If that title does not pull you then I’m not sure what will in the future! First let me start by saying I usually experience bad things with humor. It’s not to be disrespectful or even funny, but basically the only way I can handle things is to add some kind of humor to what is usually a very serious situation.
So yes…I was just running this morning with the sun in my face, views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the smell of salt water from the Bay, when I came across what is now the third dead person I have seen in two years. Sure, if I still lived in small town Midwest my chances become very slim of chancing across these encounters. But living in a major metropolis on the West Coast it is almost becoming second nature. I say almost because the actually experience should not be happening in the first place…but it does. Funny enough just two weeks before I was again running and came across a guy floating in a lake at a park. And last, the first dead guy I experienced was actually found on my property of a building I was rehabbing in a somewhat crappy area of our city. He sadly died against my building and I was called down to check the situation by the Police.
Now seeing someone dead is nothing anyone should really have to experience. What these 3 guys had in common was homelessness. Three older gentlemen that were living on the streets and died on the streets. I am not here to place blame on society or social justice or billionaires etc…. But there is a serious issue that is taking way longer to solve then you would think it should. I get the factors of building affordable homes and converting buildings to SRO’s and whatnot, but I am going to provide what I think is a solution. So before I get into this stuff, note that its only an opinion and I am not here to start arguments about who/what/how. But as someone that does a lot of non-profit work and has dealt with and been inside many homeless encampments, I am going to give this opinion.
The answer is a double edge sword. Services and Enforcement. Here on the West Coast anyone can pitch a tent anywhere and you are now the issue of that city you are camping. Fair to those that pay taxes…..no. Every city service, fire, police, social services etc. is pretty much enabled to figure out what to do with that person in the tent. Now studies show a decent number of those people have jobs but have nowhere to live. Fair enough, but the others living in these situations, from my experiences, have either a drug issue, mental health issue or they choose this as their lifestyle. There are a ton of city services and non-profits that try and solves these issues. But something I’ve learned from all the volunteering I have done over the past 10 years is you can only help someone that wants to be helped. I will see churches and organizations provide food pantries all over the city with little old women either busing or walking miles to these locations. Not kidding…they will line up hours before they open. I will also see the transient across the corner from the food pantry holding up a sign stating “homeless need help” showing no interest in needing or wanting food. This becomes frustrating to a lot of people because you are not sure how to help? People give money, food, drop bags of clothes off and the results usually is left over trash on the streets with bags of clothes scattered. Seen it, cleaned it, repeated it.
Basically what I am saying is to those that are getting help…..great!! That is what these services are for…to assist when you are needing an extra hand. To those that are not taking advantage of these services….then enforcement needs to come into play. You can panhandle on a street corner…better yet using a real example…you can live on a street corner (yes live with furniture a dog, chairs etc. for 3 years now) and beg for money with NO consequences for breaking the law. With no enforcement, no one will either move on or use services to get help. With no enforcement also invites others to set up camp. You cannot solve homelessness….but you can help those that want to be helped getting them back to living with a home, job and family.
So you want to do something to help? Give all donations to a charitable organization that will properly distribute to those in need. Food Banks are extremely well run charities that provide healthy food to the right locations and pantries. Salvation Army is another organization that can properly provide clothes, furniture, toys. Don’t just drop stuff on a corner or give money directly as that results in trash that frustrates those living around that area. You see people in the small homes pay taxes just like people in the big homes. That does not mean those in the small homes are responsible for living in conditions the big homes would never allow. And last….email, write or call you local city official letting them know your thoughts. The more people get involved the more the issue tends to get solved.
p.s. – The the gentleman that pasted away at a property I owned mentioned above, his name was Gregory and he was a Veteran living on the streets. When I showed up at the scene there was a small group of people standing behind police tape. When I asked the officer who they were, he stated they were his family that actually lived in the neighborhood but would not take him into their home! They were wanting to know (not making this up) where his Veteran benefits check was going to go in the future. Rest in Peace Gregory and thank you for your service.