Flutterby™! : Homelessness

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2002-04-28 19:51:10+00 by Dan Lyke 10 comments

There have been times my attitudes have been referred to as "right wing asshole" by my father, so I tend towards the "personal responsibility" label fairly often. I'm also wary of involuntary commitment rules, I'm loathe to offer meddling relatives the opportunity to throw someone in treatment because they don't like a lifestyle. I have no idea what the solutions are, but Matier and Ross tell of a homeless man in San Francisco who's been picked up 128 times, and when given the option between jail and rehab, chooses jail because he'll be out in half the time:

"They'd be dogging me too much in a program. I'm too old for that," Sanchez told us when we visited him in county lockup.

When someone like this is spreading feces and urine all over a business district, what do you do to prevent reoccurences?

[ related topics: Politics Dan's Life Psychology, Psychiatry and Personality Bay Area ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-04-29 13:57:39+00 by: DaveP

Well, in Mayberry, Sheriff Andy'd probably have him in jail and his sentence would involve spending days with a mop and bucket cleaning up messes around town.

A more modern solution might involve Antabuse when he's let out.

A more Amish solution might involve shunning to the point where he'd leave town in order to buy his booze.

Here in MN in the 80s, he'd have been sent to the State Hospital for 6 months for treatment. I have no idea whether such things still happen. But early release would not have been an option after the second or third time.

Jail obviously isn't much of a punishment to this guy, so treatment (along with work for restitution) seems most likely to be the best plan. If nothing else, it would make life unpleasant enough for him that he'd move along and be someone else's problem.

#Comment made: 2002-04-29 16:38:32+00 by: ebradway

Is the problem really that he is spreading urine and feces around the business district? Are there public facilities available? I seem to remeber Dan paying 25 cents in the Castro District to use a street lavatory. I've never had a bum ask me for a quarter so they can take a shit...

#Comment made: 2002-04-29 16:59:23+00 by: TC

DaveP: All good suggestions but all would most likely fail. This guy doesn't want to change. This becomes a THX1138 type problem (indivual vs society / money). Sure a bunch of you are going to jump on my case that he has the "right" to live his life the way he wants but does he have the "right" to leach from a society that he does not contribute to by his choice? The money spent on law enforcement and rehabilitation,that will change nothing in the long term, could be spent on people that are trying to make a better life for them selves and those around them. I'm not saying society is smart enough to divert those funds correctly to another place (different rant) but it seems cruel and expensive to cycle this guy through the system the way we do now.

#Comment made: 2002-04-29 17:10:58+00 by: Jeffery [edit history]

This poor unfortunate soul would have clearly been institutionalized in the 1950's, but in today's society he is simply a homeless, hopeless soul--draining society in just a different sort of way. With exactly 128 infractions, maybe he just needs his sign bit toggled.

#Comment made: 2002-04-30 01:36:47+00 by: topspin

I think after 128 citations, he loses the "good" option choices.

Options at this point become:
an extended visit to rehab where he can stay until he truly addresses his addiction
an "unofficial" one-way ride to Black Rock Desert, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, or similar.

Loading this guy into the back of a pick-up and leaving him in the desert may sound inhumane, but repeatedly drinking oneself into oblivion and humiliation is hardly a quality of life I'd call "human." Were this man an animal that repeatedly showed up in the wrong places, defecated/urinated and passed out in public places, and was combative upon attempts to help...... he'd be at a vet's office being introduced to a needle full of phenobarbital.

I mean, it's America..... California even.... and beyond that, San Francisco! He's gotta be pretty noticeably disgusting to get picked up 128 times, dontchathink? He clearly needs help and clearly refuses it.... often so I am for providing him with an opportunity to live his life as he sees fit... away from those of us who don't call living in excrement a "lifestyle choice."

#Comment made: 2002-04-30 12:34:42+00 by: meuon

Topspin, I like the idea, but should we not call it 'homestead therapy'. Drop him off out there with a pallet of the supplies it would take to 'homestead'. 30 days of MRE's, rope, hammer, saw, nails, a knife and some matches. The kit should cost.. less than a day or two in the hospital and it should be more than the early settlers had. "Survival is a personal option."

#Comment made: 2002-04-30 17:04:29+00 by: TC

Meuon: I am very looking forward to meeting you in person. I am trying to think how to put in words how I disagree with you here but am in love with your above comments. it used to be a lot of work to survive let alone thrive and we are no longer seem to have that filter in the 1st world countries. It's anti-eugenics I tell ya!

#Comment made: 2002-04-30 17:16:35+00 by: ebradway

Meuon: how is this different from Atlanta giving homeless people $20 and a one-way bus ticket in the weeks before the '96 Olympics?

Homeless people have chosen survival. It's just easier in the city than in the desert. That's also why the city is where it is - and not in the desert.

But here I am, at the Atlanta Library, grossed out by the smell of the homeless folks around me waiting to use this computer... The difference between me and a 'homeless' person:

  1. I slept in my VW bus last night
  2. I showered yesterday and at least use Sandalwood Oil to cover any funk
  3. My beard isn't too scraggly yet!

But when I think about the costs involved in re-establishing a 'home', I find my bus more and more appealing.

#Comment made: 2002-05-01 04:03:55+00 by: meuon

Todd, I'm much more hypocritical online. :) Including the double standard of 'Humanity'. The mentally sick or anti-social dog we immediately remove from the gene pool, humanely of course. A .22 works well. Yet we reinforce this leech on societies behavior in fellow humans.... it's only humane. Atlanta's solution was pure short term low impact economics, and anti-social to the communities the buses ended up in. And Eric is right, the long term homeless is a lifestyle choice, and the ones at the mission on E. Main are pudgy and lazy. Our supposed 'best humane interests' has created our welfare society, weakening our economy, lifestyle, gene pool and future because what should be a temporary solution for hard times has become a lifestyle choice.

Are fellow geeks sucking off the teat of unemployement, milking the 'system' while doing 'off the books' work any better? You should see what HTS pays in unemployement taxes..[mumble mumble..] It's only a matter of degree, right?

#Comment made: 2002-05-01 23:20:02+00 by: ebradway

Unemployment is paid on behalf of your employees. They can only collect against the amount you put in. I know. My unemployment funds ran out last month. Luckily the President released some general funds because we are in an economic emergencies (last Sunday's paper had exactly ZERO computer jobs in it). Hence, I am changing careers. When I made the shift from computer game development to corporate systems, it took me nine months to land the job at McKee Foods.

Also, I personally paid over $20K in taxes last year. I get a whopping $275 a week to live on. $75 a week goes to my ex-wife for child support. That $200/wk is just enough to cover insurance, gas, and food. There's no way I could afford my apartment ($655/mo plus utilities) or my house ($1075/mo plus utilities) and eat too.

Oh, by the way, I did do $500 worth of contract work last fall. Since then I have done NO paying work. Stop griping. Oh, and I almost forgot, who talked me into leaving a $60K/yr job at BlueCross to work for a dot-com startup?