This is not the America I have known

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By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
This picture originally ran in The Denver Post. It’s a homeless camp right across a park from the Colorado state capitol. The story was about how the residents were being evicted in part because of a rat infestation caused by human, animal and food waste.

Can you look at the photo and not be angry that this is America? I have personally seen similar scenes many times. Driving from central Oregon to central California a few weeks ago, I repeatedly saw homeless camps along the road — and not just “tent” camps. I have seen just as many RV camps, where those with a tiny bit of money can somehow acquire an RV, most often old, beat up and filthy.

I know the comments to this essay will range from sympathy for these people to outright anger. If you comment, please be civil. To me, whether your politics lean left or right, this should not be acceptable.

RV camp near Washington State capitol.

THIS IS NOT THE AMERICA where I grew up. Heaven knows, there has been poverty for decades. I remember driving through the Deep South fresh out of college and noticing mansions next door to tar paper shacks, most of them occupied by poor black families. I’ve seen ghettos in big cities.

But I grew up in suburban Los Angeles, where everything was new and there was no evidence of poverty anywhere near me. It was Mayberry.

Maybe what has changed now is that evidence of extreme poverty is right square in my middle-class face. It’s everywhere. Perhaps I am noticing it now because it’s impossible to ignore.

I can’t even begin to know what needs to be done, but I believe something is horribly wrong.

At this very moment, I am just venting based on my disgust at seeing the photo from Colorado. I know this is not about RVing, but sometimes I just need to climb on my soapbox and scream!

##RVT931

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Deborah Stidham

Why vent if you have no viable solution? Is it to incite others to vent or get out of control, possibly harming others out of frustration that “things aren’t the way they used to be!” In every period of time society changes. Do something positive to help the situation, get to know people or offer a viable solution, don’t just gripe like an old cranky person that doesn’t lift up others, only tears them down. Cheer up!

CandaceCB

Here in Los Angeles County politicians keep referring to tent cities as a “housing” issue….as though the homeless all have 9 to 5 jobs and just can’t afford the high rents. Well, California does have a high cost of living, but that’s not what’s causing those tent cities. It’s drug addicts, alcoholics, grifters, illegals, criminals, and the mentally ill (who frequently attack pedestrians).

The impact on the quality of life for citizens here is evident. Police stations located inside shopping malls in Van Nuys. Guard towers in the parking lots at Magic Mountain theme park in Santa Clarita. Six-foot iron fencing around homes and apartment buildings, backed up by seriously aggressive guards dogs. Personal care items – like soap and cosmetics – kept behind locked glass doors at most of the Walmarts. Outbreaks of typhus and other third-world diseases downtown.

I have to be here part of the year for work, but I just shake my head in wonder at what the voters in California continue to put up with. In the last week I’ve overhead 5 people saying they were done with California and preparing to leave the state, but leaving doesn’t do anything to remove the politicians whose policies have turned this beautiful state into a sewer.

Alvin

Chuck I feel the pain, I feel the anger, I feel the loss, – everything of which you speak and lament losing what we had in a more civilized era you and I grew up in.

It is absolutely no different in Canada, the land of a catch and release the criminal – judiciary.

In Lethbridge Alberta Canada where I live, I’m next door to a super drug club house (here called the Supervised Consumption Site – SCS – with staff of over 100 people, nurses and paramedics etc)) with the highest drug usage per capita (673 client visits per day) of any country in the world. The nearest was Bern Switzerland with 150/200 visits per capita per day.

This statistic was established in May 2019 during the International Harm Reduction Conference in Portugal. The harm reduction industry has grown into a multi million dollar travesty all funded by the taxpayer. 100%!
In my view Americans should be plenty pleased with a President in the wheelhouse who understands the need to control massive illegal (or legal) migration into your country – he knows no one can sustain the onslaught forever. Neither America nor Canada can feed, clothe, shelter and educate etc etc the world. Americans already welcome 1,000,000 folks from other countries each year- THROUGH LEGAL CHANNELS!! . You folks are generous, welcoming and kind by any measure.

Canada one tenth the population of your country allows 350,000 legally , and also WITH ARMS WIDE OPEN as many as can sneak in under the radar. There’s PICTURES ON YouTube SHOWING smiling Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers assisting illegals across the porous border between New York State and Quebec!

Like America we cannot continue this travesty either but we will as we’ve just re-elected a clown running the asylum, whose is 100% sympathetic to illegal immigration, and he’s got a brand new four year mandate. Ugly Ugly!!!!!!!!

If its any consolation, Chuck. It isn’t only America going down the tubes fast , parts of Canada are too. My town of 100,000 being the poster child for it. How sad!

Mike Mills

Few alive today have experienced hard times like the Depression or the world wars. We have become so soft and oh, so very sensitive that we accept and even reward the sloth and abominable conditions you describe by making no demands of the recipients of our benevolence. Although it would never fly today, here is the wording of a notice placed prominently in Yuma, Arizona by local law enforcement on December 7, 1905: “Every idle man, hobo and mack (woman chaser) found in Yuma 24 hours from this date will be locked up and put on the rock-pile (hard labor). Get out of town or take the consequences.” I don’t think they were kidding. Maybe this is a little draconian, but what would be wrong with a little tough love, like maybe a work requirement of some kind? (Document mentioned is displayed in the Yuma Territorial Prison Museum, Yuma, Arizona.)

Debbie PJ

So agree with Drew~ and if it isn’t drugs it is mental health. I don’t believe anyone benefits from a handout but from hands up…we need to require treatment and also community service jobs in return for a safe place to stay.

Gray

WA State Governor Jay Inslee was reported this week as being “concerned” about the growing homeless problem, especially evident in & around King County (Seattle) and even the state capitol, Olympia. The story noted his proposed goal of having 50 percent of the state’s homeless folks “under shelter” by 2022. A proposed budget of $300 million would be taken from the state budget’s so-called “rainy day fund.”

Opposition to the idea took the form of the other party objecting that no additional funding was required, as there was already plenty of other sources already in place. Which causes me to scratch my head: if sufficient funds to address the need for homeless assistance already exists, why isn’t it being applied?

I then realized that NOBODY in WA state government seriously intends to address the problem. The article revealed that the WA state “rainy day fund” now stands at 2.5 BILLION dollars. The Governor’s proposal to tap it for $300K is simply a small portion. So it becomes obvious that the presence of so many homeless folk in WA state is neither a public emergency nor a “rainy day.”

In fact, our public apathy and intolerance for homeless folks and their rude insistence on surviving in plain site on our streets, business districts, and neighborhoods is justification for retaining $2.5 billion of surplus state funds untouched, just in case we the people should encounter a “genuine” rainy day requiring state expenditures.

Billy Bob Thorton

Until the liberal policies are addressed, you will see an increase in this situation. We are long past the time where we could establish a program similiar to the CCC, to lift the able bodied up to productive taxpayers. The worst cities for homelessness, decay and near bankruptcy, are run by governors and mayors of one party. Perhaps the policies spewed by those administration, are not in the interest of the people they represent. But, even this is not believed by one half of the citizenry. You are going to see much of the same, and the end will be the haves and the have not. Get use to it, for the person who is doing everything he said he would do, if elected, is mocked by those who control the communication to the masses. There are too little informed, to make a marketable difference.

Ron Hall

Although there’s homelessness in all of America , I believe it could be helped
if the cities would put the people to work . There’s vacant building in every city , let
the city put them in these building cleaning and painting fixing up those building for rent. We live close to Louisville Ky where we see these tent cities and so help me , when it’s Derby
week they make the city them clean them up , but the following week they’re back to Norm .

Drew

As I’ve said before, if you tolerate this- then it will continue. In Providence, Rhode Island they recognized what the rest of the nation hasn’t yet.- This isn’t a homeless problem, it’s a drug problem. There’s a place they put these people in and they have a choice of which rehab they want….that’s the only choice they have. There’s somewhere around a 90% success rate where these people don’t return and find legitimate lives. It’s a relatively simple model to follow and it does cost money, but compared to what the rest of the country does it’s cheap.

Roy Christensen

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I think part of the problem is low wages and the cost of housing. There are many hard working people who have several jobs that are low paying with no benefits. The cost of housing, food and medical care force them to be the “working poor”. They can’t get ahead and struggle to live. Some of these people give up trying. Then some people have mental health issues or physical health problems. The mental health problems are not always visibly obvious. Then there are some people who have gotten addicted to opioids through no fault of their own. Pharmaceutical companies have touted these drugs for quite some time as a cure-all for pain.
There are many reasons why people get down and out. Some of it is their own fault, or poor parenting or poor education. As a teacher for 33 years, I saw many students with problems. The teachers would collect clothing, hold raffles, and alert authorities to some of these problems, but it wasn’t always enough. Some of the students had poor attendance and you can’t teach someone who isn’t there. Others were sick and didn’t have health care.
I feel very fortunate that I had parents who provided for us and made us work hard in school. Not everyone has those advantages. I try not to judge people who are struggling to live. It’s not always their fault. And if they made mistakes in their lives, maybe we can be compassionate and try to help them to straighten out.
Finally, I know there are people who might be lazy and don’t want to work. How do we determine which of the homeless fall into this category?

Daryl W

I applaud this group for being civil to each other within this topic! Isn’t that the root of the solution? Sensitivity to differences, uplifting that which is common to us all. Good job. Couple thoughts. Not everyone fits into the ‘normal’ box… just look at us RVers! What is acceptable, healthy, dignified, legal and still individualistic is one question. Camping in front of my business door… NO! we all need a ‘place’, a nest. How we define that is important. I think on how sharecroppers survived, working and living off land owned by another. I’d love to adopt a family that’d help work my farm, take care of me as I age further and have their own ‘place’ on my modest farm…. take care

Michael Alamo

Just remember that our new conservative leaning Supreme Court just last week let stand the ruling that homeless could camp in public areas without being charged with trespassing.

This is why cities like Austin seem to allow this homeless situation to exist. Unfortunately these camps are most often garbage filled and pollution spoiled spots. Recently in my hometown a clean-up effort gathered 1,600 syringes in the process.

Most of these people are not employable and many are veterans and others who suffer from mental illnesses or drug addiction.

An additional difficulty seen in California is the extremely high cost of housing. Seems like our wonderful economy is not really reaching those who need a boost the most, those on the bottom economic level of our society. I personally know two senior friends who are hard working none drug abusing wonderful people who are hanging on by a thread living with friends or they would be homeless.

Yes there are jobs however in California many of the newer jobs do not offer full time or enough to even pay for basic lodging. If you have a minimum wage job in the town I live in and work full time, you have to live in your car.

Edward Wullschleger

I lived in a trailer park in Colorado in the 1970’s when I was working for near minimum wage and then going to college (which was MUCH cheaper then!). I had been able to buy a cheap trailer and only had to pay $45 monthly for space rent. Now I make a 6 figure income and live in a nice suburban community in Colorado. There aren’t any trailer parks nearby and not many in our whole town compared to the number of low-income workers. Also, that minimum wage in the 1970’s? It was about $2.60. Prices in 2019 are 475.81% higher than average prices since 1973 according to http://www.officialdata.org. That would be equivalent to $15.60 today (2.60 + 2.60*4.7581), but I don’t think wages are the main problem for the working homeless. I think its the cost of housing and the associated zoning laws and building code restrictions as compared to the 1970’s.

While there has always been some homelessness such as hobo camps in the past, it appears that we as a society have made choices that have made it much worse in recent decades.

Wolfe

Decades ago, a very wise man told me that “Anytime you see something that isn’t right in the world, and doesn’t seem to make sense because it should be pretty easy to fix, look at [the controllers] who WANT it that way.” It seems obvious logic, and pessimistic that anyone could want people to suffer, but in the 40 years or so since, I’ve seen it over… and over… and over. Who are the controllers here? The government that we keep trying to vote out and gets back in over and over. Seriously! Consider things you KNOW but then are trained to ask to hurt yourself more:

Most folks pay 40% taxes. If someone “gave” you your 40% back, you’d never worry about poverty… if you’re scraping by now, you’d probably be “rich” as you define it.

I run my own businesses… when I have a bad year, I collect —zero— assistance, and when I have a good year my taxes go up further. IF I give someone a job, I pay more fees and taxes and insurances that my employees will never EVER recoup. If I gave them those fees, it would almost double their salaries. Seriously… you have no idea how much your “benefits” you keep asking government to make mandatory cost your employer!!! When I am employed by others, I’d rather double my salary then get “free” insurance that still has copays and does a lousy job while mandating who my doctor will be. I’d have trouble spending the amount my employers have paid per year for my benefits I didn’t want. And it’s getting harder to GET a job, because every employee has to be paid far more thanks to government.

We have drug addiction problems (supposedly, that’s another discussion). Instead of treatment, we give away free syringes and try to “understand” their sickness. Drugs aren’t a new thing. Drugs haven’t gotten more powerful at the doses they are abused. What changed is how society responds.

Crime has in fact DECREASED in the last several decades — look it up. And yet media keeps harping on “our dangerous times” as an excuse to limit your American freedoms tighter and tighter… And government has gone INSANE…

Just in New York – just passed a law where (short of murder) NO ONE goes to jail between crime and trial. Criminals have the right to re-visit the crime scene so they can prepare their defense. So, this LITERALLY means if you’re sexually assaulted, “that guy” gets to walk through your bedroom again to relive the crime, and then is left completely free to visit you again anytime they like until the trial. It’s happened. Drunk drivers at new years were put back out on the street the same night (few hundred cases). Driving without a license at all? No problem — drive yourself home from the station (yes, it happened). Meanwhile, if you dare try to defend yourself, YOU will go to jail because “NYSAFE” just got even more stringent.

VA just proposed a bill to void Posse Commitattus (sp?), in which “10 man military and local SWAT teams are authorized to confiscate [all common hunting rifles] using deadly force, absent of any prior crime.” These aren’t dangerous rifles — literally written as flat-out confiscation of whatever models by armed thugs. There is a bill to make the NRA HQ range illegal. Any range with more than 10 employees would be. We “trust” VA to be smarter than NY and these bills (and others) won’t actually pass (you mean like the many other insanities above DID?), but whackos in government dare propose this in America???

I could go on, but you get my point… When “someone” has the power to take money and liberty by force, they WILL. Every time.

Clint

Most have been raised without family values or support, schools that turn out unemployable illiterates, ease of getting narcotics and welfare. Not held accountable by any government authority. Please note I said “most” not all.

KR.dD

I wonder how many of these poor folks are in this situation because of a life of Bad Choices and not learning from their Bad Choices. A School System and parents that don’t teach a Work Ethic but rather a Victim Ethic. You know, what it takes. Get the best, cheapest Education for a trade you can, show up on time, work hard, live below your means, save your money, stay off drugs,(except coffee). Don’t get Pregnant until you have decent prospects.

We have two kids, one has consistently made good choices and learned, the other hasn’t, man what a difference.

SAM WARR

The USA is not the only country in the World that is confronted with “homelessness”. A good write-up is provided by the following link established by the Salvation Army in Australia. https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/oasis/what-we-do/homelessness/youth-homelessness/. This probably would be better defined as “homeless hopelessness”. Our country is faced with severe addiction to drugs of all kinds. The latest is opioids. Our borders are open to drugs and unfortunately the war on drugs is a farce. Like most things today in America, it’s all about the money. Law enforcement is fighting an uphill battle against drugs. As long as Americans demand the drugs, there will be a market, which has paid off politicians, law enforcement and any other people that try to bring the influx of drugs into our country to a halt. Second, we are now in the process of legalizing marijuana. I’m sure that the illegal hard drug industry loves this fact, since it will be another small way to open up their business to use of hard drugs. We, as Americans, are bringing this on ourselves. Violence, lack of patience with one another, lack of respect for each other, murder committed without any real consequences because we have done away with capital punishment. We spend billions to provide prison housing to feed, clothe, provide medical and dental care, legal assistance to people that have recklessly harmed society for their own gain. They are treated much better than the hopeless homeless. We, as Americans, are in great trouble and at the brink to greater risk of deterioration. And yet, we have the capability to turn this around. Everyone has to positively pitch in to do it. Money is not the total answer. It’s how people treat each other.

Eric Kaminsky

I feel very bad when people believe that the major causes of homelessness are to get “freebies” or mental illness or drug addiction. There are multiple reasons why someone becomes homeless. (Does anyone really believe that parents want their kids to grow up in cars or motels? ) These can I indeed include mental illness and drug addition. But it can also include circumstance beyond the control of the person who becomes homeless. Each homeless person has a story of his or her own, each has his or her own experience. Few probably chose homelessness but for the time being that is their lot in life. We may never achieve a 100% elimination of homelessness (without accepting the Cuban model. In Cuba everyone has a place to live but at the expense of important freedoms.) but we can be humane in approaching the problem. Many cities have taken empty lots, put in sanitation facilities and guards, and allowed the homeless to camp there in safety. This can be a temporary solution while we search for more permanent solutions. These can include medical and psychological care and, for many, job training or retraining so they can compete in a more meaningful way. Many occupations are being left behind due to technology and elimination of jobs due to changes in industries.

Sink Jaxon

I live here in Colorado since 2007…This out of control homeless problem didn’t start until they legalized Marijuana, all in the big cities on the front range. Ft. Collins, Denver Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Then the free needle exchange made it 10 times worse. This is all about drugs. Most all these homeless I see are young and are able to work, but they won’t. Or worse because they can’t get hired because of felony charges or simply can’t pass a drug screen. It’s a vicious cycle. Sadly, I think we have passed the point of no return.

Barbara D

Feeding hungry people is humanity at its best. Showing compassion should not be derided. I know that perhaps I will be alone in my sentiments on this site, but as I look into the faces of those coming to the food pantry I volunteer at, the people look like me. The people at intersections panhandling for money look like me too. Please stop blaming immigrants (those that do not look like you) for the problem. It is so much worse than ever before, and there are no easy answers.