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Worth fighting for

Let's give homeless people a safe, secure refuge in the Five Cities

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Surely we good, smart, rich people of this area can come up with something! We have homeless citizens in their 60s and 70s.

I physically crumple and cry every time I see a homeless woman. The women that we all see around, here and there, in parking lots, at the Dollar Tree, walking, wandering, sometimes pushing baby strollers, sometimes with dogs in them. Everyone sees them all the time. The women are constantly abused, beaten up, raped, robbed. Yes, many are drug addicts or simply mentally ill. Does that mean they deserve to be beaten and raped and have their money and few belongings stolen?

This is not something the police can handle. We need to create safety for homeless people.

Does anyone remember Sharon? She lived on the streets in the Five Cities roughly 25 years ago. At that time, our area was quite a bit smaller and safer. She was homeless. Once a month, when the weather was bad, she would rent a room for a few days at the (no longer available) Rose Garden Inn with money from her Social Security check.

Then, Sharon moved into San Luis Obispo. I saw her downtown many years later. She was still homeless. She was at a table outside of Starbucks by the movie theater. We spoke. She talked about living on the hillside above Cal Poly. She was very confused, yet still friendly and able to get about on her own.

The next time I saw Sharon, she was the subject of an article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Sharon wasn't in the paper because she won the lottery. Sharon was in the paper because she had been murdered in San Luis Obispo. Murdered. In the creek. Right smack dab in the middle of downtown San Luis Obispo, a homeless woman was murdered. Perpetrators had pushed Sharon and held her under and she drowned. She was a 50-ish-year-old single white woman who was our neighbor. Sharon didn't get to actually live anywhere, not inside. She didn't have enough money, not enough money to live anywhere. She didn't have enough money for a home, so she was homeless and she could not be safe, and so she had to be murdered. Is that who we are?

Most people seem to believe that we have a place to live, a home, because we worked hard and earned it—which is probably true. We earned our homes with hard work, good fortune, good luck, good health, good families, good connections, good timing.

Most people I know who are homeless live with childhood abuse, very bad health, mental illness, extreme bad luck, addiction, horrible family issues or no family, poor education, sexual abuse, poor medical treatment, alcoholism—any and/or all of the above.

Is it our hard work that has kept us from having these problems? Does hard work alone keep us from having to live life on the street ... or have we not only worked hard but been extremely lucky? Blessed? Fortunate? Sometimes healthy? Of course we have.

Any one of us who lives here, who has a roof over our head, must know we are lucky, blessed, fortunate beyond belief. If we have one penny or one minute to spend helping to create a safe place for the homeless people—the horrendous, dirty, smelly, thieving, sex disease riddled, addicted, unemployed, ill, lazy, very unfortunate, unlucky, abused, poor, homeless people—to be safe, then we must do it. As a community.

I remember that the people of Paso Robles built the Niblick Bridge. Am I wrong? They needed it, they wanted it, they paid for it, and they built it.

I believe that the wealthy people of Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Oceano, and Arroyo Grande (and we are legion) truly must look at our good fortune and put big money together to have a refuge for human beings, with security and dignity. Not with a referendum or a tax, but because we want to, and we can. Because we are fortunate, lucky, and blessed.

Or do the homeless women have to be murdered? Tonight they are being abused, beaten, sold for drugs, robbed, and raped. Do they have to be murdered? Can we organize, build, supply, and protect the homeless Americans in our Five Cities? This is the war we should and must fight and win. Δ

Cynthia Barr is waiting for her Winston Churchill in Grover Beach. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a letter for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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