Opinion » Shredder

Empathy Deficit Disorder


So I’m hangin’ with my homeless homies and illegally napping on a Mitchell Park bench when a copy of the SLO Tribune blows on me, open to the letters section, and here's this letter by some lady named Jan Kenny of Simi Valley, who was “devastated” to discover that she and her family were sharing a Pismo Beach public campground with homeless people.

“My husband and I recently camped at Pismo North, a campground in the SLO area. After arriving, a fellow camper advised us that the county had permitted five homeless camps (30 people that I counted) to live at the campsite while the Amtrak station in Grover Beach was being renovated. I was, and still feel, devastated as this is a peaceful refuge to allow citizens to camp and not have the worries of all the problems that are involved.”

Yeah! What about citizens like Jan and her family? It’s not like homeless people are also citizens, right? Or if they are, maybe there’re, like, 3/5ths of a citizen, tops. She and her family certainly shouldn’t have to deal with a bunch of sub-humans on their vacay!

“Numerous homeless people have mental disorders and other issues, and to surround families and children in the campsites brings a complete disbelief that the homeless were placed there,” Jan wrote with utter incredulity.

News flash, Jan: People with homes have mental disorders too. Some of them even have homes in Simi Valley and camp in Pismo Beach. 

According to healthyplace.com, America’s mental health channel, “Narcissists and psychopaths lack empathy. It’s safe to say that the same applies to patients with other personality disorders, notably the Schizoid, Paranoid, Borderline, Avoidant, and Schizotypal.”

Jan, I’m no doctor, but I think you’re empathy-deficient. You should get that looked at.

“I would hope that the county or city would be able to relocate these people to another location other than a state campground,” Jan concluded. “Aren’t there any other alternatives? I worry about the safety of ourselves and the children.”

The problem is, authorities did find an “alternative” location away from the squalid and illegal creek encampment they were in: the campground you shared. I guess the Ritz was all booked up.

Weirdly, I saw nothing in your letter about an actual incident, event, altercation, or crime involving your family and your fellow campers, 30 of whom apparently don’t have a Simi Valley home to return to. Was it just the mere sight of them?

I decided to check The Trib’s Facebook page to see what our community thought about your letter and was pleased to discover that most commenters were aghast at your heartlessness.

“We all know that the Central Coast just exists to serve the tourists, right?” Kristine Pickett asked sarcastically. “God forbid we have HOMELESS people here infringing on the tourist’s rights to a peaceful vacation. Let’s get our priorities straight.”

Of course, for nearly every homeless sympathizer there were dissenters.

“I live in pismo and want them gone they brake in to cars homes three pushy if u can’t afford the rent here move somewhere where the rent if more affordable in the valley,” Marco F Trasmondi wrote, if you call that “writing.” It was more “mangling” if you ask me. Let’s all chip in and buy this man some capital letters and a few periods, not to mention spelling lessons.

“Yes, they are getting out of control for sure! It’s gross when they are exposing there dirty blistering wounds by the pier and could smell there rotting flesh! I feel like I have to wear gloves and not touch anything! Yuck!!” Martinez Alicia also mangled, though not as badly. And just to confirm that his first entry wasn’t satire or sarcasm, Alicia later added, “Time to move them all out. They ruin and mess up the vibe!!!”

The vibe? Sigh. 

Homelessness is a complicated issue, and solutions aren’t easy to come by. As this week’s cover story demonstrates, our county has too few housing options for those in need. Unfortunately, empathy-deficient people abound.

     “Yeah, if it’s too expensive to live in SLO, go find an inner city that’s cheap. All those drugs you spend my tax dollars on are way cheaper, too” Ken Hald sneered because, you know, his tax dollars are buying homeless people drugs.

When you’ve got a sizeable portion of the local community that believes “most,” “many,” or even “some” of the homeless are drug addicts, homeless by choice, or simply lazy, it’s that much harder to accomplish lasting solutions. Luckily, many commenters restored my faith in humanity.

“And just where should they go?” Susan Coward asked. “Despite the recent fabulous weather, this is the off season and the campgrounds generally have extra space. And what lessons are the writer’s children learning from this attitude? In our home, we teach compassion. We teach respect for all life. We know that people without homes are still citizens.”

Of course, being the snarky SOB I am, my favorite response to Jan’s letter came from Allison Edwards, who put it succinctly: “You are an ass.” 


The Shredder suffers from Empathy Overabundance Disorder. Send ideas and comments to [email protected].


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