Monday, September 14, 2009

Have We Really Come To This?



When I lived in Sacramento I used to volunteer at Loaves & Fishes, a place where homeless people could get a meal and a chance to clean up. I worked a few Thanksgivings, offering turkey and gravy to those with no job, no car no home, and often no hope.

And yet I never felt such a sense of gratitude from people as I felt those days standing behind a line scooping mashed potatoes onto the plates of people who are often ignored, unseen, and demonized. I realized then, and feel the same way now, that There but for the grace of god, go I.

It could happen to any of us. Lose a job and fall behind in payments. Foreclosures. Eviction. Repossession. Despair. Homelessness. Sure, it wouldn't happen in the blink of an eye, maybe, but it could happen. And how would I feel if I were one of the faceless, one of the shunned; one of those people that you cross the street to avoid. The eyes you dare not look into because you know they're going to ask for money and you won't give it.

i don't know how that feels, any more than i know how I would survive being on the streets without a Loaves a& Fishes, without a hand. Without a place to sleep. In Sacramento, a homelessness advocate-lawyer began allowing the use of his own property for homeless people to camp on; a refuge of sorts, where they can sleep safely. Or so he thought.

However, it seems that in Sacramento it's illegal to camp for more than 24 hours on public or private property. So, what do the police do? Come along and shoo these homeless, faceless, nameless human beings off, right?

No. The police arrest them, and confiscate their tents and bags and belongings, refusing to return them because these bags and backpacks and tents and boxes are evidence. Evidence of what? A time when there was a home and job? Evidence of a life once lived? Or evidence of man's inhumanity to man?

The City of Sacramento, which, up until a few months ago, had a tent city where homeless people could stay at night, where they could feel safe, and maybe close their eyes and get some sleep without fear of interference or arrest, now prefers removal over compassion; arrest over assistance. The City of Sacramento would prefer to arrest you and take away the last precious things you own.

Shuffle along. Go somewhere else.

Have we come to this? Really? Have we become so desensitized to the plight of other people that we look the other way rather than offer a hand? We turn the other cheek because the view is less grim.

I've never been homeless; I've never even been close. But I know, from seeing the faces of the homeless, and hearing their stories, I know it really isn't as far off as we might like to believe.

There but for the grace of god....................................

8 comments:

Beth said...

I had heard they were going to start tearing down the tent cities...but where do they propose that these people go? It was bad enough to see these tent cities springing up like something out of The Grapes of Wrath, and it made me angry that this is happening to people. It makes me even angrier that they are being treated like second-class citizens. Shameful.

truthspew said...

We had a few encampments under highway bridges, etc. here in Providence. Really left them alone until the newspaper got hold of the story. Then the city and state moved to get them out of there.

It's a recurring story here in RI and getting worse by the day.

Wonder Man said...

It is sad to see

Lou said...

Illegal to camp on private property for more than 24 hours - that's crazy. So sad for those just looking for somewhere to sleep without being hasssled.

Sam said...

I've often heard that more people than you think are a paycheck away from being homeless.

Joy said...

It's bad enough to begin with that they are homeless but to arrest them and take their few belongings is horrible. This is a deplorable situation.

lelocolon said...

I have never been homeless, close enough, yet knock on wood has never happen to me and I can not imagine the despair. However I used to be a homeless advocate in NYC and the stories that they will tell were worst than a horror flick. In one of the tents cities a couple of them told me that back in the eighties that their were a gang of yuppies setting fire to their cardboard homes. That they used to give each other high fives, whenever they caught a homeless inside and burned them. The homeless get stabbed and rapped and because they are homeless they do not get police protection, and the police do not investigate abuse against homeless. I the worst part is that it is going to get worst.

Tom Armstrong said...

When Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat in 1955 it WAS FOR REAL, it wasn't staged. Ms. Parks was noble and courageous; it wasn't a manipulated event with the bus leased from her lawyer.

It is very true that homeless people have no place 'to just be' at night, but the shenanigans relating to the C Street "encampment" have to do with "manufacturing" an event.