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What if alcohol- drinking homeless were at Woodward?

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POSTED September 21, 2010 2:34 a.m.
It is amazing how our tolerance of the homeless and their “victimless” criminal acts increases significantly the farther we are from them.

You can bet if those among the homeless who were foul-mouthed and were illegally consuming alcohol were doing so within 30 feet of the playground equipment at Woodward Park as compared to within 30 feet of the tot lot at Library Park they’d be a small army of residents storming the next City Council meeting in anger.

Yes, being homeless isn’t a crime. But consuming alcohol in a city park is a crime as is using your vehicle - even if it doubles as your home - as a place to use drugs is illegal.

And it should be made clear it is a crime everywhere that it is done by the homeless - or anyone else for that matter - and not just if they are doing it in Woodward Park or on a vehicle parked on Buena Vista Drive.

The homeless problem, of course, doesn’t afflict newer neighborhoods. They don’t have the joy of someone urinating against their garage door - another so-called victimless crime by the way - or worst yet defecating in their alley.

I’d venture to say those in older neighborhoods - Central Manteca, Lincoln Estates near Doctors Hospital and Powers Tract - are more tolerant of the homeless than others in Manteca would be even though they are the ones who sometimes speak the loudest wanting to get something done about the problem.

That’s because they encounter other homeless daily in their neighborhoods who aren’t breaking the laws established for a civilized society. Someone pushing a shopping cart down the street or rummaging through Toters doesn’t trigger a call to the cops as it would in newer neighborhoods.

What pushes them over the edge is when certain homeless - those committing so-called victimless crimes - gather to do so especially in parks around kids.

Someone living near Southside Park or Library Park has just as much right to expect the rules to be followed by everyone - including the homeless - as someone next to Woodward Park or any other park in the city.

Just because people want officials to do something about those among the homeless who are breaking the rules doesn’t make them intolerant. It is true that not all of the homeless do drugs or consume alcohol in parks, yell epithets at young mothers and their children trying to use a park, or use neighborhoods as their toilet.

It’s funny in a way, since there are at least five households near Library Park that routinely give to the HOPE Family Shelter although it is arguable they are in less of a position to do so than people who live far away from the problem.

There are really two general groups of homeless - families and single individuals. Talk to people around Library Park and other places downtown where occasionally families will “camp” in their cars. They have no issue with families. They don’t even have issues with homeless individuals unless they are strung out or acting a bit crazy.

The truth is no one can force anyone into a treatment program. The courts mulled that in the late 1960s when California emptied many of its mental institutions.

By the way that doesn’t mean the homeless all have mental problems. It’s just one of the many facets that make up the homeless population.

So should the homeless who act like criminals be dealt with like criminals? Here’s the litmus test: What if some drunken person was acting erratically walking up and down your street or in your neighborhood park? Would you want them treated like a criminal?

Yes, the homeless problem needs to be addressed. You don’t address it though by mocking those who are subjected to the worst part of homeless behavior day-in-and-day out and then demanding they increase their tolerance level because - well, it’s wrong to be intolerant.

If you think it is simply a bias or a prejudice against the homeless, try dealing with the homeless who are problematic in you neighborhood.

It is true the homeless by their very condition have to break some laws to survive. That’s a given. But one doesn’t need to get drunk, do drugs, or intimidate and threaten people to survive.

Again, being homeless is not a crime but neither does it give you the right to break laws.

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