You’ve probably never have met Norman Moore, but you may have seen him.
He’s homeless and living on Manteca’s streets.
Why should you care? Well, it’s because he’s your problem but not as in you’re responsible for him.
You see the 70-year-old falls into the maddening category of the homeless defined generally as those who have seemed to have dropped out, so to speak, for a variety of reasons. By his own admission he made some bad decisions after running into a streak of bad luck with a business venture that has left him off and on the streets of Northern California for the better part of 30 years. Moore says he’s never asked for help to survive. He worked enough as a carpenter to receive an $805 a month Social Security check. He’s to the point his ailments make it tougher than tough to live on the streets.
Moore is before Judge Gus C. Barrera II on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. at the Manteca courthouse on Center Street. He’s there answering to a $1,210 citation for illegally camping on private property on Pacific Road in east Manteca. The ticket came after two previous occasions where he was rousted from places he had illegally camped.
Let’s all agree that he is human.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s proceed to the debate from hell — what do you do to, or for, Moore? He has made it clear that he wants off the streets but his only option of Eskaton’s subsidized senior housing on Eastwood Avenue has a waiting list that will easily take four or five winters before he is anywhere near the front of the line.
If Moore is an honorable man as he contends, he’ll show up in court Tuesday. The judge by all means on Tuesday should fine him $1,210 if it is clear he violated the law. But if he does that and Moore turned over a month and a half of Social Security benefits — even if were on an installment plan — what will that solve?
While it won’t change his inability to secure subsidized affordable housing or even his ability rent a room for one night, it could make it a challenge for him to stay fed.
But then should society — you and me — tax ourselves to hell and back — to provide shelter to get Moore and others of his ilk off the streets when it is clear that he’s made more than just choices, but he opted to exit the rat race everyone else is in?
That question can’t be ignored when there are endless cases of elderly living on the edge who worked all their lives or struggling families with kids where one or both parents are working and they’re literally less than a paycheck or rent hike from the streets.
It’s been said that most of us are one to four paychecks away from being in a situation that Moore finds himself in which is not having a roof over our heads. It is easy to have empathy because of that but sympathy — I don’t think so. In his own words he made decisions over the years that he now has come to regret.
That said there is no reason to believe he has harmed society while it is certainly true his contributions to society for the past 30 or so years has been close to zilch.
The dilemma Moore and others in similar situations find themselves in is a classic case of failing to grasp the moral of the fable “The Little Red Hen”. It’s the one where the little red hen goes to plant wheat and asks for help and gets none. The same happens when she asks for help to harvest the wheat and goes to bake the wheat into bread. But when she goes to eat the bread the “not I” replies turn into “we will.”
The little red hen then made it clear what delayed gratification sweetened by the virtues of work and personal initiative is all about by eating the bread and declining to share it.
Some might say Moore is caught in a Chares Dickens tale.
Let’s make it clear. This is not a matter of the rich not sharing their wealth with less fortunate. This is an issue of expecting all the little red hens out there — people working and struggling to keep things together — being expected to go beyond reasonable generosity to help someone who clearly said to himself “not I” a long time ago and has ended up on a ledge.
There are those of us that would like to see the judge throw the book at folks like Moore, but what’s the point? Then there are those that would like to see complete leniency, but what does that accomplish?
To expect law enforcement, the criminal justice system or government to resolve hardcore homeless issues is absurd.
Some of us want to move heaven and earth to help folks like Moore as long as it’s not in our neighborhood. Others want them to stop trashing their neighborhoods and the town.
For the hardcore homeless weighed down by doing it their way or a lifetime of bad decisions perhaps the judge will point out that they can legally sleep on city sidewalks where it is wide enough from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.