Yesterday in Salt Lake City I saw several young and seemingly healthy people
panhandling for money. They looked like they live in the park and are homeless.
Question. Could they work, but choose not to? Is there some reason they
can't get work? Do they make more money by asking strangers for it than
they would get working? I remember during the '80s when Reagan was
President, there seemed to be a lot of homeless around, like now. Reagan was
blamed. Obama is not. What's the difference?
I used to think that, too, until I got to know some of them homeless. There are
definitely cheats -- as there are in most groups. But much of the problem is
mental illness. And you can be mentally ill and be "seemingly healthy
people." It's like being hearing impaired -- the fact that you
can't see it doesn't mean it's not there.
When I would take my Scout troop to the homeless shelter in Ogden to serve
dinner, I always enjoyed speaking with the different people. The one thing I
loved for the Scouts to hear was how choices they had made, ended with them
being in the shelter. Mostly drugs and alcohol. Choices have consequences.
There are clearly panhandlers, who are seeking handouts. But as jenkers points
out, there are a LOT of homeless with mental illness problems and/or substance
abuse. Many of them live in the foothills above SLC. We have a lot in Utah
because we have good programs to help feed them.On top of these two
groups are the "newly homeless", people who've lost their jobs and
homes in short order. I volunteered for a Sunday breakfast under the 5th South
viaduct on a Sunday morning, and was stunned at how many people looked like just
regular middle class folks. The main cook told me they were probably employed
and had homes a couple of months previously, but had hit on hard luck. He said
give them 6 months, and they'll start looking a lot more ragged, as their
ability to find work and get back on their feet becomes more difficult, and
frantic.It's interesting that this story is sharing the
Internet D-News Opinion headline with Robert Samuelson's column about how
the US is affluent, but anxiety persists from the recession.Two
sides of the same coin.
A very good article. As a regular reader of both the LA TIMES and
the DN, I read Lopez's articles that eventually became his book (which I
read) and the film (which I saw). At the same time I was developing a
friendship with a paranoid/schizophrenic man who is chronically homeless.Unlike Lopez's friend, my friend has no noticeable talents. He has
many chronic problems related to his illness and his chronic inability to make
good choices.Even so, with the widespread attention, money, and help
that was available to Mr. Ayers, my friend could find a modicum of success. At
the very least, adequate funding for mental health care (which he can only get
in prison) could go a long way toward helping him.Homelessness, with
it's sister affliction mental illness, is solvable, but as Steve Lopez and
Lois Collins both point out, it takes concerted, focused effort from healthy
people working together, not judgment and disunity from those who ought to
help.We must also remember that the untalented need help, too.
I am glad that "Obama 10" pointed out that most of the homeless are
drunks and other drug addicts. This does not mean we should not care but there
always was the basic need to define the problem before you can prescribe a
solution. Just giving money to an addict perpetuates and exacerbates the
situation. What is the solution then? Any ideas anyone?
GildasAs I understand the history of this problem, there was a time
when a drunk derelict or drug addict on the streets could be taken (against
their will if necessary) and put into a facility that held them and hopefully
dried them out and got them off of the drugs. Enter the ACLU, who made the case
that it was unconstitutional to do that to a person. And furthermore they made
the case that if a person wants to live on the streets or in a park, it was
their right. Courts apparantly agreed. So here we are. Frankly I think that
when a person can't take care of themselves, it is more civilized and
humane to take them and put them where they may recover from their problems.
But unless that freedom changes legally, we will be stuck with not being able to
help the homeless in any major way. Welcome to the "progressive" world.