Homeless suffer during cold spells

December 17, 2015


It’s 5 a.m. in the morning and it’s 26 degrees out. I wonder how many more homeless people will die this winter on the Central Coast from hypothermia.

We have so many volunteers signed up, excited to begin building tiny homes with our homeless people. Folks realize the punishment homeless people take in the winter (and all year long)…not having bathrooms to use in the evenings, no public showers in all of SLO, no public place where they are even allowed to take a nap after being up all night.

City Hall now has dividers on the benches by the buses precluding all from laying down, nor can they sit under the overhang for shelter there in the rain. And if they’re caught trying to sleep anywhere outside, they can, and most likely will, be ticketed for “illegal lodging.”

One veteran and his wife in North County told me if they sit upright all night on the bus bench, the police won’t ticket them. For illegal lodging. What is illegal about sleep? We all need it. We all know that sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. Why do we torture people without housing?

How did we get to a place in society where we punish those who are less fortunate than us? Give them tickets for illegal lodging instead of trying to help them? We’ve made poverty into a business. Passing out tickets (even to our veterans and elderly) to those trying to get some rest. When was the last time you went a few nights without sleep?

Yes, we have many wonderful services and programs, and many good-hearted people working hard to run those programs. Many are helped into housing. But some fall into the gap in services. Some do not qualify for housing, or even shelter. Some are literally on the streets with no access to shelter, clean water, toilets, showers, laundry facilities, telephones, etc. Many have no family. We will be their family.

This is archaic. We live in a crazy world where 400,000 drones fly over the country unchecked; we routinely go to the moon and back, robots perform surgery and it looks like we’ll soon have driverless vehicles. People from other countries strap bombs onto their bodies blowing themselves into a million pieces in order to kill others, and we can’t figure out how to help our human friends more than our animal friends? How did we become so uncaring? We are so blessed to live in this pristine place we call home.

We just need a little more love in our hearts.

Please call your supervisor or city council member. Ask them to help Hope’s Village find five acres of land. San Luis Obispo  County Planning and Building is making the time to work with us. We are a 501(c)(3) California corporation; we have our business plan, by-laws, and money in the bank. We can get 60 more homeless people out of the bushes, off the streets, and into real stick-built tiny homes in the first village alone.

This isn’t rocket science…it’s compassion.

Becky Jorgeson is a long time homeless advocate and the founder of Hopes Village of SLO.

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I have found that there is a direct, 1:1 correlation between the ‘homeless’ and the ‘heartless’ in a community.

The more heartless there are will always be equally balanced by more homeless, and vice-versa.

Works the other way, too.

Providing for the homeless in our area is a Catch-22. It’s like letting in Syrian refugees where some may be associated with ISIS, and in the same vein, some homeless may be dangerous criminals and drug addicts using the homeless services in the wrong way to provide a base camp for their criminal acts. How many crimes have been committed by the homeless within our area?

“If you build it, they will come” has been echoed ad infinitum, but’s it’s true. NIMBY has also been bantered around along with this posts main premise of the dangers of cold weather and the well being of the homeless population. This is barring the fact that most live along the waterways of our county for obvious reasons, whereas this is a blatant health concern for all citizens.

Like I have proffered before, is it so hard to provide funding for another Civilian Conservation Corp that would allow for both genders and all ages to be employed this time? This agency and the homeless would provide for whatever the county needed to be done, instead of it’s original plan of just taking care of the environment. In other words, no more free rides for the homeless at the taxpayers expense. It’s a win-win situation for all.

‘Homeless’ is a buzzword. There are more than enough shelters, soup kitchens, goodwills, etc. Etc. For these people if they want help.

Most don’t.

The only way I could ever see anything happening is on a case-by-case basis. ‘Homeless’ groups a whole bunch of different people. Yet, many travel to and from this area regularly. So, if you can’t even figure out who the ‘homeless’ are, then how are you going to help them?

Probably the cheapest and most effective thing society can do is send out officers to the areas where these people are living, like slo did. Some may take help. Many will not. But I agree, kicking then around is useless, and accomplishes nothing.

The actions that are taken by the police towards homeless people are often directed by City Hall because of complaints received from business owners who are trying to earn a living in downtown San Luis Obispo or downtown Atascadero or downtown Paso Robles. These business owners feel especially put out when you take into account how difficult it is to run a business in today’s climate; just when you thought you have endured every conceivable absurdity or obstacle you then have to contend with some homeless person pissing in the entryway of your business because they’re too lazy to find a public restroom in a park.

One commentator here mentioned that only four people used an available shelter and they said they couldn’t understand why the homeless would not avail themselves to more of the services that are available. Many of the homeless will not use shelters provided by various social service organizations because the shelters require them to show up sober and to respect the other people who are seeking assistance there, by not stealing from them, assaulting them and not using intoxicants in their presence.

The homeless who are living in the creeks cause environmental problems by bringing their trash, which consists of used articles of clothing, old food containers, stolen items of property such as bicycle parts, car batteries, cook stove fuel cans,drug paraphenalia, broken glass, human excrement, etc. These items find their way into the water flowing through the creek and often carry contaminants downstream. In the case of San Luis Creek these contaminants find their way to Avila Beach where many people send their children to play in the summer at the point where the creek meets the ocean.

This last summer we witnessed fires break out in the creek areas from Pismo Beach to Cambria that were due to homeless encampments hat had either made campfires in inappropriate places or had inappropriately operated cookstoves that ignited a combustible source.

These poor downtrodden people who are illegally camping could easily cause the destruction of an entire community such as Cambria due to the drought conditions that exist at this time. When the police show up and move these people out of the creeks under threat of a rest it is because of the environmental and safety hazards they create, not because anybody has a “hard on” for the homeless.

If Ms. Jorgensen wants to help the homeless by helping them find land to build little houses to live in, like some sort of Hobbit village, that’s her business, but please do not accuse anyone who doesn’t go along with the plan as being cold hearted. 30 years ago in San Luis Obispo we did not have any substantial services in place for the homeless. We had a very small homeless population that consisted of local drunks and wayward drifters. When we started having more people move in from L.A and the Bay Area they saw these handful of near do wells and said, “we must do something.”

Their call to action let us down the road to where we are today. We have an abundance of service to serve the homeless and we have more homeless in downtown San Luis then we can handle. One of the other commentators remarked “if you build it they will come.” Well, folks we’ve built it and they’re here and now we’re told we must build more, when will this cycle end? What is the end game? Does Ms. Jorgensen have a real solution to the homeless problem or are we simply treating one of its symptoms?

Gordo is right. The damage caused from the bottom dwellers is substantial. And, where are the Fish & Game cops when they are needed.

Fish & Game just love to jump on stream diversion, spills and pollution. But they are no where to be seen when they could make a difference by catching these polluters. Of course the simple answer is this: Fish & Game only goes after polluters when there is a chance they can recover civil penalties which enriches their coffers.