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Lost faith

The system is here for homeless people, as long as they take the initiative to access it

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I am compassionate about people and animals, believing we all have a responsibility to care for each other, especially those who are unable to care for themselves. New Times' story "Moved around" (Jan. 18) was one I wanted to read right away. My issue after reading the article was not with the author, but with Wendy Blacker's comments about our homeless population in Morro Bay.

In fact, I call bullshit on almost everything she said.

She said Morro Bay's homeless have "lost faith in the system" and that people from the encampments have lost trust in service providers. Further, she notes that the issue most detrimental to the homeless population is a "lack of affordable housing and transitional housing options."

She notes that, rather than moving homeless people from point A to point B, the city needs to conduct more outreach to encampments and have more options for temporary and permanent housing.

I disagree with so many of the things she said. We all have had struggles and been "this close" to being homeless, including myself.

Addiction is a disease, certainly. Mental health is a crisis, indeed. But something in a person needs to "click" in order to reach out for help. There are so many services available, and to say the homeless have lost faith indicates the true nature of this issue: They have lost faith in a system because it doesn't give them what they believe they are entitled to.

The "system" (taxpayers, law enforcement, local government) doesn't provide them with a nice hotel room or apartment and a monthly support check. The system finds their trash-filled, disgusting campsites on the side of the road in our beautiful community and tells them they must clean up after themselves or move. The system points them to various places and resources where the homeless could get counseling, food, advice, haircuts, showers, access to laundry services, and help with their pets, but they think that because others have more, that they deserve more. When they don't get what they feel entitled to, for free, they cry to advocates like Wendy and they say they have lost faith. And advocates fall for it.

We all struggle with not getting what we want or "deserve," but some of us do it while we are working 40-plus hours a week, paying our mortgages, property taxes, and insurance, all the while spending our free time cutting the grass and washing our windows and trying our best to be responsible. We vote and hope to have elected officials who respect all that we do, but there's still inflation, rising housing costs, food costs, insurance costs that we all face, so we all can say we feel the system let us down. But what does "the system" really owe us?

If your city and police turn a blind eye to the encampments you start creating, across from one of our most traveled community streets, and within weeks you have trash piled high, things hanging in dead trees, tarps and stolen shopping carts, you have to wonder: They are allowed to live like that for free and they don't even have enough respect to keep the area clean? Would I want to rent one of my extra rooms to anyone who takes care of their property like this? No.

They show no respect. They take no initiative to even try to keep their space clean. I guess they are so busy all day working their 40-hour week, like the rest of us, that they just don't have time to put that garbage in one of the many trash bags strewn across their encampment.

Do I think "the system" owes them a reduced rate or free place to live? No. Renting or owning a home brings with it a responsibility, and they have proven they aren't up to the task.

Taking responsibility for one's self, and for one's circumstances is the problem. They don't. They want to blame someone else for their problem. Some people fall for it.

If people really want to advocate for "our" homeless population, take your homeless friends by the hand over to that big, ugly mess on Quintana Road and make them clean it up. We taxpayers, property owners, renters, employers, and employees are the system. And we have lost faith in a population that only wants to sit back in their own trash and blame everyone else for the mess they've made of their lives.

Teach them to accept personal responsibility for their situation, and for the choices they make to stay in or move out of their situation. Addicted? There are free programs. Mental health issues? There are free programs. Hungry? Transportation? Medical services? There are free programs. Choose to access them.

Take advantage of free laundry service and free showers and free haircuts. Then, go to one of the dozens of businesses in town that have help wanted signs in their windows.

As a property owner in Morro Bay, the property taxes alone are crippling. None of us can afford to give them free or reduced cost housing. So, maybe they should consider living somewhere else, where the cost of housing isn't so high. And if you argue that they should be able to live where they want to live, we tried that on Quintana Road, and they messed that up. Maybe I'd like to live in Beverly Hills or Monaco, but I don't. Because I can't afford it.

Being a citizen is hard work. Being an adult is hard work. Taking care of our personal space and going to work every day and paying taxes and following municipal rules is hard work. But the majority of the people in our community work hard to do all of that. I expect nothing less from any of my neighbors. Homeless or not.

They expect so much from us but aren't willing to do the basics of what is expected to be part of a community. So the system has lost faith in the homeless population. We deserve much better than what they are doing in our community. Δ

Kathi Mendes Gulley writes to New Times from Morro Bay. Send a response for publication to [email protected].

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