Homeless 102: The People Of SLO

Posted: March 9, 2007 in Acceptance, Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness

I’m passionate and vocal when it comes to my opinions. Despite that however, I’ve always tried to maintain some semblance of civility and keep an open mind. I don’t always succeed.

For example: this morning I woke up somewhat dour and with an "I don’t give a puff of cosmic gas" attitude. I don’t really know why. To tell the truth, I’m simply not in the mood to worry about being politically correct today, so I’m a bit concerned that anything I write will come out sounding a bit venomous.  

But here goes…

The city of San Luis Obispo’s economy is driven primarily by tourism, with Cal Poly University coming in a tight second. The local population can be broken down in to five principle categories:

  • those who have
  • those trying to have
  • those who have not
  • students (and finally)
  • tourists

Homeless individuals fit into the "those who have not" category, which itself has two sub-categories: resident and transient. The majority of SLO’s population fit into the "those trying to have" group.

Based on my own personal observations, the large majority of SLO’s population is pretty much indifferent to the homeless, while the "haves" are the ones who are trying to criminalize homelessness through ordinances and legislation. These ordinances are supposedly enacted to create a safer environment for all of the SLO’s citizens. Some in the city council believe that these ordinances will curtail the influx of more homeless individuals through our city. But, as of yet, the homeless keep coming in. In fact, there are more homeless people here now than there were this time last year.

There is a smaller segment of SLO’s population who see homelessness as a serious issue that must be addressed. These are the people who invariably respond to homelessness with acts of aid and compassion. They know that something must be done. In fact, they want something to be done – but they want it done in a manner that is both compassionate and fair to all. They know that passing laws that restrict the movement of the homeless is not the answer, but they are at a loss as to what it will take to create viable solutions.

All that having been said let me say this: among the citizens of this city with whom I’ve had the opportunity to speak with, I have found them to be open and friendly. Once they take the time to see past the initial "homeless" appearance, they become curious why I’m homeless. They ask questions and take interest in my answers. When I give them statistics regarding homelessness in America most of them are shocked. When they realize how little our Federal, State and Local governments are actually doing to effectively reduce the numbers of homeless in our country they find it immoral and irresponsible. And finally, when they finally go their way, I can sense that they’re walking away with a better understanding of why homeless happens.

When it comes down to it, people in my town are, well…just people. Pretty good people when it comes down to it.

I don’t know what the overall solution to homeless is, especially in my community. I don’t believe that there is some great panacea, some great cure all for homelessness. I do know however, that it must begin with my fellow citizens becoming more aware and educated regarding why homelessness occurs. Only then can we work together – homeless and non-homeless – to try and find a solution that will let all of us feel like we are indeed "We The People."

Geez! You know what? I’m feeling better already.

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