I recently posted to Facebook an editorial from the L.A. Times about that city's (and others roundabout) severe and still growing problem with "the homeless." The troubled people, their needs, the terribly destructive affect such are bringing to the city's quality of life. Yes, and the sometimes serious health crises their rapidly increasing presence has brought in its wake.
A long-time friend who is a resident in a community some miles from L.A. shared a caring and thoughtful response. He spoke of his "mixed feelings about the group of homeless who roam around the park not more than a mile from my home" who "while relatively peaceful ...litter the grounds with all kinds of refuse." Of how "the recreational area where my children played are empty when the homeless sleep on the benches nearby and drive the families away" and how such have taken up residence, too, in the local library. About how "the staff is politely accommodating (as required by law) but must citizens put up with the common areas being used as a toilet?"
He spoke of his own concerns and actvity trying to find even a workable short term solution, and that while recognizing that "what is ultimately going to work to erase homelessness is anybody’s guess."
His thoughtful, deeply felt, and much appreciated comment ended with a question: "...how would you handle a sudden influx of the homeless into P________?"
Here, posted for my regular blog readers, was my response...
K___, your's was a thoughtful answer -- deserving of more than a reply -- worthy of thought. And one that lead me to both think -- and to realize how ludicrous it was for me to do so while in my warm and comfortable home, surrounded by love and beauty, while making blueberry pancakes -- a long-time Sunday ritual -- to bring into my always smiling wife who is snugly wrapped in a blanket.
Where to even start? (and how it keep it appropriate-to-the-venue short?)
First off I realized that no frank answer would make for a good Hallmark Channel presentation.
I started yet smaller... What if some down-on-their-luck people started an encampment somewhere on my property? Would I allow that?
I do keep it open for hikers, hunters, bird watchers, picnickers, and have had youths build blinds and small encampments -- a campfire and so forth. Such were welcome. But to take up residence? No.
Part of that is because such grows. One family becomes two then twelve. Appreciation becomes a right. And the law, generally, is so open to "interpretation" that I could not count on it if such became my only recourse.
But then what would I do?
First find if they were locals. Then, if yes, see if the local family services could help. The goal even there would be for them to fairly quickly vacate.
But why the question of whether they were locals? The answer to me is in nature -- man's nature. Individual, family, tribe. I can care about the abstractions of "fairness" and "justice." But cannot care for the world. Big things for short periods. Small things for long periods.
Okay, what about in a public park?
Basically the same. The town's shared spaces are just that -- the towns people's shared community spaces. The bigger "family." ("Tribe?)
No, out they must go. Not preferably cruelly, but go they must.
The best answer is the old one: "Across the tracks."
That was what American society -- one built on personal liberty and responsibility -- came up with. For those who by choice, genetics, chance -- whatever -- had a non community-values way of living. They were free to do so -- "across the tracks."
Thus there was "the Bowery." Thus there was the "combat zone." Bars, shooting galleries, hookers, families with no responsible heads -- all of that.
Nope -- nothing "Hallmark" about it.
Does such "work"? Not in an idealized way. But better than anything else. For one it is self-contained.For another, self limiting. And nothing else that I have seen is.
"If you build it they will come."
Yup. Public housing. Free this and that.
Free universities too I guess. But make them open to all, and not admission-standards based -- and well, we see where that took us. To just what your local library has become. And public rest rooms. And parks.
Now your local situation is not the same. The barn door was left open. The cows are wherever. The careful farmer no longer holds sway.
How to clean up that mess "neatly" I have no idea. Today even what used to be called "slum clearance" is seen as something else. The once honored "smart" and "industrious" are today seen as the thieves. Of places. Of other's cultures.
Nope. Do what you can. Be kind as you can. Genuinely -- not as mere manners. But kindness includes protecting what is good. What brings others here. They want it too!
Fair enough. You want it? Here is how you get it... (and it is not what you wish to hear).
Is that an answer?