You may have a right to be homeless and live in the open, but please don’t crap where I have to walk…

July 26, 2012

Ever wonder where homeless people go to the bathroom? Well in San Francisco it’s reported that among their chosen spots are stairwells and escalators at Bay Area Rapid Transit Stations.

I live far from the madding crowd at the north end of the Sacramento Valley in Northern California, but we have the homeless as well. Many of them seem to hang out at the public library. Who only knows where they relieve themselves. Sure, they probably use the library facilities when it is open, along with those at nearby convenience markets, I suppose — but store owners don’t like people using their places as public restrooms, especially if they are not buying anything, and that is understandable. And the stores might not be open late at night when nature calls.

The problem in San Francisco is so bad that human excrement reportedly clogs up the works of the escalators. And of course the stench is unpleasant for the general public too. And of course this has to be a health hazard.

I did visit San Francisco some days ago and was pleased that the homeless and panhandlers did not seem to be the nuisance they had been in the past, but maybe I just lucked out and walked in the right places. I did see several homeless under sleeping bags along one street, though.

The problem with rousting the homeless is that they just move somewhere else and become a problem at that somewhere else.

Personally I think it is a tragedy that there are so many homeless, realizing that in some cases people choose that lifestyle.

But I think the homeless are a terrible blight on any city, big or small. And they present a definite health hazard.

I have mentioned this before, but years ago, in the 1980s, as I recall, Sacramento County tried to tie public assistance to living in a public shelter for people without their own residence. And as I recall the courts held that one could not be forced to live in any certain place. In essence, you have a right to be homeless.

Whenever the homeless are put up in public shelters there are security concerns. Many homeless people, maybe most, would rather be homeless than be forced to live with strangers who might well be violent or thieves or both.

But I think society has a moral duty to look out for the homeless and it is the only practical thing to do, especially when health and security and aesthetics for the quality of life for all of us is considered.

You might have a right to be homeless but you should not have a right to, well, crap where the rest of us have to walk.

I for one would support the building of public shelters, simple spartan affairs, where people can be protected from the elements.

Perhaps one cannot be forced to live in a shelter, but public benefits should only go to those who are at least willing to be a part of civilized society.

With all the cutbacks in public agencies we have been hearing about, this is probably not going to happen, but it seems to me there ought to be more gatekeepers in the public assistance system and more serious counseling available.

Unfortunately, a large portion of the homeless for a variety of reasons, including mental health, physical health, and pure economics and the cruel realities of life are probably beyond help.

But we need to do the best we can and we need to encourage the down and out to do the same.

It seems ironic that those with no resources often smoke and abuse alcohol and drugs. That is terribly expensive and who really pays the bills for all that?

And I will sound like Scrooge or something, but the thing now I see is for many of the down and out to have pets. Taking care of them is expensive too.

But if nothing else, can we at least come up with a way of discouraging the using of public places where we all have to walk as toilets? Maybe the answer is to install Porta Potties all over the place (yes, I know, they have to be serviced and that is not free).

P.s.

It is not just the homeless who have poor hygiene and personal habits. I am a long-haul truck driver, and there is an element among us, small, I would hope, who sometimes leave excrement right on the pavement of a truck stop or public road — I’m not talking someone taking a leak, I mean, well, excrement, sometimes in a bag and sometimes not, and then there are the discarded pee bottles and plastic bags (the latter used by women?).

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Make as much money as you can and keep up your family ties…

November 16, 2011

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.

P.s.

I guess the best insurance against poverty is wealth.


Edwards, troubles in Asia, and the homeless…

August 10, 2008

 (Copyright)

The WALTHER REPORT

By Tony Walther

A war between Russia and Georgia, the Summer Olympics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran, the presidential race and all the nightly news can lead with is the sordid affair of John Edwards, who isn’t even a candidate for anything anymore – and may never be again, but don’t count on that.

Gossip, albeit true gossip, of the tawdry affair of still another narcissistic liar in politics beats important news every time.

And if you scan the internet, the fact that Edwards had an affair was not even news. The story has been around for quite some time. And it seems likely, despite his continued denials, that he fathered a child out of wedlock. Real concern for your cancer-stricken wife John, how touching (and Mrs. Edwards seems like such a well-spoken and nice person).

It is kind of troublesome that a guy who came so close to at least being a vice presidential candidate again this time around would risk such behavior that would surly bring down the chances of his party winning an election.

And the fact that there is video tape of Edwards castigating Bill Clinton for his behavior is sickening for its stunning hypocrisy.

Personally, I have to put Edwards up there with Gary Hart (you recall, he dropped out over hanky panky/Monkey Business too). In both of their cases, there was just never any there, there. I never once heard Edwards or Hart say anything of any substance. What Edwards’ appeal was, I have not a clue.

Strangely enough, I suspect the one who might be the most nervous from all of this is John McCain. The rumor mill says he has some liaisons to answer to in his background.

Obama, don’t know. But if he does, Michelle is likely to give him more than a fist bump.

– And the story line on CBS Evening News is that things are so peaceful now in Baghdad that folks are taking a dip in the town plunge and partaking the joys of ice cream at a recently reopened parlor. So lets bring the troops home already (oh, that’s right, there’s Afghanistan).

– Some crazy attacker killed a U.S. citizen who was in Beijing for the Olympics (the father-in-law of a coach), injured the man’s wife, and then killed himself.

The other day, 16 Chinese policemen were killed in northwestern China in some type of internal struggle that is ongoing. In the last 24 an explosion killed two in that region. At the same time, there is the afore-mentioned war between Russia and Georgia.

Now the incident in Beijing was maybe just one of those crazy and regrettable things that happens in big cities, but the domestic unrest in China and struggle involving Russia and former and/or disputed territories is something we should just say, hey let them deal with it, and keep our mouths shut, maybe they won’t have so much wherewithal and time to cause trouble for us. Meanwhile, the U.S. could hold back on playing world policeman and take care of its own affairs. I think that might do more to create good will in the world by the U.S. than anything.

– And here on the home front, things can look dismal. It’s not that I have never seen the homeless, but usually you attribute legions of homeless to the ills of urban life. But right here in our own medium-sized community in California’s northern Sacramento Valley, I note that we now have quite a homeless hangout near the Kmart. I recall all those decades ago when Kmart first went in (way before anyone ever heard of Walmart). While I’ve never been excited about suburban type strip malls, at least it was clean. No more.

But before we look down our noses and pass judgment, we check ourselves and think silently, with a tinge of dread: “there but for the grace of God go I.” 

Postscript:

And on the brighter side, our town seems to slowly, but surly be rejuvenating its downtown. I never could figure out why it was ever considered a good idea to abandon it in the first place. But what is old is now new. And it is refreshing.