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Three Ways of Wasting Money in Homeless World

Police and security-service guards gather in the parking lot
 of a motel on Jibboom Street on the night of 10/31/16 to get
 (mostly) men who were staying in the motel and turned up
on a warrant check or found in violation of their probation.
Also, it being Halloween, he police check to be sure that some
men who are on probation for child molestation are
spending the whole of the night in their room, and not on the
street where they might encounter Trick-or-Treaters.
1. Using SSI money for fun, fun and only fun.

More and more guys (and gals, too, of course) have succeeded in getting SSI money [aka, disability checks] that they use to have fun.

When I was first homeless in 2008, you would see that those gathered at 6:45am in the cul-de-sac on North C Street, next to 12th, waiting for the gate to open at Loaves & Fishes' Friendship Park, would drop off by a third on the first handful of weekdays of every month. Why? Because guys who were assessed to have a disability would have gotten their so-called "Happy Checks" which they'd use to get motel rooms for booze, broads, drugs and joy.

There is also a subset among these guys who are heavily into gambling and are not-so-much thrilled by sex, drugs and partying. Indeed, there is one notorious gambler -- initials A.S. -- who used homeless services for decades for as much food and lodging as he possibly could because spending money he got from disability offended him.

After about ten days, the disability money runs out, and the guys re-join Homeless World proper and take advantage of the free shelter that is available and all of Loaves & Fishes' services. Thus, they have a dual life: One of FUN and one of partaking in the so-called survival services that so very, very many Sacramentans support with their wealth or their hard-earned dollars.

Nowadays, guys don't get "checks," of course, they just see deposits to their bank account. But, otherwise matters are very much as they were eight years ago. Disability money, meant to help people get the basics of life, are used to enable guys with questionable "disabilities" to party hardy. Shelter and food that homeless-services charities provide, that should go first to the poorest of the poor, are used by the party crowd.

At Union Gospel Mission, they have discontinued a lottery system to fairly assign available dorm beds, and have gone back to a first-come, first-served system that rewards speedy guys with sharp elbows getting what beds there are. This helps the "party guys" to have the advantage in getting whatever they want at the expense of the poorest people.

When winter coats and tarps and sleeping bags are distributed to homeless people, often guys from the party-hardy crowd wade in to grab the loot to give or sell to relatives.

There is something seriously wrong and wholly unjust with all of this, but it doesn't get addressed, and -- frankly -- there is no easy way to address it. Ours is a freedom-loving country and the party-hardy guys see themselves as just seeking to live as happy a life as they can. If it is at at the serious expense of others who are more deserving, it doesn't bother the Party Hardies.

2. Eleven dollars a flush.

A toilet on a trailer that was rented by the city council has been calculated to cost eleven dollars per toilet flush. The implication is that the city council, as often happens, is not seeking thrift and sensibility. Rather, it hopes only to quickly quiet the concerns of impatient citizens.

The potty -- known in some quarters as the Steve Hansen Memorial Shitter --  is a boondoggle. Nonetheless, I'm told the council is considering getting additional toilets for other areas of the city since the Shitter doesn't get moved around. It just sits near Ahern and No. C Street. most all of the time.

UPDATE 11/8/16: The city council, according to the Bee, has abandoned all interest in having more bathrooms on trailers and will be getting rid of the one it has.

The calculation of eleven-dollars a flush comes from the cost of the toilet's use: $1,000/(calculation period) divided by the some 90 uses it gets for each period of time in the calculations.

3. Libby's Wall of Shame
"When a community is always building and enlarging and embellishing ... there is nothing left over for the poor. We have no right to do so as long as there are slums and breadlines anywhere."
                       Dorothy Day from her book Loaves and Fishes, page 87

To my mind, Libby Fernandez, the Director of Loaves & Fishes, is spending a fortune -- two million dollars -- just to replace a perfectly good Friendship Park with an only marginally better New Friendship Park fifty feet to the north. But, hey, money grows on trees at the Loaf & Fish. Either that or L&F donors are complete idiots.

"The Loaves & Fishes donors are total Nincompoops" theory is gaining greater traction now that Libster presumes to call on them to pay $200,000 for a new "wall" to list the names of deceased homeless people as a centerpiece in the New Friendship Park.

To my mind, the Loaf & Fish should spend money on LIVING homeless people and not in memorializing deceased homeless folk. Deceased homeless people have family members and friends to remember them. Besides, most homeless people would not think that the period in their lives when they were homeless was the center and focus of their existence.

The Loaf & Fish should use what has happened at the New Richard Nixon Library and Museum as an example of the type of thing they could do to spend far, far less money, and use current technology to honor homeless people. Now, me, I am not in favor of doing any "honor" thing for homeless folk. Why? Because homeless people are not a troop of heroes.

We hold in high honor Americans who die in combat and police officers who die in service of protecting people in their community.

I love homeless people as much as anybody -- indeed, as much as any twenty-seven people you could name -- but I also recognize that they are only infrequently doing amazing brave deeds. Gremlin is an example of one homeless person who displayed great bravery. Gremlin leaped in to save the life of a friend. The friend lived while brave Gremlin died from stab wounds. This all happened something like seven years ago.

At this moment, Libby is raising money from donors to buy boxes of tissues, and to pay for Thanksgiving Dinner and to collect money in December to get the charity through early 2017. Of course, Christmas will soon be coming, and with that comes a big lunch and McDonald's cards that will be donated but never distributed.

Help the LIVING, Libby. The dead homeless people are all in heaven. Don't worry about them. They now have mansions or apartments in the Ginormous Cube and are talking to Jesus. Leave them alone. You never knew more than a dozen of them, anyway. So, stop it with all the bathos in your mailings and emails! Treat the stinky rich and other easily-manipulated donors you know LIKE ADULTS, instead of silly children you can do with as you please, using your devious wiles to get your hands in their purses.

Sheesh, Libby. Grow a heart! Get a life!

And if you must have some kind of memorial to dead homeless people, have one of your assistants learn how to use the Internet and set up a website that honors deceased homeless people. It will cost the tiniest fraction of the 200 Big Ones you propose to waste. And do not "honor" or "use" deceased homeless people without the direct permission of them or their family. Again, many or  most people who were homeless when they died, do not see being homeless as the key depiction of what their life was about. You should not be "using" homeless people as a means to promote yourself as being an especially compassionate person.

And, by the way, if I die before you do: Do NOT have my name anywhere on your damn wall.


Rick Eaton said…
Tom. This caught me off guard and is causing me to revisit "homeless world". Exactly what a good argument should do. Thank you for this post

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