Friday, April 07, 2006

Re: Homeless must help themselves,
Las Vegas CityLife, April 06, 2006

Re: Homeless must help themselves

Letter to the editor, Thursday, April 06, 2006

The following link will take you to a letter to the editor in the Las Vegas CityLife.

Here is my reply.

CityLife may publish my comments if they wish.

Also here, I want to thank CityLife and the community for keeping the Las Vegas Valley's huge homeless problem in the media. We have multiple issues here including the AFFORDABLE HOUSING issue which is and will be affecting non-homeless as well as homeless folks.

Ken: The death of Norman Bangs was tragic and needless, and both Gail Sacco and Westcare should be applauded for their efforts to help the homeless ["Death in Vegas," March 23]. But unfortunately, "more detox beds" are not the solution for homelessness in our city.

Mom: Thank you so much for your comments. Your comments help me and others see different view points. And also it gives us the opportunity to ponder the different insights to see if we are missing anything that would help us do better in our mission.

Ken: Don't kill the messenger, but the solution lies within the homeless themselves.

Mom: Yes, this is important "if and when" they can help themselves. Sometimes people need a helping hand to get to that point.

Ken: I was homeless when I arrived here, except for a beat-to-hell Volkswagen, but I didn't line up for Gail's free lunch. I was at Labor Express every day, doing whatever grunt work they'd offer for the $28 a day it paid. I was able to buy my own food and clothes, and kept looking for work, and I found it, and I made friends and networked, and presto, I wasn't homeless anymore.

Mom: Not knowing some of the facts relating to your particular situation, I will still try to comment. There are many different types of homeless and almost-homeless people. Having a "beat-to-hell" vehicle still gave you some sort of safe shelter. This gives a person an advantage to a better night's sleep (to be able to work the next day) than sleeping in an alley or behind a privately owned building.

I also don't know how long you were homeless. But for those who have been homeless for a short period of time, it is much easier to get off the streets than someone who has been on the streets for a longer period of time.

Also, depending on how long ago you were homeless makes a difference. Like the City Marshal who told me he was homeless 15 years ago and got himself off the streets all on his own. Fifteen years ago we had affordable housing...

It is estimated that forty percent of the homeless do work the day labor jobs. (And only two percent panhandle for a living.) But making up to $40 a day, maybe three days a week, is not enough money to buy your own food and clothes, soap, shaving gear, laundry detergent, laundry services, deodorant, sanitary napkins, etc. and save for a weekly motel or apartment.

Now, getting back to that vehicle that you own (smile). Most homeless don't have the luxury of owning a vehicle where they can keep all those nice interview clothes from being stolen while you are at the day labor. And, not having that vehicle also puts you at risk of being arrested over and over and over again for trespassing (sleeping on private property) or "lodging" in the public park after hours. So then you are subject to jail time and fines. And then that fine apartment you had your eye on gets put on hold.

And without that vehicle (and sometimes even with a vehicle) you get arrested for sleeping on "private" property without permission, and you had just landed a good job. Now you are in jail for seven days and can't get to work. Do you think your new employer will understand?

Ken: Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a Mexican holding up a sign reading "Homeless, Hungry, God Bless You?" You probably haven't and you probably won't. Because our Mexican population works, and they work harder than any other race I've known. In Florida, I did the hiring for a construction site, and I was called "racist" because I only hired Mexicans. In point of fact, Mexicans were virtually the only applicants that passed my company's drug test.

Mom: He he, (not really funny but...) yes many Mexicans work very hard here (legally and illegally) because they've left their country for a better life for themselves and their families. But many Mexicans are still working slave labor here because they don't have identification, etc. so they cannot even work at the day labor jobs.

No matter what race, all homeless (white, black, hispanic, asian, turkish, native american, etc.) all have different and some of the same barriers. Each is an individual with individual barriers and problems. And each handles their situation differently. We can either play the game of survival of the fittest. Or, we can offer what we can to help them maximize their abilities and strengths- all people of ALL nationalities.

Ken: "Death In Vegas" opens with "Norman Bangs had finally had enough of the streets ... cold and dusty back lots ... police harassment ... newspaper beds ... lack of running water." I'm sorry, but how does "finally" fit in there? Was there some time frame in which Norman found that lifestyle appealing? Greg Malms said, "There are so many doors that are being closed in your face." Well, temporary labor offices have been open to me, all over the country. Las Vegas has several. The work they offer isn't like giving back rubs to supermodels, but damn it, it's work, and work pays off. So if you're homeless, don't put "Will Work For Food" on your pathetic cardboard sign. If you'll work for food, you'd already be at a labor office.

Mom: As I said here and in other posts of mine, there are many barriers that prevent some folks from getting a job. We have to help break down those barriers so they can get a job if that is what they want. For example, no identification, no job. No birth certificate, no social security card, no identification. No legitimate job.

Ken: In closing, "Norman Bangs ... had enough of the drinking and drugs." No, he hadn't. He died from them. Somehow he could afford alcohol and drugs, but not food or shelter. People can choose to rise above drugs and alcohol without a "detox bed" on their own. It's not easy and it's not fun. But ultimately, they themselves have to do it. Because all the Gail Saccos and Westcares in the universe won't be able to help those who won't help themselves.

Mom: We'll have to agree to disagree here. I do not believe that ALL people can get free from alcohol and/or drugs on their own. Each individual needs different things at different times. Some can do it on their own and some can't - whether one is homeless or non-homeless.

If we care about our fellow human beings, we must be there for them (as individuals and as a community) when they are ready to help themselves. Some have lost hope. We must help them restore their hope and dignity so they can begin --again-- to help themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to write to Las Vegas CityLife. And I am so glad that you are not homeless anymore. No one deserves to be homeless or hungry even if they've made their mistakes. Everyone deserves another chance or a helping hand to get off the streets if that's what they want.

And remember, you don't have to drink or do drugs to become homeless. Any one missed paycheck, a health crisis, an eviction whether it is a legal or illegal eviction, loss of a job or benefits, mental health issues, physical or medical health problems, or an unpaid bill can virtually make any one of us homeless.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen Mother, God helps us all when we no longer have a hand to give.