On my way to work (the place where I pick up my truck to go out on the road for days at a time) I drive through the part of town where the homeless hang out, as well as where the poorest of the poor rent homes and apartments. The library, and a nice library it is, is in that part of town and many of the homeless hang around there.
I do not know everyone’s story when I see them or what their living arrangements or financial state is, of course, but I have noticed recently that a lot of these shabbily and curiously-dressed people have pets — they cannot take care of themselves, or barely, and yet they have pets to tend to.
I saw a couple, and by their dress and demeanor one would assume they are among the homeless (not necessarily so, though), and they both had little miniature dogs (who looked quite healthy) on leashes. Oh, and both people were carrying large plastic soda cups like they sell as fast food places or convenience stores.
And then there are the people strategically placed at street corners or on and off ramps or at the entrances and exits to the supermarket with their signs — hungry.
I always know there but for the grace of God could be me. I have reasonably good health (save for the incurable form of cancer slowly trying to do me in) and I have family, and right now I have a job — but bad and totally unexpected things happen in this life.
Everyone out there has his or her own story. Some, quite a few, I think, are at least a little off their rockers (you think?). Others are disabled (and that is a pretty wide category). Many are alcoholics or drug users. Some lost their jobs and things quickly went down hill from there, I suppose. Some just chose what they feel is the free and easy way (I would not consider it that, however).
But I think the homeless, whatever their individual stories, bring a blight upon a community and they present a health hazard to themselves and others. I personally would have no problem using tax money to build dormitories or to take over abandoned housing and provide it to them — in some cases with subsidies and in some cases right out. It seems that this had been tried to varying degrees in places but there have been various problems. One is security. You force someone to live in a dormitory and then they may wind up at the mercy of thieves and murderers if there is not adequate security. Also, I when I was taking a college class dealing with law I recall a California state case in which the county of Sacramento tried to force people on public assistance to live in some type of home or dormitory and the court ruled against that (not sure on the facts of this case or what the state of the law is today).
Right now a lot of people who have worked all their lives (I read anyway) are facing the prospect of being homeless (or are homeless) because of the lack of jobs. This points to the importance of families. Not all families support each other, but historically people have depended upon family. I think in my lifetime we have gone through a great social upheaval in which the family unit was made to seem less important. People have come to feel that it is their right to get government support when things go wrong. Well, of course it is their right if it is available, but at some point things reach a tipping point and those who are called upon to sacrifice their earnings start to ask if they are not being put upon too much. And just how is it decided which part of society works and provides for themselves and which part just gets taken care of — or for that matter is left to fend for themselves?
I am all for strengthening the family unit. But it seems the main ones to push that are the evangelicals or those who insist everyone should live by their code. Well, I was not brought up in a religious household and yet I have a sense of family and what it means. So I agree with the fundamentalists that family is important, but I disagree that I have to live by their strict code.
And at 62, I have come to believe the only answer is to make as much money as you can and keep up your family ties. Wished I would have realized that earlier, but for anyone much younger reading this, you might take note.
I guess the best insurance against poverty is wealth.