We have homeless encampments next to our freeways and behind buildings and dumpsters, but after reading about homelessness in the August edition of the Catholic Agitator, I read more about how Los Angeles’ problem is enormous, and it was brought on by the failure of its City Fathers to plan. They still haven’t done much.
The 50 square blocks of skid row are owned by about a dozen or so white, mostly rich, businessmen, while out on the streets more than 4,000 men, women and children sleep on cement under constant threat of harassment from police and private security guards. In the sweeps, homeless people lose everything, in spite of verbal promises that their possessions will be available the next day. In reality, behind the cops come sanitation workers smashing up shelters and throwing clothes, bedrolls, identification, medicine, food and water into dump trucks.
Is life easy for the homeless? Transportation for Angelinos who sleep in tents and makeshift shelters requires a lot of time and effort. Without stable incomes, public transportation is expensive, and limited nighttime bus schedules don’t accommodate the late-night shifts of low-income workers. Water is scarce, toilets are almost non-existent and medicine hard to acquire.
The myth of laziness needs to be called out for what it is: a stereotype that destroys the character of an already harassed and suffering people. It attempts to justify the squalor. Society must stop preaching that miserable conditions force people to move out of poverty. One place for the well-set brain to start is to rethink the narrative of laziness and recognize that, in fact, people without stable housing work hard just to squeak out survival.
What’s the Bakersfield City Council doing for the problem here? I’m afraid I already know: voices talk, but money walks.
Historian Gilbert Gia belongs to the California Retired Teachers Association, the Kern County Historical Society and Democratic Woman of Kern.