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Homeless answer is more complex than we realize
Homeless evicted DSC_8919.jpg

I’ve seen it a hundred times on social media discussions.

“If you care so much for the homeless, why don’t you invite them into your home and give them a place to stay?”

To say nothing of the illogical nature of that argument, one man in a wealthy Bay Area enclave did exactly that several months ago when he welcomed an elderly homeless couple to stay in the in-law’s quarters at his Piedmont home.

Now, for the sake of disclosure, Piedmont is nothing like Manteca. With a median home price of more than $2 million and a population that is more than 70 percent white, it’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison.

With that said, the byproduct of his generosity is something that I have no doubt would be replicated if somebody locally were to try the same thing.

His neighbors were none too happy.

Even though he reached out to the Piedmont Police Department ahead of time and informed them of what he would doing – trying to get out ahead of the phone calls he knew would be coming when two African-American individuals of a lower socioeconomic background all of a sudden started popping out of his house on a regular basis – the phone calls came so fast and so frequent that those answering the phone just started telling people what was actually going on.

They’re living at that house, they would say, because the owner wants to help them.

In what should be a feel-good story about somebody with means helping those without it and asking for nothing in return has become an example of the hypocrisy that people show in the face of genuine altruism – that judgement wins out over the need of our fellow man, and that at the end of the day, our self-proclaimed care and concern for other people stops just as soon as it starts happening in ways in which we aren’t familiar.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the NIMBY culture is deeply rooted here, particularly among people who have just recently (say, within the last five years or so) moved to the Central Valley from the Bay Area. Expecting some kind of idyllic existence, it’s the people who came from places near where this example story takes place that seem to shout the loudest about how “these homeless” are ruining the city, almost never offering any sort of solution or alternative in the process.

No, I’m not out to simply bag on Bay Area Transplants – a group that is driving up housing prices for blue-collar workers in a largely blue-collar area and contributing greatly to the housing crisis that is keeping people who have lived their entire life in this nutrient-rich bowl from being able to enjoy the gift of home-ownership.

That’s a whole different column altogether.

But the idea that an issue that everybody can recognize can get to a point where there is no workable solution in sight should give us pause.

There are those that believe a drop-in shelter for single men should be built in the city to give people a place that they can bed down for the night, but there are twice as many people who don’t want that to happen because they fear it will simply bring more homeless people to the area.

There are those who advocate for the homeless resource center concept where the homeless can have a base of operations and allow outreach services a central point of focus, but there are still people who don’t want that anywhere near their home or business, and act like doing nothing will motivate these individuals to simply move on to somewhere else that is more amiable to their plight.

Let that last one sink in for a little bit – that the person who is suffering on the street, dirty and starving, just needs to be neglected just a bit longer and they’ll finally realize that they aren’t wanted and leave of their own accord.

Are they not people as well? Is that homeless man not somebody’s son and somebody’s brother, and that woman somebody’s daughter and somebody’s sister? This is how we treat the lowest among us?

This isn’t meant to be a lecture on morality or even an attempt to get somebody to feel a certain way, but I think that it’s prudent that we start looking at how we regard this issue at a fundamental level if we’re ever hoping to truly solve it.

One man in the Bay Area tried to do his part as best he could, and he’s received nothing but heartache in exchange – from neighbors who don’t like “these people” blighting up the neighborhood. It may not exactly be taking place in our backyard, but do you really think that Manteca Police wouldn’t get calls if all of a sudden, a shabbily-dressed person walked out from your side gate tomorrow? I have no doubts that the Neighborhood Watch page on Facebook would go up in flames.

Now, it’s worth pointing out that I’m not referring to the criminal element that has mixed in quite freely amongst the local homeless population, and often times refers to petty property crime as a way to finance an ongoing drug habit. While mental health issues are a concern across the board, its understandable why people are upset after the second or third time that they have to replace a window or ask for a package to be resent because it gets stolen off of the porch.

How to address that population needs to be talked about as well.

But as long as we’re playing both sides of the fence – complaining that nobody is doing anything to make a difference about the homeless population while at the same time not being willing to try things that might actually help – nothing is ever going to change.


To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544