Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

BY KATHERINE KELLY

 

On any given night in America, between 700,000 and 3.5 million people are going to bed homeless. That is, if they are allowed to even go to bed. In Nevada City, California, a law has recently passed to make sleeping while homeless a crime.

Permits will be granted to sleep in public if the person is willing to be subjected to a background check. But only 6 to 10 permits will be issued for the first 6 months, so where are the 50 unfortunates who did not qualify for a permit supposed to sleep?

The city has also passed a no camping ordinance to stop people from sleeping in a car, a tent, or in the woods.  It’s worth noting that if you are not homeless you can sleep in the park without a permit, otherwise it’s off to jail for you.

While many may applaud this as an effort to rid society of ragged ne’er do wells, it is nothing more than a veiled attempt to criminalize poverty and it does nothing to alleviate the myriad causes of homelessness. It is merely a way to kick the can to the next town and let someone else deal with this uncomfortable symptom of a society gone astray.

While most of the homeless population is comprised mostly of families with children, communities tend to focus on the visible chronically homeless panhandlers and think these few are representative of the entire homeless demographic.  It’s easier to vilify and condemn a miscreant panhandling on the sidewalk than a single mom with children in the battered tent in your neighbor’s backyard or a family of four housed in the sedan on the corner.

For a little perspective, 40% of the homeless in this country are families and children under 18. The rest is a diverse group of veterans (23 – 40%) and the mentally ill (25%).  It’s easy to see the numbers don’t add up to a majority of hobos bumming change for a bottle of wine.  So when communities pass laws to make life difficult for homeless people, children are also caught in sweeping generalities of bias against the homeless.

I can attest from my own personal experience of being homeless, twice, that it’s not a place people aspire to be, and once you’re there, it’s like being in a foreign country where you don’t know the language and the natives hate outsiders. Life becomes unbearably difficult, even for the simple little functions of life that we take for granted like using the bathroom or washing up.

For me, the first time, it was due to a divorce in which I left an abusive situation and was not prepared for the struggle I found myself facing. Anything had to be better than what I was living through, but then I found out it was an awkward trade. The second time, six years later and after I had created a new and stable life for myself, it was due to sudden and catastrophic illness. Neither situation was something that provided planning to avoid homelessness, and many times, families are caught living paycheck to pay check and finding an emergency situation can push them out into the street.

Instead of having a safety net to fall into with enough help to climb out the situation, you are now part of a despised class of society: someone without a home to live in. It’s not your fault maybe, it’s only temporary probably, and you haven’t lost your morality and turned into an evil demon, but this is how you are treated. You are now unworthy of help, of sympathy, encouragement, or kindness. You are to be pitied, perhaps, as in look at that poor woman carrying that rumpled bag of clothes, trying to find a safe place to pee. The library stopped her at the door, most have guards now, gas stations and restaurants display signs that facilities are for customers only. A safe place to pee is beyond reach for many if not all homeless people. Think about that. You gotta go, look around. Where?

In this day and age where jobs are few and low paying if you can get one, people are so vulnerable to becoming a statistic. Yet we turn our heads and scowl, not in my neighborhood! So where? Where is that family with the kids going to sleep tonight? Relatives may be in as bad a shape or their landlords will not approve the extra bodies even for a short time. Shelters are overflowing. Some places, like Crescent City, don’t even have shelters. Where is that family going to sleep in Crescent City?

I have seen the anger when people talk about the bums panhandling, like making laws to scare them away will solve the problem of homelessness. Nevada City will soon find out that passing a law making it illegal to sleep while homeless is not going to solve the problem of homelessness.  Instead they may find their jails will be used as shelters by those they arrest.

Laws will not help this situation. Compassion and understanding will. Instead of punishing a person falling on hard times, try reaching out. Provide some shelter, a hot shower and a place to wash clothes. They will be able to find stability a lot faster when they have these support services.  But most of all provide a safe place to pee. No one should have to pay a fine or go to jail for something as basic to living as having to go pee.

 

 

 

 

 

7 thoughts on “HOMELESSNESS”
  1. That town is full of leftover Bang Wans who want to teach Hinduism but cannot tell you how to join a religion where you have to be born into it. Low rent housing is the only way. Extremes where I live are full time homeless that get $750 and housing would only be $220 at that point. Yet they bum daily on the streets and leave trash wherever they go on bus routes to and from more free food etc. Sorry to see you all have those troubles but we have the constant mumbling in the libraries too when they are not starting fights with other patrons over smart phone noise and dancing to hip hop videos in the seating at others expense and with the libraries help. 60’s, no security needed, today usually a half dozen on duty day round.
    Local budget you would think? 220 rent, 100 paper laundry, cleaning supplies, 200 food, 50 bus pass. $570 right with 180 in the bank? Cal they start at $900 plus right? Them friends of those Kingman dudes got their checks from Cal so they made out well is how I guess they ended up in a Mo./Ok motel. take care out there with those with thousands in tattoos and jewelry OK?

    1. Rock On: FYI, this is very old article and was written in response to Nevada City’s effort to criminalize homelessness. Please note, in paragraph five, “most of the homeless population is comprised mostly of families with children” and paragraph six. “40% of the homeless in this country are families and children under 18.” Continuing paragraph six: “The rest is a diverse group of veterans (23 – 40%) and the mentally ill (25%). It’s easy to see the numbers don’t add up to a majority of hobos bumming change for a bottle of wine. So when communities pass laws to make life difficult for homeless people, children are also caught in sweeping generalities of bias against the homeless.”

      Not sure what you think is B.S. about this.

  2. I also have helped homeless people in the past. All I have to say on the subject is the are TWO kinds of homeless–the ones that want help to make their life better and the ones that just want to beg and do what they want to. Sad, but true!

  3. Thank you Dude for your comment. People who have never lived without roof cannot comprehend the challenges and most don’t even try. they paint “the homeless” with such a wide brush of being “bums” because it makes them easier to ignore.

    To Scott Norris: I have helped people get back on their feet my entire adult life. Some have been given shelter by me, some a meal, and some just needed showers, rides or a way to wash their clothes, or even something as simple as an address to use or a phone to make calls. I always help when I can, even when I was homeless or close to being so. You don’t need money to help, just compassion and empathy. Currently I am helping a homeless kid…he’ll be showing up any minute for breakfast, and he does his laundry here and stores his clothes and other valuables here. I’d offer him the spare bed but it’s currently occupied by a family member who is homeless. What’s your donation to helping others? Sniping at someone else who does? Good job. Society will flourish with attitudes like yours. PS: I just gave a bag of dog food to a homeless man with an old dog in tow…the dog was very happy and wagged his tail when he saw the food. He seemed to know it was for him. It made my day. The joy of giving is not relegated to only Christmas.

  4. I have lived homeless for over sixteen years, I have gotton off the streets, and now take care of my 81 year old father whon is paralyzed on hos left side due to a cerebral hemorage. I am on a two week break, and figured I would see how the towns I lived in, and sadly got stranded. I had to use my old tactics to raise some cash for a greyhound ticket, and while holding a sign that says NEED HELP WITH GREYHOUND TICKET. I had several people yell to me I was just going to buy drugs, or liquor. I should state I dont drink liquor or do drugs. And about 95% of the people seemed to look straight through my like I was not even there. Maybe its just me but no matter who you are it just seems horrible to treat humans in such a way. So I understand your article, I have lived it first hand. I wanted to leave this comment with a quote I wrote years ago. Many blessings towards your future endeavors. WE ARE ALL SEARCHING FOR THATLITTLE GRAIN OF SAND. THE ANSWER TO EVERY MYSTERIOUS QUESTION IN OUR HUMAN REALITY, AND WHILE SEARCHING OUR LIVES THROUGHOUT, WE EVENTIALLY REALIZE, WE ARE ALL PART OF THE BEACH….if you google search my name Dude whiting a poem will appear. Hope you enjoy, and great article.

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