Not Just A Squishy Liberal: An Ex-Marine Talks Homelessness

Robert cox bob coxRobert Cox: I’m not just a squishy liberal. I’m an ex-marine, a retired educator with a Ph.D. in philosophy and literature, a senior activist with a nice little government stipend, which gives me the freedom to do the important work of a citizen. I have no agenda beyond a desire to reduce the suffering caused by homelessness. I believe we should spend more time on healing our communities, and less time on figuring out how to take them back. Law enforcement has its place, but it’s not the solution. Ask any cop.

If there is an interest, I’m proposing to write an occasional column. Please let us know what you think? Your interest and participation will determine future developments.

A little over a month ago, while I was getting gas at the 76-gas station at the corner of Central and Heller in McKinleyville, a man rode up next to me on a bicycle and stopped. Dirty, his windburned face and hands, and his overall intensity suggested he was on the verge of some kind emotional meltdown. When he began wagging his finger at me, accusing me of reporting him for a crime he hadn’t committed, I knew I was face-to-face with one of the free-range crazy people I had been reading about on the McKinleyville Community Watch Facebook Page. Dumbfounded, I just handed the man a bottle of water I happened to have in my hand. He took it, sighed deeply, and thanked me over his shoulder as he peddled away.

At that point, I went home and started to look into homelessness. What I’m finding isn’t pretty: the speed at which people are becoming homeless—especially on the west coast– has outstripped our collective ability to keep up, to formulate an appropriate response, or even imagine what a long-term solution might look like. We can’t even agree on the cause of the worsening crisis. Is it a question of character, poor choices, addiction, a lack of determination, loss of the work ethic, government programs that enable anti-social lifestyles, etc.? Or, is it environmental, a worsening economy, the disappearance of well-paying jobs, rising costs, the lack of access to education and training, the inability of our political-economic system to adjust zoning laws and building codes, which would lead to the construction of and access to housing and shelter that low-wage earners can actually afford? Is it a matter of bad choices, or the absence of good ones?

With the current shortage of affordable housing, people can’t find places to rent now, even when they have a county rent-voucher in hand; nor can they find a temporary shelter, or even a safe place to pitch a tent. Without a flexible plan to address current needs, what will the future look like? Here’s how I’ve come to see it: it’s as if we are all living on an uneven playing field that’s tipping. Those with the fewest resources live on the edge, and they are in the most danger of falling into the abyss of homelessness. From there, things get worse. I suspect if being crazy didn’t make me homeless, being homeless probably would.

I’m hoping this column can be a place to expand a conversation that began on the McKinleyville Community Watch Facebook Page, with an invitation to join in a “fireside chat” about homelessness? As we went deeper into the underlying causes of homelessness the conversation began to raise our awareness about a complicated set of problems, while reducing stigma, and, hopefully, paving the way for a significant reduction of suffering and an improvement in the general welfare.

Rocked by the gas station incident, I came away from this bizarre incident with the impression that our little town is in danger of becoming an outdoor asylum. It was one of those moments when you actually see something for the first time that’s been hiding right there in front of you in plain sight. I got it. Maybe we really are living in a war zone…. I wonder, has anyone noticed that there are far more American casualties on the streets of our country these days than there are in the Middle East? Spending billions on foreign wars to keep us safe at home makes less and less sense to me. Even from a strategic military point of view, if the objective is peace, wouldn’t it make more sense to build houses here rather than blow them up over there?

Turns out the face of the man at the gas station represents only one of the subgroups within the growing homeless population of America. For example, I’m haunted by the story of a local woman who grabbed her children and left in the night to escape the brutality of her drunken husband, only to find there was no place for her to go. She couldn’t stay at the shelter. Traumatized, she was terrified of men. Or there’s the story of the woman coming out of a mini-mart after buying a chocolate bar. A barefooted woman, dressed in a red sweatshirt, standing shoeless in the rain, told the local woman that she was hitchhiking to Oregon, and had become stranded in McKinleyville.

“Do you have an extra pair of shoes,” she asked. “No” was the answer, as the local lady pushed on. Later, she said, I wanted to take that poor woman home with me, let her take a warm shower, and give her some dry clothes. “I didn’t,” she said, I was afraid.”

A week ago Saturday I sat down with a man who has been homeless for five years because of an accident. Recently he moved back to McKinleyville from Eureka despite the lack of shelters here. He said there’s less drama here, and he wants to be closer to his son, who lives with his mom and stepdad.

Every Saturday the Church of the Joyful Healer opens its doors to the homeless. On the day I visited, five members of the congregation hosted fifteen homeless people, five of whom were women. What struck me was how ordinary they seemed. Turns out it’s often hard to recognize the homeless amongst us. They just don’t stand out like the guy at the gas station. It’s the ordinary appearance that hides them. Given the shame and stigma associated with homelessness, it’s hardly surprising, then, that “normal” people would prefer the middle of the heard, which is part of the reason why it’s so difficult to get an accurate count of the homeless. But to give you some idea of the skyrocketing numbers in California, consider this: the total count of homeless people in Los Angeles this year is 58,000, which represents a 28% increase over last year. The most recent count for Humboldt county I could find pegged the number at 1,330. Rents on the West Coast have soared, one reporter notes. Many of those who are homeless now could have found a place to stay just a couple of years ago. “Now, even a temporary setback can be enough to leave them out on the streets.” 



  • I am interested! You are asking the questions that nag at me. Thank you.

    • Sickofyouantigovwhiners

      I agree with Kelly! These are all things I wrestle with as well and would love to see this problem discussed with your thoughtful insight and compassion. Is it coincidence that as education becomes more expensive, saddling young people with overwhelming debt, that fewer young people see a way to go to college? And even if they go to college wages are so stagnant that paying student loans become unmanageable, and affordable housing is nearly impossible to find.

    • Agree! Thanks Mr. Cox for bravely addressing this problem with an open mind. At this point, I think the basic principles of conflict resolution need to be applied: all the stakeholders in this problem want the same thing (an end to homelessness). But there is deep division in how to solve it. We must start to empathize with those that don’t agree with our own solution, rather than see them as an enemy, in order to move forward fast enough to keep this problem from exploding further. United we stand, divided we fall.

    • The nagging question I have is: why so many less homeless in, say, Mexico? (Or other poorer countries) I see very few homeless in Mexico, and if they are begging on the street they are usually handicapped and unable to work. Mexico has more pay inequality, more poverty in general. But less crazy/homeless/drug addict.

      • Values.
        A stronger family system, we tend to appreciate the company of the dollar more than that of the cousin on the street.

      • a lot of other countries do not even understand the word “homeless” in most, it’s common practice to invite people into their own homes

      • Don’t question the plans of the N.W.O. They want people to be homeless,broke,afraid,and on the verge of rebellion….just ask SATAN

  • Good article. It is truly astounding how many people actually think “it could never happen to me”.
    And with the lack of compassion or empathy this administration has championed, people are now being taught to turn away, to fear, to ignore. This is Not the America I once knew.

    • “this administration”? the homeless problem didn’t just spring up! it had been snowballing for a little over a decade (if not more) …the homeless have always been, just the portions have gotten scarily large! The difference is now, as someone pointed out, most are just a sneeze away from homelessness, living from pay check to pay check, barely making the basics … it is more about the economy than your need to pin your hate on ‘this administration’.

      • Most people scramble to meet bills at some time in their lives, especially while young. The lucky ones go home to Mom (Mom being not so lucky.) Others find friends, a new job, welfare, share, whatever. They find a way. What has changed is that “homelessness” has changed socially from being a personal problem to be solved by the individual into a way of extracting attention. I have had people living with relatives tell me they are homeless. Same with a person living with a group or a friend or as caretaker. Or staying in their car while travelling. If they are seeking resources, anything short of owning their own home will be called being homeless. It is useful.

        So no. Most people are not ‘one paycheck away from being homeless.’ They are one pay check away from having to scramble to make it not happen.

        Drug addicts and the seriously mentally ill are the two groups most likely to be chronically camping out. Because they have burned all their resources or because they are too paranoid to live with others. Both are very difficult to home as they carry their problems with them.

        Sometimes a mentally ill person can be stabilized by being provided with just the right residence but it is a long term commitment needing lots of resources for monitoring and running interference for them. Even then there will be periods of failure and danger for those around them. And that is if they accept that they are the ones needing it.

        The whole issue is so much more difficult and complicated than so many commenters indicate. And the carping public- the ones who loudly demand someone else to fix it all- will be ever ready to dump blame on those who try.

      • I agree.. although I’d like to blame as much as possible on trump 😉 this has been going on for decades. If I were to blame a republican, it’d be Reagan for shutting down the mental institutions. They were terrible but still a better alternative than what we have now. Bring back the asylums.

  • Keep writing. This is a conversation we desperately need to have. As our elected government is poised to give huge tax cuts to the rich, the minimum wage has not remotely kept up with inflation. As housing and education costs have soared working class wages have dismally failed to keep up. The lower half has been hemorrhaging wealth for decades and is hitting bottom. These forces have created a self replicating population of traumatized, economically sidelined individuals. We need to start supporting resiliency, and affordable housing is a huge part of that picture.

  • Welcome to my world. I spent my career listening to the stories and trying to help people despite their stories. Only once in thirty years did a homeless man ever say he was responsible for his own situation. He was in this strait because he ‘partied hard’ whenever he could.

    The converse is true too. Those who take responsibility for themselves are rarely stuck in homelessness. They fix their problems.

    First you can’t believe what you are told. Or rather you might want to believe but it helps nothing and can cause harm. Homeless people are not more stupid than anyone else. They are largely adept at telling you what they think gets them what they want. Many have told the same stories so long they stop thinking beyond them.

    For example: A man says to you that he lost his job in the last recession and couldn’t get another. True as far as it goes. You interpret that as a sad story of what life has done to him. Rarely that is the whole story. What is most likely is that he never kept a job longer than a few months long before the recession. What happened is that more competitive workers fell down the food chain in the recession and he was unable to get the casual jobs he had most of his life. It might be that he had a drug addiction or jail time or even his mother died and he lost the money he was getting from her. Whatever. His coping skills could not meet challenge.

    The point is that trying to address the reasons people give who have failed in coping as if that was the truth is unrealistic. Trying to determine or even assume ‘deserving’ is a fool’s game. People get into messes because they either can’t help it or they can’t make themselves adapt.

    What you can do his help with immediate needs, whether he is ugly or charming, and keep your expectations out of it. The lady was right to be afraid of taking the woman home. But she could have bought her a pair of shoes and hoped for the best. She could have only had the wherewithal to buy the shoes if she took care of herself first. In a society where the most people who can are sober and diligent enough to take care of themselves first, the numbers of those who can’t or won’t are small enough that they need not be without help when they need it.

    So wait for the big change until the individual has grown tired, old or ill enough to stop harming himself. Offer but don’t expect until then. Until then do the small things- the temporary patches- until the person wants to act in ways that get them the results they want. Don’t get stuck with trying to give the results. They don’t take. 99.9 % of the time anyway. There’s always that rare gem.

  • It takes a village to care for its citizens.

    So many homeless have mental health issues whether they are drugs induced or the homeless have a lifetime mental illness. I run into them nearly everyday on the paved trail from the parking lot next to Shamus Restaurant all the way to the Herrick Road parking area at the 101 highway. I have seen homeless use the bathroom ( thanks goes to the City for installing bathrooms {two} and drinking fountains) to use drugs. One can find used needles on the floor. The police do sweeps through the area and roust out the camping homeless, but to no avail. Usually I walk at daybreak when the night campers are packing up and moving out before the police arrive. Some greet me with a “good morning” and some are not so nice. On several occasions I have been confronted and yelled at. Never have I been assaulted or physically attack. The latter are mentally sick individuals. You only need to look into their eyes to realize something is not working normally behind those eyes. Am I fearful. Not yet. The ones that confront me I walk away from and they stop their ranting. Regardless of who and what they are they live in our community and all of us need to be responsible for their well being. Many are normal acting, but addicted and they need our help also. If you pet a dog it will wag it’s tail and lick your hand. If you treat homeless people as different, but normal they will smile and say “good morning” and maybe a “have a good day”. I have been walking there for a number of years and some know me by sight. They never panhandle me although I did rid myself of a couple of coats and jackets. These are real people in our community. Too many of us see them as less than human. Most are not. They are members of our community’s family and even though many of us would like to see them gone they have been here for many years and they are not going away. It is a population of our society that for however they got here they are making Eureka their homeless home. Let’s start the dialog there and see if we can be human and find better care in this city other than looked down on as outcasts.

  • Sir! Thank you for putting your words up here! I sincerely hope you will continue to give us your take on our problems. Much good can come of this, especially with the unifying force of your clear and pointed direction.

  • Well said! I am interested in any community effort to address the problem. As someone who works in the rental industry I can absolutely attest to the fact that the price of rent and lack of availability of small low income rentals is a huge part.of the problem! And the lack of easily accessible mental health care is a huge issue as well!

  • Keep writing. The money spent on our overseas military activity could surely be put to better use in our own country. We know that will never happen because too much money is being made on war by the private contractors and suppliers of war materials. Those companies have invested many dollars in electing officials that will continue the spending.

    • Ike warned us about the ‘Military Industrial Complex’, and how long ago was that?! Guess money talks & bullshit walks.

    • To cutten resident,Your so right,it’s not like isis is going to attack anyone in our nation,like with a truck or a bomb,or maybe a ak47,or a knife.[edit]

    • Drug War, War on Terror.. don’t expect those cash cows to end anytime soon either. Too many jobs contracts and pension plans at stake.

  • Excellent post. Excellent comments. Despite our advantages or disadvantages, abilities or lack thereof, support system or isolation, we are all human.
    I agree that some lack the capacity or ambition or self-esteem or have fear that intereferes with actively participating in initiating change in their lives. But I know some can, over time and with the training, medication, counseling needed, bridge those issues. Some.
    And I know there are many others with the same fears and disabilities who, by dint of circumstance and friend and family support, are not homeless. And I agree that there are plenty of hidden homeless.
    Starting by recognizing all are human is good. And remembering that ‘there but for fortune, go we’. I know that if I lost my home I could not afford rent anywhere here.

    • And why would you not be able to afford to rent? What causes the rents to be so high? Why are there no cheap houses available?

  • Becoming homeless? Free-range crazies? Turning into an outdoor asylum?

    California, by virtue of its good weather, has always had the avant-garde, the laissez-faire, the abnormally free form bums, but bums they are! There is nothing that is mentally ill about it!

    Some people just choose to shun jobs, travel, scavenge a living off the straight folk, and scam. There is so much wealth, so much extra, and it’s so easy to make some money here, if you need it! In a wealthy space like California, all you have to do is hold out your hand, ask for a handout, or go down to the mission, the churches, hell, the government!

    People. Choose. This. Lifestyle. It’s a LIFE CHOICE.

    Trying to help these people, it’s always the wrong thing to do.

    Only by working for it, struggling to survive, working for self-respect, will anyone gain authority over life.

    The rightest thing to do, is work to ensure that life on the streets, life outside the system, is insufferably difficult!

    Life on the streets, life with nothing, should be SO HARD that nobody wants to be there!

    Give them nothing. Tough love WORKS. It’s hard, but you will be doing them a favor.

    • And you need more.

    • It is hard for me to believe that advocating “tough love” for the most vulnerable of our citizens can be an option for anyone familiar with the problem. That said, you may be interested in knowing that the discrepancies between the “Haves” and “Have Nots” have become so severe that the United Nations is studying our homeless situation. As if we ARE a Third World Nation…which we seem to be…
      If you are able to get a wider view of our Nation’s problems, I’m sure you will agree that dissing on the homeless for being homeless is akin to spanking a crippled child because it stumbles.

      • What a hoot. The UN special invesigator rains his personal condemnation on every politically hot target he can find.

        The issue is first to prevent people from choosing so poorly they end up homeless. This means honoring those who work and are independent so people prefer that life to have self respect. Part of that is ensuring everyone who wants work can find it.

        Another part of it is public opinion that being homeless is something that a person can and should fix on their own. Work is hard and why should anyone do the many unfulfilling jobs that are needed unless they can take pride in it. Pointing out that achieving self sufficiency is a matter of choice is not “dissing” the person is not self supporting when it’s from people who have chosen to do it.

        The homeless are mostly never children and to say they are like children is disrespectful. Even the mentally ill are mostly not the least childlike. Drug addicts are not children. They can not be ordered about and have their actions restricted, treated as if they are incapable unless they are incapable. They won’t tolerate it.

    • Lemme guess. Born and raised. A little land in the fam guaranteed a comfy life from the gate. Nice for you. Dually noted.

      • No, going to the same stressful job almost every single day for decades while putting up with a whole lot of bullshit like an adult while not spending impulsively so as to save for a rainy day is the most common path. Then, if misfortune happens anyway, doggedly working to get back what was lost helps too.

        Assuming that the only reason for someone else doing well is that they were given something is based on the belief that it can’t be done otherwise. It can, it is and always has been.

    • If you’ve never walked in the shoes how can you know how they feel. Tough love? Wait until the weed market crashes and the heartless locals stemming from the pot community have to do what the rest have to. My Paremte work 14 or more miserable hours daily, with no leisure due to exaushtion, how many grow babies had to watch there family struggle through hard work? Yeah growing weed is hard, and it’s legal now. But not many growbabies get it, and to the growers that failed to teach there kids anything more than to grow. You fucked them for life. Next will be selling the other drugs. So if you want to bash on all homeless, than take it elsewhere. Just cause I’ve only been robbed by black people doesn’t mean they all should suffer and be judged. Same with homeless. I’ve seen and walked all levels of homelessness, the problem is most of the time a homeless person is speaking to deaf minds that don’t here anything but their own self righteousness and pride. And I go into the mountains saw up rounds load my truck split the wood and sell it, I live in my truck, and I’m trying but it’s fucking hard. Almost no one knows I’m homeless because I’m afraid of judgement, I’m a hard working dude. I’m very glad to see most of you are very compassionate. The others, get fucked

      • I would love to have a regular source of firewood, as I suspect many would. But it’s hard work with only limited reward, so if I find a source one season it is gone the next.

    • BS. Do some choose it? Probably. However, the overwhelming majority have mentall illness and mental illness related substance abuse issues. Few would choose to sleep outside. Other countries that treat those less fortunate with dignity and get them treatment have out of control homelessness. Making poverty unlawful exacerbates the situation. The war on drugs has helped create the problems. We need to look elsewhere at programs that work and find our humanity and begin to implement effective programs e.g., get people housing and stabilized life situation before you require people to get off drugs.

  • Well said! I hope you follow up with more articles.
    Bureaucrats paid for studies that showed that the mental illness people often self medicate and that homeless people often self medicate. The outcome? Bureaucracy that helps the mentally ill who do not self medicate and bureaucracy that helps the self medicated who do not have mental illnesses. The people beg for more bureaucracy, instead of the freedom to open clinics ran by the people for the people.

  • Excellent! Even I, The Prince of Darkness ™, was not unmoved by your thoughtful words. Only one request I would ask of you: That this column you propose be more than occasional, this needs to be a regular piece… at least once a month. Countering the despair and hatred will take more than an occasional appearance. Can you do that?

  • And to Kym Kemp, I would say; Keep up the good work! The shining light of inspiration that you emanate burns my eyes, of course…. But, keep up the good work anyways.

  • Wow, so glad someone is open to starting and having a real conversation about this. There was an article about poverty in Alabama that has a wonderful quote from a U.N. official investigating: “The idea of human rights is that people have basic dignity and that it’s the role of the government — yes, the government! — to ensure that no one falls below the decent level,” he said. “Civilized society doesn’t say for people to go and make it on your own and if you can’t, bad luck.”
    Here’s a link to the article:

  • You should know I’m not naïve. Without getting into the details, I remember well finding myself homeless, and living in a shelter on Skid Row in Portland, Oregon. I was 15. Each morning an old school bus came to pick up those of us who were willing to go to work harvesting vegetables. In the evening we gathered around a fire under a nearby bridge, and drank cheap wine. Everyone had a story, as everybody does. And yes for some it was a lifestyle choice.

    After a few days, it was clear that it was going to take forever for me to earn enough money to get back to my home in San Diego. I was barely making enough money to eat. So a hat was passed around, and the men there bought me a bus ticket.

    I’m not particularly sentimental either. But I believe that looking through an objective-compassionate lens will get us to the kind of perspective that will be useful in addressing the homeless crisis. Do you know how many homeless children there are in Humboldt County? You might be surprised. Indeed, something like 15% of students at both CR and Humboldt State are homeless. Do you know why homeless students, on average, do better than the housed? Interesting.

    Yesterday I made the last planned visit with community leaders in preparation for forming a McKinleyville-based study group, which will hopefully lead to similar study groups being formed in each of Humboldt County’s five districts. Somehow we’ve got to come find the common ground to find a workable, shared intention…

    Here’s the larger problem: if we are able to house every last homeless person tomorrow, and fail to address the underlying causes, why wouldn’t we wake up next week to find a new homeless population? It’s similar to incarceration: you can disappear people, but that doesn’t mean you’ve eliminated the problem. No pie-in-the-sky solutions will get ‘er done.

    I’ll share more on this in my next column. You might be surprised.

  • Thank you mr.Cox I am so grateful for you writing this.

    Check out this story. ..

  • It’s a good start Bob. Still as I said in our conversation, I think a video blog on this would be ideal. That way voices could be truly heard. If you care to experiment with something like that that is. Hell I’ll be your first lab rat! Visited the neuroligist the other day, that guy did not really listen. Went to SSA today and they dont listen. We are living in a time of a deafening social media platform where conffusion is king.
    From a Corpie and Fed employee that has lived more years with a seizure condition than without, I say the key is to be heard as in voices heard intead of words read. Just my oppinion though. Keep it up Bob (youtube interviews 😉 )


    Kids see the world around them.
    They see their parents getting drunk/high. They see their parents slack attitude toward life,with dirty home and property.
    Too many folks having kids without devoting their entire heart and every resource to them.
    I believe poor parenting is a contributing factor.
    Now we must be the parents to adult children.
    How many people would buy the lady some shoes,or would they think someone from a richer neighborhood should? I would love to read Betty’s thoughts on this letter.

    I’m not a churchgoer but:
    “The Lord helps those that help themselves”

  • I just wish there was a realist place that is neither unreasonble expectations or all doom. And that people would respect it rather than condemn. Sheesh.

  • What qualified you for that “nice little government stipend”? And how much is it? And what would the homeless issue look like if everyone got one, that & health care?
    It would probably SAVE money by helping people stay out of jails & prisons.

    • It would look like the government stipend was the definition of poverty. It would never be enough. That people who worked would still want much more than someone who got something for nothing.

  • It’s so refreshing to read something real on the subject. Enough from the ill-informed isolated 40 acre universe crowd. When cannabis and you’re accompanying comfy reality evaporate entirely, may empathy rear its rewarding head.
    Bless, B.

    • Assuming everyone who thinks differently had good things handed to them will always lead to incorrect conclusions.

      Maybe a person might expect others to get what they want through their own efforts because that is exactly what they did themselves.

  • There used to be opportunities in society for those with little or no skills or education to work and pay rent: street sweeping, window washing, pumping gas, etc. These jobs are mostly gone now, and those with limited abilities don’t have to opportunities that there once were. Not everyone is cut out for a job in technology, or has office skills. Not many dishwashing jobs will pay enough for rent, even sharing a place with several others. Many industries in this area, logging, fishing and food agriculture aren’t able to support a labor force anymore. Vocational training is one area that is lacking in the education system. There are different levels of homlessness, in the bay area it’s becoming common for college students and those entering the workforce to live in their cars.

    • One help would be if it was not so very expensive to have an employee who not very capable of being productive. There are required contributions like Worker’s Comp, SDI, FICA, etc. But there are also law suits, inspections, leave requirements, etc. Things with good intentions (sort of) but burdensome for businesses who need an accountant to see if they can afford all the regulation and paperwork involved. And to pay a salary in competition to benefits of not working.

      The days of hiring a person who has a problem as a act of kindness is long gone. Yet the sweeping still has to be done, I would pay a bit more to have my gas pumped or my groceries carried out, windows get washed anyway. Those things are all contracted out now because that put the paperwork and liability burden (more simplified than having an employee) on the worker, not the business, or put off on the customer.

      I think it is the same with housing. Evicting someone is expensive even if they never pay a dime, lawsuits abound, insurance is high, tenant rights , ADA, property taxes, fees and requirements. If I was a landlord, I’d want enough money to make up for all the things I can certainly expect to pay for and time I had to spend.

  • Here is something Mr Cox
    Jean Liedloff – The Continuum Concept
    just the first 16 minutes gets the idea across

    I’d also like to talk to the veteran homeless experience and its wide circle of sub categoies

  • Keep writing. Please. Thank you.

  • OOH RAH, Nice article

  • Dear Mr. Cox,
    I co-created an organization called Affordable Homless Housing Alternatives by watching my community struggle with homelessness. People are dying on our streets because of the systematic violence, criminalization and a huge lack of affordable housing and services in my community. Literally NO WHERE TOGO! We believe that everyone deserves to be Safe Warm and Dry! I would love to talk with you anytime and share all we have done to be ignored on the topic by our Leaders…

  • “Outdoor asylum.” That is what it truly has become in cities coast to coast. I found this article after just now hearing a woman shouting incoherently from the street corner below us, for perhaps the one hundredth time since living here in Downtown Denver. I’ve heard shouting from a mentally ill or drugged-out individual truly about that many times in the time I have lived here which is 7 years. I have seen folks lying in the street, sleeping in puddles, and one man’s dead, rigid body pulled out of the tall grass near the river – his face blackened from the sun and decay. All seen from our window. I called to report it thinking it might be that someone got murdered. ‘It was nobody.” the dispatcher said. “Just a vagrant.’ This issue is not about lack of affordable housing, although I am sure that doesn’t help. This issue is not ‘homelessness.’ That is masking what is truly a more sinister and dark cultural reality. The harsh truth is, Americans are more isolated than ever, whether forced, or by choice, or both, they are increasingly lonely and without social connections. Many feel lost and hopeless with no family or friend connections. These are crucial elements to happiness and to sustaining life. Think about it, you don’t see hispanic folks laying in the streets. At least I haven’t seen any, and what is the one cultural difference between ‘mainstream’ Americans and our hispanic immigrant population? They are the poorest among us and yet they have figured out how to make it and live cramped together sometimes up to 15 folks in a mobile home. The power among most of these folks is they have strong family units. Indeed, I suspect that what we are seeing is not an epidemic people who cannot find housing. It is an epidemic of millions of Americans who are are drowning in despair and depression and isolation and have given up and joined the growing throngs of others who say: ‘That’s it. I have no more energy. I have given up.’ I feel I can virtually hear those words emanating from these folks as they lie motionless on the sidewalk covered by a tattered blanket. You are right that until we can agree on the what is truly causing this phenomenon, and I suspect the story is quite complicated, how in the world will we even begin to see our way out of it and help these folks? And more importantly perhaps, how do we strategize to help stop this from continuing and happening to future generations of American adults?

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