Thursday, January 14, 2016

It is necessary for camping to be legalized

I would certainly want homeless people to have a better life experience than they now have, chasing after food and shelter in the cold, rainy miserable weather of winter in the early months of 2016.

It is a curious thing that city council members and county supervisors – none of whom have a significant sense of what their homeless fellow citizens are going through – have the role of determining what relief they can provide to homeless folk.

I am sure the council members and supes would want to be well informed; they would want to do precisely the right thing that wisely weighs the costs and the benefits; that propels people upward to a happier time while they remain in the grip of homelessness or toward the possibility of escaping homelessness altogether for a substantive life – a life more ordinary, healthy and happy, where the rain and cold is something “outside,” and not something sapping your body heat as you lie in a thin sleeping bag on the hard cement.

If you add together the fortune that the city and county spend each year with the fortune that donors give to homeless-services charities in our city and county it certainly seems like a huge sum of money is provided to help homeless people (and clean up after them). If you then add in the disability checks many homeless people receive and Federal Funds from grants and SNAP [i.e., Food Stamps] and General Assistance – it is all millions upon millions of dollars. And yet, the life that most homeless people experience is one of walking great distances each day, being in lines and waiting a lot, and being able to achieve very little despite a determined effort.

It is a dirty life that usually feels like everything – beginning with your dignity -- slips away.

I don’t think the council members and supes realize how inefficient the charities are. They don’t work together in any way such that use of shelter beds is maximized and the greatest possible number of people can sleep indoors on the coldest, wettest nights.

For example, if a fellow fails to get a bed at Union Gospel Mission, he has no other shelter option because it would already be far too late to get a bed anywhere else. He must either sleep outside or stay in the mission’s Warming Center, if it’s open. And if he stays in the Warming Center, what rest he can get comes from laying his head on a table. [All other Warming Centers in Sacramento -- absurdly, insanely -- disallow sleeping altogether.]

Because the shelters don’t cooperate with each other, even if the county had as many shelter beds as there are homeless people, there would not be enough to get everybody in a bed. Thus, granting homeless people the option to put up a tent is necessary.


Blogger David Scott said...

The city could probably provide all the homeless people with tents for a pretty light burden on the taxpayers.

January 14, 2016 at 5:59 PM  
Blogger Thomas Armstrong said...

Yes. I think the city should find inexpensive things they can do. The Big projects -- like Cal Expo Winter Shelter -- are enormously expensive, often in part due to efforts to hide the homeless from the general public -- and they take of 15 hours of people's time just to get eight hours of sleep. Big projects are often downright insane, unsupervised and unaudited.

January 15, 2016 at 1:31 PM  

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