Power Stuggle

Posted: April 11, 2007 in Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Police Harrassment

We live in a hi-tech world. There are computers, wireless phones, portable CD players, MP-3 players, etcetera.

Homeless people are no exceptions. In fact, most of the homeless people I know have at least one piece of hi-tech equipment. I myself, have a couple of gadgets – a cell phone and a newly acquired laptop.

For someone who is homeless there are a couple of problems with having these gadgets. One is the worry that someone is going to steal them – things like that happen to both homeless and non-homeless alike. The second problem, especially for the homeless, is the need to find a place to plug in and re-charge.  

There aren’t many public places that will allow a homeless person to just waltz in and use one of their electrical outlets. And, if you try plugging in at certain public places, such as parks, the police, if they see you, will be quick to hassle you about it.

One homeless person I know was plugged in at a public park and was told by the police that he wasn’t "going to give him a ticket… that time," but that he’d better not do it again or next time he’d get a ticket for "stealing" electricity.

Most homeless, try getting electricity from the shelter or the day center, but there are a limited number of outlets available for the homeless to use there. That can create a potential problem with folks getting a bit irritated, especially with each trying to get access to an outlet. And when something like that happens, the possibility is that the staff at either place might have to resolve the situation by creating a blanket policy the will either limit or completely stop the use of the outlets.

So far, there hasn’t been a complete prohibition against the use of electrical outlets at either the Prado Day Center or the night shelter, but I’m sure that once someone creates a problem, a new policy will be put in place. It’s that "knee-jerk" reaction to rising situations that help create policy at places like that.

Fortunately, there is the SLO Public Library. They have a number of outlets throughout the building in public areas where you can charge your phone, or plug in your laptop. That’s a good thing. But, the library is only open at certain days and times. That can be a bad thing, depending on when you need the electricity.

I hope that someone doesn’t create a problem there, because it would be a shame if they had to prohibit the use of electricity there.

Also, there are a couple of other places around where a homeless person can get some electricity, but they’re few and far between. And, like the library, they aren’t always accessible when you need them. Still, it could be worse. There could be no place in town where a homeless person had access to electricity.

And that to me would be a terrible crime. It would mean that the homeless would have to be pushed further into the dark ages than they already are…

By the way – to any police officer who might read this – if you happen to see me in some public place and my laptop and cell phone are plugged in, please give me a break. These are the tools that I’m trying to use so that I can one day raise my standard of living.

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