Shrinking Habitats

Posted: April 30, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Children, Family, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Morality, Police Harrassment

For those of you who are unfamiliar with SLO County, let me tell you about one of our small towns: Morro Bay, California.

A small coastal town, Morro Bay is best known for Morro Rock – which is not really a rock but rather a volcanic plug. With a population of just over 10,000, it is one of the tourist destinations in this county.  

The main tourism road, which runs parallel to the California coastline, has curio shops and restaurants that back right up to the Pacific Ocean. Some of those businesses have "back patios" that cantilever out over the water. And, if you’re standing on one of those patios, you might be fortunate enough to see a Pacific Sea Otter.

This morning, while I was roaming around the blogosphere, I found myself at one of the blogs I visit regularly: Michaelann Land.

Ms. Bewsee, the blogs author, had published a post called, Couldn’t help myself, which had a photograph of a mother sea otter holding her young pup.

The photo brought a large smile to my face. But, it also brought with it, a small touch of sadness to my heart. Sea otters are on the endangered species list. These fascinating – and intelligent – creatures have adopted the use of "tools." That they are an endangered species is the fault of human beings.

As often happens with me, one thought leads to a chain of thoughts. Seeing the photographs of the mother sea otter and her pup started two chains of thoughts that ran side by side.

The first thought was, that like this mother sea otter and her pup who would have to struggle to survive, there were many single moms I have met who are struggling to provide for their children. Some of those moms are homeless.

It’s hard enough for a single mother to try raising her children by herself, but having to deal with homelessness on top of that takes nothing less than a colossal act of courage.

Many women with children have found themselves homeless because they’ve fled relationships that were filled with domestic violence.

So many women with children remain in abusive relationships because they have no place to go. So, it is beyond my ability to imagine the desperation and fear that any mother must be experiencing when they view homelessness as a preferable choice than the situation they have "at home." And, once these mothers and their children become homeless, it is extremely difficult for them to escape homelessness.

To be sure, there are battered women’s shelters and the "welfare" system, yet it can take quite a while before a mother can get herself and her children off of the streets. That’s just the ugly reality of the situation.

The second thought that occurred to me when I saw the photo of the sea otter and her pup was that the destruction of their habitat is a big part of their being an endangered species.

The homeless, due to a shortage of available shelter beds, are forced to survive in an urban wilderness; it has become their habitat. Yet, that habitat is constantly being taken away from them as they a chased out of one location after another by local law enforcement.

Generally, when legislation and ordinances are adopted by local municipalities regarding the homeless, they are reactive rather than proactive. These ordinances usually prohibit such activities as "urban camping" and loitering, and are most often times prompted by complaints from business owners and private citizens. No one wants the homeless in their area.

Those homeless who are unlucky enough to get caught in violation of these ordinances are subject to being ticketed and, in some instances, jailed.

Common sense tells me that if a city doesn’t want the homeless sleeping in doorways, behind buildings and alleyways, and if there is a lack of available shelter beds that legislation should be enacted that provides adequate funding to increase homeless support services. It makes absolutely no sense to penalize a homeless person for sleeping out of doors when there is no availability of beds at the local shelter.

It seems to me that it’s time that we pause long enough to take a good look at homelessness. We need to think long and hard about the best method for helping the homeless and not hindering them.

If we expect the homeless to do something to help themselves, then it is our moral obligation to do what is necessary to ensure that they can succeed at getting off of the streets.

Legislation that penalizes persons for being "houseless" has never succeeded at reducing the numbers of homeless. It is an approach that is doomed to fail because it does not offer alternate options.


If you want to find out more about what you can do to help protect and save those animals that are on the endangered species list, head over to the World Wildlife Fund’s website.

If you want to find out what you can do to help the homeless help themselves, contact your local homeless shelter.

And of course, you’re always free to drop by here and visit anytime you want.

Who knows? I may have an idea or two. At the very least I’ll write something that you can agree with – or disagree with.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I’ve been amazed at the stories I have heard about how communities deal with homeless citizens. It is our obligation to be good stewards of the earth that we live on ~ this includes seeking creative & workable solutions to help people who find themeselves without shelter in our communities.

    I’ve also been concerned about the extinction of another species on earth ~ the caring & charitable homo sapien. If we continue to turn our back on all creatures in need we accept “the status quo” about the world we live in. I would hope that we all might leave a small legacy of compassion for the next generation to aspire to.

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