Monday, November 8, 2010

The indignity, cruelty and danger of being homeless

Woke to a little snow on the ground this morning.  It reminds me that on my way to Arise for Social Justice, I'll need to stop at the nearby vacant house and leave some cat food from the bag I carry around in my car-- there's at least one cat living there-- abandoned or always feral?  Don't know.  I'll pass another two dozen empty houses before I get to Arise, where a meeting is scheduled for the coalition of people and organizations working on a strategy to stop foreclosures.  Last week I sent an email to the lead organizer: is there any way we can get hold couple of the houses that are already foreclosed?  Five young men (separately, not together) have come into Arise in the last few days, looking for a place to live and a job.  No immediate solutions.  The Rescue Mission hasn't opened its overflow shelter yet, and when I tell folks about Worthington St. Shelter, I always have to warn them first about the bedbugs.  What a choice.

Being homeless is life-threatening but also full of other dangers and indignities.  Two weeks ago a 61 year old  homeless guy in in Dallas, Texas tried to pay for his meal with a credit card not his own.  The owner of the restaurant forced him to strip naked and beat him with a pipe.  When the police arrived, they charged the homeless guy but not the owner.  Later, however, the crimes against persons unit of the police department investigated and charged the owner with misdemeanor assault.  Read more at the Dallas Homeless Network.

In Pheonix, Arizona, a homeless man was run over by a car-- on purpose-- and dragged ten feet.  A few minutes before, he'd been accused of stealing a bicycle, which he denied.  He's in the hospital, expected to survive, and police are looking for a 4-door gray car. 

Two Edmonton, Alberta police officers were disciplined recently for picking up nine homeless people and locking them in the back of the police van for nine hours in sweltering hot weather before dumping them in a residential neighborhood.  A third police officer wasn't disciplined because he was only along for the ride.  Hey, some version of this happens frequently-- remember the Los Angeles homeless dumps?-- and rarely is there accountability.  Mostly Water.

Speaking of  Los Angeles, two doctors were arrested on Friday for using mentally ill, homeless people in a scheme to defraud the government.  Their employees would find homeless people and bring them to the clinic, where they were subjected to unnecessary procedures, then paid $100 a dumped back into the streets.  It's a disgusting story and you can read more at the Los Angeles Times.

If you're a homeless veteran in North Charleston, South Carolina, you may find yourself living in a shelter whose director, Nancy Cook,  has managed to double her salary in the last year until it now equals one-third of the shelter's entire revenue.  Ms. Cook sounds like a real winner.  In 2008, she suggested that "unfit" parents be sterilized.  As for the current situation, someone-- a homeless person?-- tipped off the media about Ms. Cook's salary increase.  Her response?  "We deal with a lot of sick people, and they're just nasty," said Cook, who said she has run Good Neighbor Center for 18 years. "It's par for the course. There is no story here."  Post and Courier

Last but not least, if desperate parents in Indiana follow the advice of some workers from the Family and Social Services Administration, they should dump their severely disabled, autistic or mentally handicapped children off at the nearest shelter.  This was the workers' advice in the face of requests for diminishing services.  Associated Press.

We're in for a rough winter.

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