It would be interesting to take a news poll regarding whether or not our county legislators, policy makers, administrators, judiciary officials, and law enforcement officers read New Times and the Sun? Do these important people get a fair and balanced view of local issues in our alternative press, or do they promote the relatively conservative mainstream news media? There appears to be a prevailing view among those in power, as well as a large segment of the general population, that the “homeless” are a bunch of tobacco-smoking, drug-injecting, dirty-alcoholic bums who either refuse to work or can’t get jobs due to their lifestyle.
While it is true that a percentage of the homeless are such individuals and deserve what they got for their lack of free choice decisions to change, there are really tens of thousands of homeless and hungry people in California due to the following reasons:
1) People out of work who lost their jobs and income due to serious injuries or diseases.
2) People who are decent citizens working only part time due to reduced hours during our Great Recession, with low incomes far too inadequate to pay the high costs of housing, nutrition, medical care, insurance, and legal vehicles with gas to commute.
3) People who work full time at minimum-wage jobs, yet, after taxes and the other pay deductions, cannot afford to rent a room—after paying for other life “necessities” (not luxuries!).
4) People with no alcohol or substance-abuse problems, who are hard workers with excellent conduct records, who were laid off from their jobs through no fault of their own due to the economic collapse. People laid off from “seasonal” tourism jobs.
5) People with college degrees who can’t even get a job that pays enough to survive.
6) People who were convicted of crimes that did absolutely no injury to another human being and are turned down by employers due to their record abstracts. An example is accumulated parking tickets without funds to pay, or (in my case) being late to a court appearance due to a serious car breakdown in a remote, rural area). Another example is being busted for the crime of not being able to afford a place to live, and living in a tent in a remote area, not bothering anybody. Add sleeping in a car.
7) Totally reformed inmates who now live moral lifestyles, contribute to charitable volunteer work, and attend church. Their records prevent hiring.
I ask all those in authority who contributed to the dismantling of Dan De Vaul’s homeless shelters, the legislation and arrests against those forced to sleep in their cars and outdoors, and the lack of sufficient funding to shelter the above seven cases: If you are a moral, humanitarian, and spiritual person who believes in the Golden Rule, how would you feel if you had to sleep on rainy and frosty nights near an icy creek to bathe in, attacked by mosquitoes and bugs, and living in mud, mildew, and dirt?
By then, you were turned down by more than a hundred job applications. Some have up to 200 people applying for just one job. You were laid off after your manager and other employees told you that you did good a good job—but one job became “too slow” in tourism and the other went out of business.
Would you rather sleep in squalor by the creek or live in one of the warm, rainless buildings and have daily hot meals in the kitchen you coerced Dan De Vaul to tear down? Did anyone die or get seriously injured due to the building code infractions? Isn’t it really more dangerous to live with those serious outdoor dangers, which also include assault and robbery?
Meanwhile, our government spends tens of thousands of dollars to improve “the look” of a short sidewalk and construct “better looking” signposts and tree enclosures—all of which are “more important” than suffering human beings! Why can’t the county purchase an old, unused building and fill it full of cots and bunks? The shelters in SLO County have long waiting lists, are not available to most of the homeless, and are not located in each community. Humanitarian people with sizeable inheritances or wealth could contribute. And all physically fit residents could work a few hours per day cleaning up the massive litter that lines many of the streets and fills too many lots in SLO County.
County officials, let’s hear your response! ∆
Steve Omar is the former executive editor of the Hawaiian Times newspaper and investigative reporter for newspapers and magazines, now living in SLO County and talking to homeless people. Send comments to Executive Editor Ryan Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.