Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sacramento Homeless Count 2015, Part II

This is the second part of a three-part post. Part I is here. Part III is acomin'.

The Homeless Count that Sacramento Steps Forward conducts is, perhaps, the best it can be. My objection, though – and it’s not a very serious objection – is that the public gets too simplified a sense of who homeless people are.

The homeless population is a vastly varying assortment of stark individuals. You can’t get a definitive count because you would first have to define what constitutes being homeless and, as with many categorizations, with any definition, there are instances that are borderline. It is too simple to say that Sacramento Homeless people are either in a shelter or subsidized motel room OR out in the open, somewhere, rough sleeping or living in a tent or in a car.

These are rough descriptions of people I’ve known, many of whom are blinky* as to being properly depicted as “homeless”:

Fellow #1: He’s used the full array of homeless services for decades because he prefers to use his money  gambling at casinos. He has a medical condition, but it responds to drugs, and pockets (my guess) $2,750/mo., minimum from disability and early retirement.  One charity  he is not now utilizing is Union Gospel Mission because he has owed a kindhearted fellow who works there ~$350 for over four years and refuses to pay him back. [Paying his debts is against his religion.] Owns a large house that he and his siblings inherited after his parents died. The house is 70 miles from Sacramento. He stays there on rare occasions. His story: Sponges off homeless charities for shelter and food so that he can play with every cent of the money the government gives him to live on..

Fellow #2: Gets his disability check before the first of the month. Uses the money, quickly, paying for a motel room, a woman, booze, drugs, cartons of cigarettes and whatever else to make himself happy in the short term. [There are scores of guys like Fellow #2. The count of guys seeking early entrance to Loaves & Fishes drops by half during the first four days of every month due to these partyers.]  After the money’s gone, the partyers behave like penniless homeless guys until the next month comes around. [Most of these guys have no interest in the Housing First program; they just want to continue doing what they have been doing.]

Fellow #3: A psychopath (one of many). Manipulates people in order to borrow money from them (that he never pays back) or steals from them.  Sometimes moves in with a woman or makes friends and moves in to sleep on their couch. Always leaves people he meets much worse off for having met him. Tells outrageous stories about his past that are fantastical and don’t hold up to scrutiny.  But, is an avid reader and brilliant in conversation on the many interesting topics he's schooled himself on. Sometimes, when between acts of taking advantage of people, he goes back to the mission and is animated about how much he hates it there.

Fellow #4: Absolutely will not stay in any shelter. Must be outside at night such to be free to do whatever he wants all the time. Is totally work-averse. [Often guys like this simply can’t understand instructions OR their mind wanders. I’ve seen guys of this type who are given clean-up assignments after dinner at the mission who try to do the task they’re assigned but are inept or disgruntled with having someone oversee what they're doing.] [When famed homeless guy John Kraintz was first introduced to the public, he said he could not stay at shelters. Kraintz is neither inept nor work-averse. He just must have his freedom.]

Fellow #5: Worked part-time putting up drywall. Slept at the mission. Had relatives in Sacramento he could stay with from time to time. Indeed, he was such a great, good guy, he was most often at a relative's house, using a spare bed there. He was separated from his wife, but they were on good terms -- reconciled, even -- and planning to reboot their marriage. Indeed, incrementally, he and his wife pulled their household back together. Last time I saw him, he was with his wife and had a happy smile.

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         Blinky is an Oklahoma word that is usually used to indicate that milk or other dairy products are on the cusp between OK to drink/eat and sour. Blinky homeless guys are fellows who seem to move in and out of homeless world. Most often, these blinky guys use their money for fun and then use homeless services for shelter and sustenance. There is means testing by the government before ostensively-homeless people get aid and some charities will check to root out freeloaders, but most charities will give aid to all-comers which often results in those most in need getting little or nothing.

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