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LJWorld.com weblogs Llama's Pasture.

Homelessness

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The following are a series of quotes from this paper's illustrious comments section about Homelessness.

"Build it and they will come, feed them and they will stay.. Pretty simple. Send most of Burt Nash (sic) somewhere else, along with the other agencies that exhist to give our tax dollars to many who choose not to work and the problem starts to correct itself."

"I am all for helping the homeless, not enabling them. I work at a facility where we care for a large homeless population. Much more often than not, they are chronic drunks, who however, manage to be able to afford cigarretes, more alcohol, but never seem to be able to afford food. Homeless are the refugees in Darfur...most of the homeless I am use to seeing are "enabled"."

"No effort = No money"

Ban the bums and be done with this issue. Downtown is for conducting business. Panhandlers are for disrupting business. Ban them, throw them in jail but get rid of them one way or the other.

...you act as if having a drug or alcohol problem happened to those people by accident. It didn't. Take accountability. Third, not one homeless person has lost access to health care. They can go to any ED and be treated without having to pay a dime. And last, not all of us are "just a few weeks....away from homelessness." Some of us plan for that possibility by saving, not running up debt (or using any), and spending within our means. Life is hard and not fair. Get over it."

I could go on, but I feel like it would be excessive. According to Nationalhomeless.org, between 20 and 25% of homeless people are veterans. http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/veterans.pdf Do we hate veterans? Do you want to look someone in the eye who has just spent six years in Iraq or Afghanistan, seeing horrible things, that they are just lazy and need to stop asking for handouts?

Many homeless are experiencing mental illness. And yet, we, as a society, have an intense hatred for the homeless. Why? I'm curious as to what people think the reason is for such vitriol. In the quotes above, we see the idea that the homeless are like stray animals. We see that assisting the homeless is "enabling them," that they might buy cigarettes and alcohol (how might they have gotten addicted to those substances in the first place)?

We see such "solutions" as banning homeless people. We see this notion that apparently, everyone was born 18 years old with a job in hand and can avoid debt.

The problem with these assertions is that they are generally false. They are also almost exclusively based on anecdotal evidence... "I see a drunk homeless person..." "I knew someone who panhandled..." etc. There is no recognition that these are people - possibly veterans - who haven't had the same advantages as any of us have had. I've worked since I was 14 years old. I've been fortunate enough to have the foundation for success that comes from a stable (or stable enough) home and a quality education. What hope do you think a teenager in a terrible home situation has of getting a quality education, getting a job, etc? Where do you think substance abuse comes from?

Does anyone think about these things beyond the initial unpleasant awkwardness of having to look into a homeless person's eyes and tell them you just don't have any money for them?

So, for all the people who think we should "pull the plug" on them - where do they go? Do they find a hole somewhere to die? What do you want them to do? What is your SOLUTION? Are you willing to let them use your shower, to claim your address so they can even apply for a job? Of course not. Effort goes so far, but effort alone can't get you off the street, now can it? If you're a hiring manager, are you going to hire someone who hasn't had access to a shower for a week and only has a few sets of dirty, tattered old clothes?

Conservatives - it costs roughly $26,000 to put someone in jail for an entire year. That's $26,000 of taxpayer money. Do you think that a homeless shelter costs as much as that per person?

Liberals - Do you actually spend any time or contribute in any way to helping the homeless? It doesn't have to be a massive government problem if more private citizens would give their time and efforts of their own will.

And to everyone - political or not - Let's be reasonable. Is it better to bus the homeless away, to refuse them, to tell them to get a job and suck it up - or is it better to help them, but help them the right way - get them to a point where they can contribute to society again?

Comments

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

I want a genuine discussion here. I don't want sniping or pointless drivel. Insult me if you want, if that makes you feel tough (I love Internet tough guys), but I'm interested in a real discussion, void of the general idiocy that plagues so many comment threads on this website.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 1 month ago

"How now my sweet creature of bombast?" (Henry IV, part I)

HaRDNoK9 4 years, 1 month ago

In my life I have been homeless twice. The first time, was by choice. I was young, able bodied and lazy. I had held down a dead end job for close to ten years and as dead end jobs go, I ended up nowhere. I just didn't feel like conforming anymore. So I stuck my thumb in the air and went out to see some places. I went from one coast to the other a few times, met a lot of people and had a great time. I was not an aggressive panhandler. In fact, I didn't panhandle at all. I traveled with some panhandlers, though. I Worked day labor when I felt like it, woke up when I felt like it, and managed to stay out of trouble. I visited many towns that were not so friendly to my kind. Trust me. I always found a place to go instead. Lawrence can do without this kind of homeless person, and there are too many of them here.

I also found myself homeless about 15 years later after I traded a decent job for a better one. The "better" job did not work out, and I lost everything. But I moved my family into my brother's garage, and looked desperately for work, which I eventually found. It didn't pay as well as the decent job I quit to begin with, but it got me on my feet. In a few months I was back in my own place. I did not sit on Mass street one time. Did not ask for a single penny I did not earn. Did not accumulate a dollars worth of debt, although I had good credit and it might have made things easier. I have been paying for my brother and his wife's cell phone for three years. I am happy to do it because he helped me out of a bind, it was not part of an agreement. I just found myself down on my luck. Lawrence has services for this type of homelessness. I don't see as many of these types panhandling- they are too busy scrounging up honest work.

I also see mentally ill people here. I have rarely seen them approach anyone on the streets. They are too confused and Lawrence has services for these people too. Haven't gone out and taken a poll to see how many homeless vets are downtown, but I'm sure there are a few- who also have access to aid.

There is a distinction to be made. I don't believe that the business owners on Mass are trying to oust genuinely desperate people. It is the filthy "kids" with the mangy dogs, glassy eyes, and the novelty cat that balances on their shoulders everywhere they go who I would like to see run out of town. I would like to see this on behalf of the people who truly need our charity, and are unable to get it because there are losers out there who have used up all of the good will.

notajayhawk 4 years, 1 month ago

Great story, and thanks for sharing it. But I have to take issue with a couple of your points:

Not everyone has a brother with a garage.

Or a brother that would help.

Or a brother.

"Lawrence has services for this type of homelessness."

As I mentioned on another thread, those services have extremely limited resources, and virtually all of them are exhausted by children and families. I have no problem with that, that's where the priorities should lie, but there is very, very little assistance available for single adults without a verifiable disability. And those with disabilities are the least-equipped to be able to navigate the system to get their needs met.

My problem with your conclusion, however, is this: How do you tell the difference? By the amount of grime? Whether they have an animal with them?

Is that the way you want to be judged, by your appearence?

HaRDNoK9 4 years, 1 month ago

When I decided nearly 20 years ago to end my homeless by choice situation, I had a full head of dreadlocks. I struggled to find a place to live, get a job, etc. I kept the locks for a time on matter of principle, but the reality of the situation was that I wasn't taken seriously until the dreads came off. Acceptance back into society became easier immediately after I cut the hair. It doesn't mean that I like it, but appearance is one of the ways we judge one another.

Not saying dreadlocks are undesirable to all employers, either. Clearly plenty of productive people wear them. I just found the interview process difficult with a three year gap in employment history, no real excuse, holes in my jeans, and dreadlocks down to the middle of my back. So maturity kicked in and I did what I needed to do to get a job.

I guess the difference is clear enough to me. I would rather turn down a single adult with no verifiable disability, than let a homeless family fall through the cracks. I have never based a personal decision on whether or not I thought things were fair. If we all waited around for even footing, we would be waiting a long time.

My brother lives in Ozawkie. If you think the resources for the homeless in Lawrence are scarce... Where there is a will there is a way. I was lucky to have him but even if I hadn't, we would have made it. I don't have many answers to problems which are highly individualized. Had I not been homeless the first time, I would have had a big disadvantage the second time. I have gone cold and hungry, I have been stranded hundreds if not thousands of miles from family or friends. I have spent weeks of uncertainty trying to figure out what to do next. I have seen truly insane people that have lived on the streets or in the forest for years that refuse to seek or accept help when it is offered.

My situations were entirely based on choices. Some good, some bad, some misunderstood, and some well intentioned mistakes. I'm sure that there are people out there who find themselves in desperate situations through no fault of their own. It is not my belief that most homeless people are incapable of making choices that will make their situations better.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 1 month ago

Problem with your stat Llama is that VA reports they have nearly sufficient bed space for vets ... but they cannot go out and compel vets to come in there. also, VA is often not the friendliest organization to its consumers.
your 20% is probably a little inflated, and it is in that range despite some proper trying by our society.
many vets will choose homelessness-by-choice for reasons similar to the nonvets who do.

and, sorry, it's not just anecdotal, we have ljworld articles such as when the homeless squatters' village was bulldozed behind the depot there are pictures and article depicting: drug stuff, stogies, and adult magazines in abundance. further, that little zone was the site of deaths that could have been prevented.

to correct above comment: homeless who are mentally ill do approach people on the street and do pose a problem/danger.

Llama, you are also advocating against downtown businesses having rights to their own private property; instead you want a guarantee that these people can squat there, defecate there, despoil, harrass, etc. you value the "rights" of homeless-by-choice over business owners?
backwards that.

am I cold hearted about the homeless-by-choice? no! I knew one, she died a most painful and horrible death. she died that death because she was homeless and was enabled in that lifestyle. there were no expectations on the handouts she got.

take your handouts and give them to: Family Promise; Salvation Army!

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

"many vets will choose homelessness-by-choice for reasons similar to the nonvets who do."

That's my point, isn't it? Don't we owe at least our veterans a little better?

"and, sorry, it's not just anecdotal, we have ljworld articles such as when the homeless squatters' village was bulldozed behind the depot there are pictures and article depicting: drug stuff, stogies, and adult magazines in abundance. further, that little zone was the site of deaths that could have been prevented."

I agree. Maybe if we had better resources to handle it....

"Llama, you are also advocating against downtown businesses having rights to their own private property; instead you want a guarantee that these people can squat there, defecate there, despoil, harrass, etc. you value the "rights" of homeless-by-choice over business owners?"

1) Where? Don't assume things. 2) What rights of business owners are being violated?

notajayhawk 4 years, 1 month ago

"and, sorry, it's not just anecdotal, we have ljworld articles such as when the homeless squatters' village was bulldozed behind the depot there are pictures and article depicting: drug stuff, stogies, and adult magazines in abundance."

Nice anecdote, bg.

;-)

booyalab 4 years, 1 month ago

"it costs roughly $26,000 to put someone in jail for an entire year. That's $26,000 of taxpayer money. Do you think that a homeless shelter costs as much as that per person?"

So what? It probably would cost $5 or less per person to pay someone to walk around on Presidents' Day of every year and defecate on everyone's doorstep. Does that make it a valuable use of taxpayer money?

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

I'm responding fairly directly to the assertion that we should "throw the bums in jail" so we don't have to see them. People seriously think that is a good idea.

I don't understand your point at all.

budwhysir 4 years, 1 month ago

Homeless by choice and employed by choice should carry the same definition in the dictionary, in true aspects, they carry the same required actions to acheive the defined results.

homeless by choice should not be rewarded by hand outs and sympathy. Homeless due to current circumstances beyond ones control should be given assistance and encouragements not a hand out and a see ya tomorrow same time same place. I believe the homeless shelters should be organized as a job application. Here fill this out, we have a position available helping do (whatever the job may be) the pay isnt great but we can provide x number of dollars a month a place to sleep and 3 square meels a day along with assistance in finding a permanent job. Yes they could help with kids and family too.

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

And what about someone who comes in with a substance abuse problem? Do you think it's wise to have them working with kids, cooking meals, or doing anything like that? I like what you say, I'm trying to provoke a little more discussion. What do you do with the people who don't have any basic skills? With the people who are affected by mental illness?

grammaddy 4 years, 1 month ago

Great piece Llama! I used to volunteer at a homeless shelter overnights. While it is true that many are happy to live that way, I can't tell you how heartbreaking it is to see families with children who have become homeless through no real fault of their own. Children deserve a roof over their heads and a bed they can call their own. I don't know what the solution is, especially with the economy the way it is. I was also a single mother of 4 and gave thanks every day for not having had to deal with homelessness in my own personal life. There, but for the grace of God....

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

That's the exact phrase I think of every time someone (and no offense, but it antagonizes me more when that person claims to be a Christian) shows a total lack of understanding or compassion for the people who are homeless. I can't find it now, but there was a study done on people living below the poverty line in the United States (and before someone tells me that the poverty line here is better than it would be in Uganda, let me point out that we are not IN Uganda, nor should we use that as an accurate comparison - sure, we should be grateful, but being grateful should never stop us from trying to do better) - and the study basically found that a vast majority of poor people are trying to improve their conditions, that they desire to get better. Yet, if you ask, a lot of working people have this bitterness about them - and they just think that everyone who ends up homeless or poor does so by their own choosing, and just needs to "get a job," etc.

grammaddy 4 years, 1 month ago

So true! I don't understand the bitterness either. Seems like most of the people I know are only a paycheck or two away from homelessness.Where is the compassion for others in need?

HaRDNoK9 4 years, 1 month ago

"And what about someone who comes in with a substance abuse problem?" Simple. Substance abuse problems are not homeless problems. If a drug addict comes to the homeless shelter, send them to Stormont Vail. If they want society to help them get clean, they can bear the burden of debt for the service. Happens all the time.

"What do you do with the people who don't have any basic skills?" Picking up cigarette butts, sweeping parking lots, etc. are a good place for those with no basic skills.

"With the people who are affected by mental illness?" Much tougher question. Probably best left to people who are qualified to answer.

budwhysir 4 years, 1 month ago

A substance problem? working with kids? I would think not however we do live in an area where the local prison system was employing convicted criminals to hand out pumpkins to kids for halloween so it is possible that those with substance problems should be processed through the proper channels and be sent to a detention center or a rehab facility for assistance. It is my opinion that if you give assistance to a substance abuser with no strings attached they are not going to rehab.

I think anyone who wakes up in the morning has basic skills, the only basic skills needed to join society is to be able to breath and walk. However conforming to society is a little different. Being the type of person that is willing to take on a full time job and support ones self is alot different than being a person that is NOT willing to do this but would rather wait for someone to give them a hand out for the day.

Mental illness is not a crime, and at the same time, mental illness is not a reason to enable someone to live life without rules and regulations. The severity of an illness would determine the facility required for that person, but a free facility with no regulations of payback or responsibility will only confuse a mentaly ill person to believe that they can just take what is given to them with no cost or consequence. this is part of our problem today

Cassie Powell 4 years, 1 month ago

Over 4 yearsago, I was homeless with a 2 month old daughter.

Even in these rough times, there is no excuse to be homeless in Lawrence, Kansas. Unless of course you choose to be.

Is it easy? Hell no. You have to want better. I pestered people at the workforce center to no end, to get me a job. I cared less doing what, so long as it could get my daughter into a home!

As for not showering... Why not? theres free showers and the supplies at South Park, and at Holcolm Park... So if its just a shower holding you back from gaining a job, go take one.

No clean clothes? Holcolm Park, and Salvation Army have laundry facilities. No clothes to wash? Social Service League will give you a bag of clothes a day, and Penn House will give you 2 bags a day... SRS has funds for job searchers to obtain up to 50.00 on new clothes. Theres also My Sisters Closet at Penn House that has clothing for after you get the job.

Housing Authority, Pelathe, Family Promise, and one other agency can help you obtain temporary, emergancy and permenant housing. If all else fails, you can get bus passes from several places in town, and camp for free at douglas county lake, and if you agree to help clean up, clinton lake will give you 14 days at a time. if you are fortunate enough to have a vehicle, theres 3 other camping spots connected to clinton lake that you can go to. Some say what about food? Well LINK and Jubilee serve food. Salvation Army still serves food, and Just Food, Ballard Center, Penn House, Leo Center, First Baptist, Trinity Espiscopal all have food banks...

As for the people with mental health issues, and vets, there is Bert Nash, Eckan and the VA that can provide help, any time they are willing to go get it.

I NEVER once panhandled, or used my daughter as an excuse to ask for money. There is no reason to panhandle.

Be human and help yes, but dont just give out money for cigarettes, booze, drugs etc. go buy some groceries, or diapers... remove the bar code, or use a red marker so they cant turn it in for money. Stop enabling them to stay homeless, enable them to help themselves into a better life style.

Kendall Simmons 4 years, 1 month ago

Excuse me??

You, yourself, were homeless 4 years ago, and yet you're proclaiming, " there is no excuse to be homeless in Lawrence, Kansas".

Hel-lo. What part of "I was homeless myself" have you forgotten????

And did you choose to be homeless??? Because that's exactly what you said. "...there is no excuse to be homeless in Lawrence, Kansas. Unless of course you choose to be."

If we follow your "logic" it would go like this:

1) There's no excuse for being homeless unless you choose to be homeless.
2) You were homeless.
3) Therefore you must have chosen to be homeless.

What silliness!

I'm glad you and your child are no longer homeless.

But did it never once cross your mind that any housing assistance you received back then was because YOU HAD AN INFANT??? Which would qualify you...even today... for much more assistance provided much more quickly than, say, the resources for a single homeless person.

Have you totally forgotten that the economy was far better 4 years ago and there were far fewer homeless people. (It's amazing what a stock market and housing crash can do.)

Are you truly unaware that even local resources have changed...often drastically...in those 4+ years? (I mean, telling people they can get help from a place that no longer even exists seems pretty pointless, wouldn't you agree?)

Like it or not, one doesn't need an "excuse" to be homeless in Lawrence. Sometimes it just happens. You, of all people, should know.

budwhysir 4 years, 1 month ago

I would have to say that in todays society, help has become a 4 letter word. Many people in in the new world have confused the word help with enable. You can help someone get back on their feet, or you can enable them to remain helpless. I would have to agree with every viewpoint listed by wolflover1969. We can HELP our fellow citizens without enabling them to become dependent on a society that will provide for nothing. Providing nothing is exactly what we do when we give without expecting something in return. Expecting something in return in no way means you expect a payback or a large pat on the back for helping someone out. It means providing assistance that is meaningful.

Giving a hand up instead of a handout will allow our society to get rid of the daily thought process of GIVING things away. Instead of providing money for food, finish the process and provide food. Instead of giving 50 cents for a drink, provide a bottle of water. Instead of providing a name of someone who can provide assistance, provide a bus ticket or a ride, and call ahead to make an appointment. In many aspects, its not about giving help, its about the type of help we give that can fix a problem or make it worse.

Kendall Simmons 4 years, 1 month ago

The important thing to remember, though, is to give people help they need and can use.

I mean, it's really easy to suggest...as wolflover1969 did...that, instead of giving a homeless person money, we should "go buy some groceries" for them. But just where the heck do you think this homeless person is supposed to store those groceries????

Ah...didn't think about that at all, did you.

llama726 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a very good point. Also a valid point - who has time, usually, to go run an additional errand when they're out running errands? Most people aren't going to stop and talk to a random stranger, especially given the opinions I quoted above, to take them to a grocery store or go buy a bus ticket for them. Most people aren't willing to get that involved. The attitude is the bigger problem here, I think.

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