situation, it seems to me, is without a viable solution, but shipping folks out isn’t even a good attempt at one. Another approach had been practiced in Austin, TX. It became such a haven that homeless flocked there for the food, which as plentiful. The cardboard shelters became such a menace, and the mayor did nothing but offer more food, that the governor of Texas sent in road crews to remove the squalid mess. Still not a good solution–IMHO. One city is now spending something like $20,000 on each shelter that will allow four homeless to sleep out of the cold. The shelters line the public streets. Another not-so-good solution, not to mention ridiculously expensive. $20,000 for a tent? Only a politician would think that a good solution. And then I read somewhere that there’s the town forcing residents to allow homeless to sleep in their yards. Really? Is that a viable solution.
A few year ago, over in Athens, GA, there was a small community of homeless people. Mostly living in cardboard shacks, they self-policed themselves. They somehow managed to have outdoor latrines, the kind used at constructions sites that must be emptied. And somehow they were emptied, too. They were not a problem until sub-developments encroached upon land on which they were squatting. Like how we expand and expand the urban sprawl and drive out the wildlife, they ended up having to drive out the homeless community.
There are many homeless that live in cars, trucks, or RVs. They park often in public parking spaces, or in office parking, and move regularly. There is an “organization” devoted to informing these types of homeless people on the best places to crash (as in sleep) and other advice. Out in the desert, near the Salten Sea in California, an abandon Air Force base has large cement slabs still remaining near the old run way. RVs set up a fairly large self-policing community. This community, like the one in Athens was, isn’t a threat to anyone. The people don’t hang around looking for handouts on city streets, don’t cause business men and women to cringe in fear as they try to get to their offices.
San Luis Obispo, CA, (fondly referred to as San Luis or just SLO)had been a model for how to respond to situations that came up. When a shopping plaza was allowed to go in outside of town–various companies needed big box buildings, more space, and downtown didn’t offer that at all–the city stepped up to prevent the demise of the downtown, like had happened in so many other towns. San Luis started a Farmer’s Market night, closed the streets, and had a huge party. Businesses didn’t die. SLO eventually grew to have an even nicer downtown and still have that plaza outside of town, and even a few more small ones.
SLO also had a novel approach to homeless people. There was a small Christian commune outside of town. It was built with old military barracks that were disassembled and reassembled on acreage. When sheriff deputies and city police came across mentally disturbed people that didn’t qualify for lock up, or committing, they dropped them off at the Commune. Same with homeless. When the commune dissolved, the city closed a rural campground and bussed the homeless out of town each night, bringing them back during the day.
Some towns do better at finding reasonable solutions, not perfect, but reasonable, accommodating not only the “offender” but those who are tax-paying residents.
I’ve been praying about homelessness for awhile now. It began in praying for homeless veterans, and veterans with PTSD, the wounded, and those having a hard time reentering America’s face-paced culture. Eventually my prayer expanded to homelessness in general.
How might a Believer view homeless people and the entire crisis of homelessness? Perhaps a bit of Bible perspective is one place to begin.
And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19,20)
Yeshua said that He had “nowhere to lay his head.” Sounds homeless, doesn’t it?
It seems to me homelessness isn’t one specific “thing” that can be “solved” with one approach. The person with diminished mental capacity or mental disorder is very different than a person who is laid off, or works for minimum wages, and simply can’t pay the high rent for even an apartment. There are people with a vehicle or boat that they can sleep in, and others who have nothing more than a few blankets or a sleeping bag. I’ve met people who are willing to work if work is available, and I’ve met people who refuse to work even if it is offered. I imagine that there are folks out there that might work but no longer believe anyone wants them, would take them.
Looking at homelessness from it’s individual trigger might help. What triggered a person to end up on the streets? Loss of a job is an easy one understand. Some might find it difficult to understand how a person could intentionally walk away from home and family and live on the streets. Some people simple no longer can cope with their lives. They are like the haunted. They run. PTSD, with or without a recognizable cause.
Once on the road it becomes difficult to maintain the ties to society that we, I think, take for granted. For instance, when it is time to renew a driver license, what address is used? It seems to me that it doesn’t take long before a person becomes disenfranchised. Once out, how does a person get back in?
Several months ago my daughter that lives with us, and is already twenty-two, looked for an apartment. She found several she could afford on her salary, but not one would even accept an application. All required a salary of three to four times the rent. Not to mention that she at least has a current address. On the streets, no current driver license, no address, a person is really out.
“Hey, get a job!” It’s an easy thing to yell at someone standing on the corner with a cardboard sign saying, “Hungry. Need a dollar.” Or something like that. The disenfranchised aren’t going to wake up one morning, walk into the bathroom, shower, dress in clean clothing, and head out the door to find a job.
If you know more about homelessness, please share it.
Having lived in a 14 foot travel trailer for two years, while working, I do have some, albeit limited, experience with one form of homelessness.