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Thoughts on Homeless Issue

Sunday, January 01, 2017

While visiting Oakland, my sister and I stayed at a very nice hotel in a beautiful location on the estuary at Jack London Square. But we were somewhat shocked driving to the location when we drove through a huge homeless camp set up on the sidewalks under the freeway; there were traffic cones set up to require drivers to stop and drive slowly through the encampment. My impression was there was a lot of trash and possessions strewn all over. It was like driving through a television episode of the TLC television show "Hoarders". And when we drove through the camp to get to our hotel, we observed several people that appeared to be mentally ill (ranting or wandering across the road ...)

My brother and sister-in-law were so upset they would never stay at our hotel. Mindy and I had a bit of trouble in the hotel lobby; a young homeless guy persistently tried to hit us up for money on the first time (we were waiting for my sister to pick us up); and the second time a homeless woman had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace; she was dazed and incoherent and in the process of being kicked out by hotel valets. Both Mindy and I thought the hotel should restrict the lobby to guests with keys, or post a security officer -- I am sure that the prospect of warm room, clean bathroom, fresh water and coffee is extremely alluring to those who have nothing! But the guests were departing the lobby because they were uncomfortable, which doesn't help the hotel's business.

I was very interested to research and read that Oakland is trying to help the homeless camps by offering some city services. That includes using traffic cones to slow down traffic; providing portable toilets, clean drinking water, and trash pick up. Plus offering mental and medical health care, and job services, to those who need it. Here is a link to a newspaper article about Oakland's experiment for more compassionate approach to homelessness:

This is VERY controversial among business and neighboring homeowners. And the City states it is not a permanent program; it is an interim measure while they try to create alternatives.

This really did prompt me to think about the serious issue of homelessness in our cities. Maybe some of it is that I don't live in a large city -- but my sister who lives in Oakland's hills, and my brother from a large city (Phoenix) and my sister from New Orleans area ALSO were somewhat shocked by the extent and visibility of homeless camps on the street in Oakland.
Here in Central Oregon there is a large homeless population, but we are surrounded by National forest where it is legal to camp. Many of the homeless are camped along the rivers, or in large out of the way camp areas. I've talked to several people who live in their cars; they definitely have a better situation than those who live in tents. Our shelters are overflowing during the frigid winter months, and most shelters restrict behavior (i.e., no alcohol or drug use). Some require the homeless to look for work or be out of the shelters.

I don't know the answers. I feel compassionate toward the homeless, and it was a shock to see how large the problem is in the big city. I hope Oakland has success in creating more housing. and social programs (to help those homeless who may need such help -- many simply can't afford the high cost of an apartment -- but it was pretty obvious that some people had serious health issues). All of us are terribly aware of the horrible fire that killed so many young people (the "Ghost Ship" in Oakland, where a warehouse had been converted to illegal cheaper housing).

My hopes and prayers are with those who are struggling with homelessness, who may be struggling with mental health or addiction, and to those leaders who are trying to help. I have volunteered in the past at our local Bethlehem Inn (motel that was converted to housing for the homeless) and the meal programs provided at our local churches. I am committed to doing more in 2017! After all, there but for the grace of God, it could be me ...
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Oh dear Ali...this is SUCH a horrible problem. I know at our commercial consignment gallery the landlord has had to install locks and keys for the water spigots on the outside of the building as homeless people were using the water to take showers.

    My heart is so sad for the state of these people. We regularly volunteer at Habitat for Humanity and donate any of the unsold items from our consignment gallery to their stores. It's just too close to home...if we lose the fight to save our home...we too could be homeless! emoticon

    Housing here in FL is outrageously expensive and now the people that are renting to homeowners that lost their homes during the foreclosure rip off are every bit as much at the mercy of the greedy landlords raising their rents at will as they EVER were to the crooked's just heartbreaking! emoticon

    Actually, if you think about the problem... we ALL are just a minute away from a disaster that could throw us into a homeless situation. The drug epidemic is growing by leaps and bounds and is a direct contribution to the situation.

    I know this firsthand from my daughter from my first marriage that could NOT...kick drugs no matter how many chances she had or how much support the State of Iowa provided her with group housing, food stamps, etc. etc. We literally spent THOUSANDS of dollars on drug programs that were ineffective and that she was allowed to check herself out of. The thing about these clinics (or at least the ones we dealt with) is that they DO NOT offer if the addict checks opens up another avenue to bring in more mega bucks.

    The way I see's pretty much the same as the traditional medical regard for the patient...just the $$$!

    The whole medical system is's all about greed and pushing meds that may cure one thing but break down the organs in so many other ways. I hate it...I take no meds...and hope to stay away from them forever. I'm willing to try natural things...but sometimes I worry if they are REALLY's a big problem my friend.

    I don't know WHAT the solution is...everything circles back to the drugs...if only they could annihilate these human being soul destroyers off the face of the earth ...and many of them are prescription...thanks so much for raising awareness, my friend. emoticon
    1392 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/5/2017 9:06:36 AM
    Hi Alison........
    We live about 45 miles North of Madison and I am there to volunteer at least every other week and see the Homeless problem there. There are shelters because of our harsh winters and the city is working on the problem, but, as you mentioned, there are so many of the homeless with medical problems. Many of them are mental patients who, for whatever reason, are NOT in situations where they are better cared for. I have volunteered in soup kitchens and have donated clothing and blankets and coats, etc. but it is such a large problem, that our government may have to get involved in a greater capacity.
    emoticon for bringing this to our attention in your blog and also for what you do.
    1395 days ago
    yes I am aware Alison of the homelessness in Oakland ,my heart goes out to them. We live in a small area around 10,000 plus 3 outer places total over 560.000 small areas compared to Oakland,but for a small place around here we have a lot of homelessness, plus a lot of veterans which is so sad. The 3 larger places around here have so many . We have soup kitchens here in my small town I will look into helping out
    1396 days ago
    Wow, I had no idea such a huge problem existed. I live just outside of Minneapolis. We do have homeless people but there are several shelters for them because in Minnesota people cannot live outside in the winter. Also many churches are set up to take in homeless families - they provide beds in the Sunday School classrooms per family and the people get a hot meal in the evening and breakfast in the morning. However, they usually can't stay in the church all day because of church activities. A circuit of 5 or 6 churches will take the responsibility for a week at a time and there are volunteers to drive the families to someplace safe and warm for the day.

    Thank you for providing insight into this apparently very huge problem.
    1396 days ago
    I live in Marin County and I grew up in San Francisco. The homeless situation is only getting worse. I wish there were solutions, I know that our "politicians" and people who seemingly have taken in the positions to be working hard developing programs and alternative living shelters, but there really isn't an answer of what to do with the ever growing numbers. The trash, etc is definitely ruining the city is so many areas. I appreciate your concern and your outreach in helping with this terrible issue. Thank you!
    1396 days ago
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