Monday, March 23, 2009

Marcos Breton is a Fool and an Ignoramous


Photo kiped from the Loaves & Fishes webspace.

For the second week in a row, Marcos Breton has demonstrated his profound ignorance of the homeless situation in Sacramento. It must be that Breton never leaves the office. this week's column is entitled "Too much hypocrisy on homeless," and concludes with this sentiment, "Sacramento is compassionate toward the homeless – maybe too compassionate."

In the middle of his article he spends a lot of time talking about nearby cities and communities who, he says, wouldn't stand to have homeless people in their midst. He cites the communities of the Fabulous 40s, Curtis Park, Land Park, the McKinley Park area, East Sacramento and the Pocket. And the 'burbs, near and far, El Dorado Hills, Granite Bay, Carmichael, Fair Oaks, Rocklin and Roseville. [btw, Breton DOESN'T get so far-afield to mention Fairfield, where, it was reported, yesterday, in the The Vacaville Reporter, the go-ahead has been given to build a $7.7 million, 23,985 square-feet homeless shelter-and-support center on a 3-acre site.]

A scant fifty years ago, Breton might have easily been able to cite many communities within and cities near Sacramento who wouldn't have standed to have "negros" living near them. Fortunately, we've come a long, long way toward overcoming THAT prejudice. In India, fifty years ago, there was a common prejudice again so-called Untouchables. Happily, India has significantly overcome THAT prejudice.

So, how were India's Untouchables treated? Here's what it says in The Laws of Manu, as published in the 1997 edition of The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions:

"Their dwelling place shall be outside of the village, and their wealth shall consist of dogs and donkeys. Their clothes shall be garments of corpses, their food eaten from broken dishes. Their ornaments shall be of black iron, and they are condemned to wandering from place to place."

Well, we don't own any donkeys that I know of, but we homeless do have dogs; we do eat from dishes others wouldn't have; we CERTAINLY wear garments formerly owned by people now deceased and there's a lot of wandering from place to place, that's for sure. So far, we haven't been kicked out of every village that Breton can name, but that may come.

One more thing, near the end, Breton passed on this foolishness:

We also need an acknowledgment that some people can't or won't take help. For example, Kraintz [a long-time homeless fellow] predicted that some people in the current homeless camp would not go to a shelter at Cal Expo – Sacramento's temporary solution to illegal camping.

"It's about freedom, man," he said.

What Breton doesn't understand is that staying at the shelter at Cal Expo [aka, Winter Shelter and Overflow] means a person must arrive at the Delany Center, in the Loaves & Fishes facility, at ~3:30pm every day for transport to Cal Expo.

You are held at the shelter where you must stay in the dorm area [or smoke at an enclosed area outside or go to the bathroom in an area outside]. Two usually-very-violent movies are shown, but they are frequently interupted by chatter, or dinner, or the shelter staffs' caprice.

A breakfast of cereal is served before the sheltered are bussed back to the Delany Center at 5:30AM. At 5:30, in the cold and dark, there's nothing for most of us to do but wait for Loaves & Fishes's Friendship Park to open (on weekdays; it's not open on weekends), at 7:02AM, or for weekend lunch tickets which are given out beginning at 8:00AM.

Thus, you see, 15 1/2 hours {!!!!!} of each and every day is consumed by staying at the shelter, not including the time getting to the Delany Center each afternoon. That's A LOT of time for sleep, gruel, and a dinner (which is famously stinting). [And then there is this chestnut: The shelter does not provide showers.] [And a second chestnut: On the men's side, though the tables for eating are empty except during meals, management will not allow men to sit at them outside mealtime. A man cannot sit down to write or read or study. Make do with your bunkbed or one of the few benchs, if available, or "that's tough." Also, though not strictly enforced, the rule from time to time is that men may bring only toiletries to the shelter, in a clear bag.]

But the worst thing about it is that the time-devouring shelter MAKES IT NEAR IMPOSSIBLE TO MAKE ANY MOVE TO BETTER ONESELF. People using the Overflow shelter cannot take or keep employment [because of the tight time constraints].

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3 Comments:

Blogger Nagarjuna said...

Tom--
Have you written to Breton, or is he otherwise aware of how your articulate insider's take on homelessness differs from his outsider's perception?

I was really struck by your description of how inefficient procedures to help homeless people make it all-but impossible for those who wish to improve their circumstances to do so.

I saw Mayor Johnson on CNN today talking about the imminent closing down of the so-called "tent city" that has received such widespread exposure in the media lately, and I thought how great it would be if there were some way that you could share your insights and recommendations with him or with others in positions to make a difference. You could be a great spokesperson for the homeless, and, in so doing, perhaps find a way out of homelessness yourself.

March 25, 2009 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Nagarjuna said...

However, as a follow-up comment to my previous one, I don't think calling someone unflattering names is likely to make them receptive to your message. :-)

March 25, 2009 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

[I should mention that Nagarjuna and I live in the same city and that after his comments, I responded to him via email.]

Nagarjuna,

It is true that the title of this blogpost is unflattering (duh!) and unkind. But more so is the content, and that was, well, rather unavoidable. Afterall, I was intent on making the connection between his view of Sac'to homelessness AND racism and caste hatred.

Breton's column is *seemingly* friendly, but what he really says, if you scrape aside the icing, is noxious.

His POV becomes a "race to the bottom," with all communities pushing homeless people away from them. Leaving homeless people where, exactly? Nowhere?

April 1, 2009 at 4:45 PM  

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