Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Great article in the Sacramento News & Review about the $100,000 Homeless Man


There is an important story about homelessness in this week’s [2/16/17] Sacramento News & Review that is centrally about the tormented life of Russell Bartholow, titled “The $100,000 Homeless Man.”

Beyond telling Bartholow’s story, the cover article rightly relates elements of the mountain of problems Bartholow shouldered, to dysfunction in the way the police operate, the stunning befuddlement of the courts and awful decision-making at City Hall

These problems continue, unabated, for struggling homeless people of today.

Bartholow died, surrounded by loved ones, in October from self-administered pain medication that a doctor proscribed. Only then was he freed from a cancer that engorged his body and piles of police citations that exceeded $100,000 in fines

The story of their experience for a majority of today’s struggling homeless Sacramentans, is not as extreme as what Russell Bartholow had to forbear, but it has the same features in making people targets of near-sadistic police and unconscionable laws. The mindless formula of bad police enforcing bad law undermines homeless people’s best efforts to put themselves in control, walking a pathway they foresee that can lead them to a good, wholesome, satisfying life of their own making.

Congratulations go to the reporters who penned the piece, "contributors" John Flynn and Matt Kramer -- two fellas whose names I hadn't seen before in SNR. You rock, John and Matt! From the first page of Flynn & Kramer's "The $100,000 Homeless Man":
Bartholow didn't start out homeless. But, like thousands of others in Sacramento County, once he found himself on the streets, he entered an alternate reality where the government couldn't hear him; where those supposed to help, instead focused on erasing his existence; and where the only permanent home the county offered him was in jail.
Russell Bartholow's sad, trouble story is both painful -- because he seems, certainly, to have been a splendid fellow. And poignant -- because his death seems senseless. But it is a Must Read for people in our county who want a more-just and happy experience for the thousands of homeless folk who are struggling from one day to the next during our long and stormy winter. Pick up a copy of the current SN&R.

While the City council members and county supes have made some positive headway at addressing "the problem" of uplifting homeless people's lives, they fail to tackle the central, immediate issues, which include these: (1) Allowing homeless people to sleep where they can in the absence of there being sufficient shelter space or sufficient land set aside for people to set up tents. (2) The police need to be disallowed to confiscate homeless people's property that they need for warmth and shelter. (3) Homeless people must no longer receive tickets and citations for merely being alive and to suffer harassment from hateful police officers.

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Addendum: A reader of this blog and a friend, Steve, alerted me to an ongoing project by the British newspaper, The Guardian, looking at homelessness in the United States, called "Outside in America." The project is funded by the Bill Gates Foundation. This is a series that interests me and that I am likely to write about in the near future. Having highly responsible outsiders review what America is doing re homeless people vis-a-vis what England is doing can be instructive.

One recent article from this "project" explores how homeless folk are counted biennially in the U.S. and why the count always seems to miss many people. Title of the piece is, appropriately, "How America counts its homeless -- and why so many are overlooked."

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