This morning I’m not in a good mood. In fact, I’m downright irritated. Here’s why:
Late yesterday I was a bit thirsty so I stopped at one of the local supermarkets and bought a bottle of water. Sitting at one of the outdoor tables there I opened up the New Times and began reading the various articles. I came across the article: "Life Along The Creek." It told about the various homeless camps that are situated there. No big thing. In this city the majority of homeless are forced to sleep out of doors.
Just a little more than half way through the article it quoted a LaShea Nelson who works for the SLO Economic Opportunity Commission as an "intake specialist for homeless services." She said:
"SLO honestly is a great place to be homeless because we have a lot of resources and people that help. It’s like a hidden garden for the homeless."
First of all, there is NO place that is a "great" place to be homeless. True, there may be some places that are less inhospitable to the homeless than others – but great? Give me a massive break. As for having a lot of resources… yeah, right!
A couple of sentences later Ms. Nelson states:
"A lot of them don’t like to stay in homeless shelters because they feel slightly confined and are being monitored."
It’s quite obvious that Ms. Nelson has never read the Homeless Enumeration Report of Spring 2006 – which by the way is hosted on the SLO EOC’s own website – and states, as plain as day, just how many homeless there are in San Luis Obispo County.
To say that "a lot of them don’t like to stay in homeless shelters…" is absolute, unadulterated nonsense.
In the city of San Luis Obispo, the Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter has 49 beds, and additionally between 20 and 35 beds at the "overflow" facility. The reason the overflow number of beds fluctuates is because "overflow" is space donated by local area churches. One church per month allows women and children to stay on church grounds, where their beds are military style folding cots. Since different churches have varying amounts of available space, the number of homeless women and children who might get a bed at "overflow" changes from month to month.
At most, ONLY 84 homeless persons will have the possibility of finding a bed. Yet, there are 300+ homeless within the city of SLO.
You do the math.
The majority of homeless don’t stay at the shelter – not because they don’t want to – but because there simply aren’t enough beds to go around.
The Prado Day Center – erroneously referred to as "a SLO homeless hostel" – isn’t any better. For nearly a month, the showers in the men’s bathroom have been out of commission. From those homeless men I’ve spoken to, the rumor is that the showers will be back in service around 1:00 PM this afternoon. The day center, however, will be closing down at 2:00 PM for an "in-house staff meeting." I guess they’ll have to wait one more day for showers.
So much for having "a lot of resources."
If Ms. Nelson or anyone else who is working for the homeless service agencies truly believes that anywhere is a "great" place to be homeless – a "hidden garden for the homeless" – let them put away their money, their credit cards, their vehicles, their wardrobe, and all of the other amenities that are a part of having someplace to live. Then let them try being homeless in this city for a month.
After that they can come to me and brag about how SLO – or anywhere else for that matter – is a "great" place to be homeless!
Perhaps, if Ms. Nelson and her colleagues stopped spreading and believing their own self-serving propaganda, they’d be able to see just how much their not doing. And perhaps then they’d have to time to do it.
Action, and not talking, is what it’s going to take to make a difference.