Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I introduced you to my homeless brother yesterday. His problems were self-caused. For him to regain a respectable place in society requires that he have access to a toilet, a shower and an address.  He can sleep under the shelter of a freeway without too much hassle from the law.

Hassle from the law is part of what prevents MEN like Norman from getting out of their situation. I emphasize men because homeless women and families with children are treated differently.
When he still had a trailer, he was parked on private property with permission of the owner. The police department of that city, which I will not name, banged on his door one night. A familiar problem. They know who the homeless are. They had arrested him for drunk on more than one occasion.  Without opening the door, he asked what they wanted. They ordered him out of the trailer. He refused and with a copy of the bill of rights on his door he quoted:  “I have a right to be secure in my own house with my papers and effects against  unreasonable searches and seizures. So, tell me what you want?” They demanded twice more that he come out. When he refused they threatened to break the door down, and did.
They towed his trailer. He didn’t have money to get it out of the storage yard.  He had no income.  He did odd jobs, cutting weeds, mostly, on the property where he was parked. He fed himself and his dog from dumpsters.

Money is power, with no power to fight the illegal arrest, his chances of changing his situation diminishes.  District Attorneys  routinely  recommend  “human refuse” to plead guilty and promise them probation. He refuses. He always demands a trial. His latest arrest, for trespassing was dismissed by the courts. Yet, his belongings that he carefully accumulates between arrests, is often trashed and he ends up with only the clothes on his back.  In this case they gave him three days to remove his belongings. There was no citizen complaint against him living in a brushy property owned by Cal Trans.  He had been secure there and invisible for eleven months.

The Sheriff’s Department called Cal Trans officials to register a complaint against him when they discovered him. Then, they went in and cut all the brush so no one else could seek shelter there.
He has had his social security for three years now, an income of $837 a month.  Yet, when they arrest him, even though the case was dismissed, they cut off his medical, his social security and he has to re-apply for all of those benefits he is entitled too, which sometimes takes months. The Social Security office told him you have to go back to the Sheriff and pay for a piece of paper that declares you are no longer in jail. It cost him $25.  It seems like a good safeguard for we the people. But, he is on a bike, he is crippled from his stroke. He is not very clean, normal people shun him. He is accosted by business people if he sits anywhere. His stroke prevents him from standing very long.  When he tried to rent a place in a cheapie trailer park, they took one look at him with a flowing beard,  and turned him away. He is fortunate that he has a friend who will allow him to use an address, where he can pick up his check. Without his friend, he would be unable to collect his social security.

There are many solutions proposed for homeless, getting them jobs, advocates that work to  get them many benefits, but without an address, a contact place, decent clothes, and transportation, he will most likely be stuck in an unrelenting shuffle from one illegal spot to another.  There is no written law that says so, but  it is illegal in this country to be homeless  if you are a man.

A community that remains stable and self-sufficient is Slab City in Southern California. The residents maintain a community without facilities and services and manage quite well with solar and a hot springs. They have successfully governed themselves for many years. In fact, I’ve offered to take my brother to Slab City, but, he worked construction for years and has many skin cancers. The relentless sun there is his enemy and he declined.  Couldn’t  a solution be a fenced area where the homeless can congregate and form their own society?  How much would it cost to level a campground, and put up porta- potties for the homeless. A solar, out-door shower fenced off for privacy. At least, they could rest their heads without being hunted by the police.

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