Sep 2, 2008

San Diego

We are back from San Diego and I have much to bore you with. But it's late and I will just post a few words. I took this picture of a beautiful pelican this morning. It was just floating around like it owned the harbor. I saw this homeless man feeding pigeons. Allowing pigeons to crawl over oneself is not something many would do. This got me to thinking about the problem of chronic homelessness. George Bush Forty-One was famously blasted in the 1980s for suggesting that most homeless people have serious problems beyond homelessness. Specifically, he said most have serious mental illness and/or drug problems. The media howled at the suggestion and homeless advocates claimed he was blaming the victims. It was fashionable in the 1980s to portray the homeless as people like you and me who were just down on their luck. But that is the exception rather than the rule. Most of the homeless are folks who need more than just a leg up. Chronic homelessness is a symptom, it is a problem, but it is not the problem. It is easy to hurry past a homeless person or to dismiss them as bums or lazy, but it way too complicated for such simplistic answers. Giving them cash is counterproductive most of the time, although I confess to doing just that. A better solution is to give a few bucks to the people dedicated to helping the helpless get off the street. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky

11 comments:

d. chedwick said...

Nice photo of you with the pretty birds. You're like St. Francis of Assisi.

dennis said...

Dennis has a pigeon story but it's too long.

Annie Ha said...

maybe 41 should have thought that governor Reagan shouldn't have closed down all those mental institutions

Squirrel said...

I recall living in California when suddenly there were loads and loads of homeless everywhere. Reagan did that. It was very noticeable--he did a lot of things and one was to create a lot more homelessness. and if you read Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London you'll note that a lack of safety, sleep and nutrition very quickly lead to the beginnings of mental illness.

Reya Mellicker said...

Welcome home! How is your finger?

There's an incredible book about homeless people written by a woman who lived on the street for almost a year to research the 'truth' about that symptom or problem. (Can't remember the name of the book ... it's been awhile since I read it, but she's a photographer. The photographs are truly wrenching.)

One of the things she said that struck me was that as a homeless person, you never get a full night's sleep. Someone is always waking you up and telling you to move on, or the traffic, weather or whatever disturbs your sleep.

Without sleep, human beings quickly become psychotic. The author of the book had a hard time coming out of the experience, described sleeping for 12-14 hours a night for weeks after she came inside.

It is a complicated problem.

You know in a perfect world I could win a grant to do soul retrieval under bridges where homeless people camp out.

Ah ... but ... it's not a perfect world. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point, and good luck making it. Where I live (in the Southeast), people are stuck on that eighties all-homeless-people-are-bums meme. It's difficult to get people to understand that the picture is really more complex than this, and that many peeps who are CH are genuine victims of deinstitutionalization.

And by the way, the latter movement is not all Reagan's fault. Deinstitutionalization came about as a result of civil rights litigation back in the sixties. The pendulum has swung way to one side, and desperately needs to come back towards the middle.

Kurt said...

Speaking as a past and future homeless person, I can tell you that I have a lot of problems. I'm just not able to put up with the Man's crap the way normal people can.

Steve said...

It's always hard to know what to do to help the homeless. Like you, I sometimes give them money, because that's an easy and immediate response -- but you're right that it's often counterproductive. There are two homeless guys who live on my block, both incredibly alcoholic, and I'm sure they just take that money and go on a bender.

It does make a lot more sense to support institutions that work against homelessness, but it's hard to know which ones to choose!

Megan said...

I see a tent...

tut-tut said...

A complicated issue for sure, as all the commenters have shown. Here in my vicinity, we have an Episcopal monk who has made working with the chronically homeless/psychotic his life's mission. As a matter of fact, this is what his order is called to do.

I don't know what to do, except try to help those who are down in the trenches, actually connecting with, or trying to, the chronically homeless.

Nan Patience said...

I had a natural sympathy for homeless people when I was a child and wrote a poignant short story about a homeless man. I've noticed my children have a similar feeling toward homeless people and am delighted to see them feel like helping.

I agree about the homeless generally having other problems, and I generally don't give them spare change to feed their habits, unless I'm drunk.