The Spare Changer Original Articles: 2014
By Lawson H Snipes Jr
|Vol 3 No 12 October 2014 Issue|
Vol. 3 No.12
The Spare Changer
Our mission is simple: To inform the uninformed, to entertain, and most importantly to foster pride and self- respect within and among the unsheltered homeless here and throughout the country. We do this by proffering something to you, our valued reader. Your donation, in this time of increased budget cuts to social services, narrows the gap between basic needs you and I may take for granted, but which remain unmet by social service agency funding and the truly courageous efforts of the sheltered and un-sheltered poor. “It is better to give than to receive,” says The Bible. We say it is even better when we give something back. Enjoy ‘The Spange!’
Policing the Homeless in Public Places
“Can’t We All just Get Along?” Yes We Can…
Crooks Cops &
The world has more people in it than it
needs to make it go ‘round, and the net result is income inequality which causes poverty and so its most obvious result, some degree of homelessness in every city, town and neighborhood. Perhaps not in ‘gated’ communities, but certainly close enough to the people who live in them that even these well- to-do see are indirectly affected by “the homeless
look” if not actual “quality of life” infractions committed by homeless people--who do things what we all do, except the homeless must do them in public.
Children are the fastest growing
homeless population, and returning war veterans will soon eclipse them I suspect. There seems to be no mechanism that guarantees their ability, that guarantees sufficient opportunity for them to rise above their station in life. As animals, people have to survive. And so as citizens, as otherwise “law-
abiding” citizens in poverty, there becomes no morality when people are starving; when survival is at risk. And this friends, is the root cause of “crime.” This, my friends, fills our jails and prisons. This, peppers our communities with homelessness and its appearance. It is no longer plausible to say to the homeless “Get a Job.” The jobs are not here to be had.
More and more, you can see how American
workers, blue collar and even professionals are losing jobs to outsourced and even in sourced labor. Foreign worker visas, in a
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corporate effort to raise profits by keeping labor costs to a competitive minimum are being issued at an alarming rate; supposedly because American workers do not have the necessary skill sets. All morality aside, someone will always work for less, so there is no business model need for wages to keep pace with the rising costs of living.
*Editor’s Note: Together with ever increasing technological advances that preclude the need for human labor, you can see there is reason to worry about more and more homelessness, and so more and more need to police our homeless communities, and in such a way that the housed and housing-challenged can live together in harmony. For example, a panhandler setting up shop in front of business establishments, or homeless alcoholics discarding beer bottles and other paraphanalia in hidden yet still observable public places “looks bad” for a community, frightens
business owners and some passersby, but it also gives a bad name to other homeless members of a community who remember what all this must look like to someone who knows nothing of what it means to be so poor you cannot even out a roof over your own head. I thought I’d talk to a few people; ask them about their homelessness in general and their contacts with police specifically. Afterwards, as promised last issue of The
‘Spange (“Policing the homeless and Other
Victims of Poverty”), I also spoke briefly with two officers working for our local Davis Police Department about policy.. Buckle up and read on.
Not a Patrol Car
An interview with Doc & Chica
Doc & Chica his Chihuahua are back,
and I am happy to see my old friends during their yearly return to Davis.
So we are sitting here on a Friday
afternoon, enjoying Our Local High School Homecoming Parade, smoking cigarettes and, well, he asks me this question, as we remarked how some people give them money and some don’t (and that’s fine), but that some people look at us with the most curious look:
“Did you hear about the preacher who
panhandled to his Congregation, unbeknownst to the members?” and then “Did you hear what happened?”
I told him “I saw a Facebook ‘meme’ or
something like that about it, but I’m not sure.” Curious, I asked him
He proceeded to find the article using his fancy Android cell phone, almost as fancy as my own. I read the article with interest and a strong sense of irony and I knew to get this right, if I wanted everyone to
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revel in the irony if not the lessons, I was going to have to quote the source:
“He greeted people (only) to be greeted
back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.” I imagine this is an aberration, I hope so, but most assuredly, this Congregation got a wake- up call from their new
Pastor. Yes, that’s right; he started work that next
Sunday …in full homeless regalia (as Pastor of that Congregation.)
“ He walked up the altar and took the
microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment then he recited
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
“For I was hungry and you gave me
something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me
something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord,
when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you, sick or in prison, and go to visit you?’”
‘”The King will reply,
‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” “After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning. Many began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.”
“He then said, ‘Today
I see a gathering of
people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will YOU decide to become disciples’?”
“He then dismissed service until next week.”
When I see this kind of thing, I realize
‘mainstream’ people are not exposed to the kind of education I think we need. And I think of decisions I make every day that don’t seem like much; with just my making them, but that I know will affect me when others don’t see things my way. I used to give on the streets, stopped giving on the streets and now that the labor market can no longer support the mouths of even America, I am giving on the streets again.
Giving is significant for me personally, not
only as an opportunity to express my compassion-- not mere sympathy-- it is
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an opportunity for me to meet potential Client Vendors for distribution of this publication, The
Most of the time, like
today with Doc & Chica, (you may remember his Chihuahua, Blondie? She passed away a couple of years )… most of the time I just talk, mostly listen really, to their stories that tell how they come to be homeless. I have learned the most common denominator is …poverty.
And the most common barrier to achieving self- support? Opportunity.
Anyway, Doc and I are getting old, and we
were lamenting our misfortune at not being 40 years younger! We find ourselves home in Davis, or visiting, and as street people we see our fair share of the diverse demographics. We like the diversity, I love it, but I have to tell you, some people surprise even us.
Take people who live and work here… And
then there are students, oh, and their parents…
In Davis, sometimes you can experience
more, learn more, by staying in the same place; we also have more parades and bicycle races, more music and art than you can shake a stick at, and all the while even if you are poor, there is a lot to see and do. Today we are just sitting; watching; plastic donation cup guarded by little Chica, of course, wondering what in the world the world has turned into… Good thing the universe seeks balance and equilibrium, isn’t it?
*Editor’s Comment: It begs the question for me,
“Why has Capitalism been allowed to run amok, shielded by a bought-and- paid-for (Corporate) tax code that does not allow government to provide for those that cannot provide for itself? In such a predatory global environment made by the very nature of competition for limited resources, how
long can poverty, the natural and logical consequence of losing in
“The Game of Life” be allowed to continue?
Just what are we going to do with all the people who are not needed to make the world go ‘round?” We certainly cannot tax individuals who work for a living enough to do this? How long are we going to accept homelessness as part of society to be gotten used to? How long are we going to accept crime and incarceration as remedy for food and housing?
So, it’s been nearly
an hour and I’m figuring I would have seen a police patrol car or bicycle (hey, this is Davis!) passing us by now. ‘Things must be pretty cool…’
Doc & his little dogs, both Chica and Blondie
whom I met 9 years ago, have written here before about Doc’s disabilities, “the result of doing work in construction, of lifting people doing home care
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for the old or disabled, and other ‘crappy’ jobs.”
“I over did it; I have a small frame and did not
want to be accused of being weak or lazy. After leaving the military on a Medical, I had no choice. I did them anyway.” At this point, Doc’s homelessness seems derived from his difficulty in getting the Vet
Administration’s and the
Social Security offices to hurry up with his benefits. He tells me “It’s taken 14 years,” and when I got over the shock its taking so long,
I had to ask him “Why?”
“It’s such a long
drawn out process,” he explains. Because if you can’t work, you can’t pay rent. And if you do manage to get a place, it’s only temporary. You have to have a mailing address because when you have an appointment that is the only way they will contact you. They won’t do phone call or even e-mail.”
*Editor’s Comment: No e-mail? I don’t think that is
too much to expect, do you?
We sit and chat on
Doc is sitting to the left of me and Chica the Chihuahua, protecting her new turf from passing Pit Bulls, rests in front of us, all spruced up in one of her costumes, donation cup nearby. Good thing for the pit bulls, that they are leashed and under control of their owners.
If you haven’t seen
Compassion Bench, go
visit; it’s the most beautiful, comfortable concrete bench you have ever seen. The bench is only a couple of years old, if that, constructed as a semi-circle facing our Farmers Market. That corner has quite the history before its making to be sure, a story for another time, but on the bench itself is where we find ourselves, watching as the world passes by
Mosaic Ceramic Inlays, a community-built creation inspired by Compassion
Dave (H. Breaux),” who would write down the meaning of “compassion” as expressed by passersby, who would stop to speak with him daily, standing, where Compassion Bench rests and where we sit today. The builder and artist of Compassion Bench,
Brennen Bird and Mark Revira, give a fine view of one of the most fascinating intersections in Our Little City.
We three looked
homeless I guess, but no harassment by police, so what’s the worry? It was beautiful day!
Now, night time for the homeless can be
quite a bit different. That means it’s a little different for “The Cops” as well. For Doc and Chica, it’s not so bad a hardship being homeless, as he has a friend in town willing to help him out on nights when he and Chica have
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not earned enough donations for a motel room, which is his daily goal, along with food for himself and for Chica who wears the cutest little costumes while he flies a
“Homeless Vet” sign, as well as a little one that reads: “Two Jokes for $1.” I wanted to give him $20 and say, “Go for it!”
I asked Doc if he had had any contact with
police since he got here a week or so ago, and he said “no.” I had to ask him if he was surprised, and how he managed to avoid contact.
“I make myself
‘invisible’ at night
because darkness is your ally and in the darkness cops can’t see you to
(mess) with you. Whenever I see a cop the first thing to pop in my mind is “Is he gonna (mess) with me?”
“In my 25 years being homeless (off
and on), in different places, cops have run my ID for no reason; just for having a (back) pack. And in some
cases, tell me to ‘get out of town by sundown’. They don’t come out and say that, but they know I know what they mean. Down in Florida, they will even give you a ride to the next town or county, so you’d be in somebody else’s jurisdiction; somebody else’s ‘problem’. Never had that kind of thing happen to me in Davis, except for that one time when I got that ‘camping’ ticket, sleeping behind what used to be the laundry mat on downtown G Street.”
“Next day I made a sign saying ‘If this is a
free country, why is sleeping a crime?’ and taped my (no camping) ticket to the sign, panhandling with my friend Chica wearing one of her costumes, the Sherriff I think, complete with her own tiny holstered six-gun.
We never ask for money; people just
stop and talk, especially about Chica’s many costumes. She loves to
dress up.” “I made 5 times the amount of the ticket.”
Editor’s Note: Doc and Chica got lucky; he got a live in opportunity up north, trading cooking skills for room and board, plus an address so he can always keep his appointments on time. He cannot get his benefits without a mailing address, something you, I, and ‘the system’ take for granted that the homeless cannot.
*Editor’s Comment: Doc told me he didn’t come to
Davis last year, when I told him I’d missed if if he did. He said he “likes Davis because the people are so nice, but he doesn’t come down from Oregon unless he really needs to.” I guess that means I hope I don’t have to see him next year? Well, I hope I do, but best of luck just the same!
We Need Help
(Names Withheld By Request)
“The only time I have been really homeless
is now, here in Davis. I have
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been homeless for 3 years now. Before coming to Davis, I lived homeless in a vehicle in Napa Calif. Living with my spouse, living on food stamps and benefits from my spouse. Retired Navy, but still less than $900.”
“We came to Davis because Sandy got
very sick. Sandy died April 13, 2012, the day before her 51st birthday. I am 51 now. I had quit my job to be her health care provider, but one day we had an emergency. We had to be transported by ambulance from the Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, to Davis Health Care Center where she died of liver and kidney failure. I haven’t been the same since.”
“I am facing barriers everyday to finding
housing in Davis. It starts with having no job, so I have zero income. I am disabled; two dislocated disks in my back and disintegrating knee cartilage, too, and PTSD
from spousal abuse; by my spouse before Sandy.
“I applied for both SDI and SSI in
November of 2013 and got my first denial in January of this year. I put in an appeal and I am waiting on a response. Why am I waiting here?
I am staying in Davis because of its resources, especially the local churches, and because of the friendly people here.
It’s something like Napa, where there is a shelter, a Salvation Army, and a local church that serves meals for the poor.”
“Living homeless has not been easy,
although I am recently married and very happy. We connected because we have similar diseases. We have diagnosed PTSD. We have the same struggles.”
“My new wife is a 15 year US Air Force
Veteran. She was a Medic.”
My alcoholism is a
barrier to housing too. I use it for my pain because I cannot get Medi-Cal at this point, and that’s b because
I have no money for transportation to get to the Social Security office, which is in Woodland. So you ask how come I can find money for alcohol but cannot find bus fare to woodland and back? Because the alcohol is more important?
“No, not really, it’s just that it’s so hard to
make money in Davis ‘flying’ a panhandling sign. Especially now after those news articles telling people to not give panhandlers money on the streets, but to give it to non-profits instead. I have actually gotten bus tickets from 1111 H Street, The Davis Community Meals Resource Center where they also have a shelter that seems always full. I can’t get any more for reasons that are not my fault at all.”
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“I found out when I got to Woodland to
apply for Food Stamps and Medic-Cal, I was told that my food stamp card and medi-cal was out of Eldorado County where I was before, and now I am banned from the shelter/Resource Center’s bus ticket services because I didn’t (couldn’t) have a receipt (proof they required) for having applied for Food Stamps and Medi-cal to show them. I was denied Medi- cal just because I have no ID or address here in Davis.
So I’m stuck.”
I’ve lost my wallet, my
ID, my Social Security Card, Disabled bus passes, so, therefore, I have to walk around everywhere I go. Being an alcoholic, and the troubles I’ve been though, the beer helps me cope with my day to day problems associated with my disease, my PTSD, and my back problems.”
I come into contact with the police from
time to time, too. They know me by first name now. I have been harassed by police 5 times in the last two months. And I say harassed, because, well…”
*Editor’s Note: I asked him for an example of what he called “harassment.”
“I use rolling tobacco, non filter. I
got cited for filtered cigarette butts on the ground in front of me. I was in an alley, actually an empty parking lot near a Liquor store on Olive Dr., not far from downtown.”
“I was with some other homeless friends
when two patrol cars rolled up on us. We all got cited, one of us for an open container. They made him pour it out. We weren’t arrested, but then we weren’t bothering anybody either.”
“Another example of
what I call harassment was when my wife was cited for smoking on a street corner, although she
was more than 20 feet from any business establishment (as City ordinance requires.)”
“Another time I think I was harassed is when
I was just walking down a street and was pulled over by an officer because I looked homeless. I cannot say really why he pulled me over, but I wasn’t breaking any laws, so what other reason could it have been?
“I’m walking with
another homeless also well-known to local police.
We are asked for our ID’s, patted down for weapons and sharp objects. We had none. I do not do street drugs, just beer. The officer then asked if we were on parole or probation. I was not and the other guy was, but had no outstanding warrants. He just got off probation from a three year commitment. Since this officer already knew us both, why did he stop us?”
“The worst one was when my wife and I
were camping in a field,
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about a half mile out of town. I got arrested for a
“Drunk in Public” and “Camping in City Limits.” I did 57 days in jail for that one, on a 4 month sentence. We (had) pitched a tent in the middle of a field and it was against the law. I don’t think it’s personal; I’ve cleaned up my appearance since getting married May 21st of this year. I don’t want to be judged.
“I’ve owned two homes, raised four
children and never thought
I’d be in this shape, living on the street. I made 65 thousand dollars a year, owned new vehicles and motorcycles and now my
body can’t do it anymore.”
After all, I just want to be left alone to live
my life with my new wife and receive the benefits
I’ve earned and are owed to me after 30 years employment as an auto service technician.
y is broke down, and I need social security to help me.”
“After all, I just want to be left alone to live
my life with my new wife and receive the benefits
I’ve earned and are owed to me after 30 years employment as an auto service technician.
Spare A Smile
I have had some contact with police
officers in my area, since about a year ago. They are cordial and respectful as long as I am, as well. I came here to Davis from Reno Navada, by way of Medford Oregon which unfortunately is riddled with Methamphetamine and of gangs everywhere you go... I had to go.
I had heard about Davis, from a friend of
mine I had met about ten years ago during my travels hitchhiking throughout the country. I’ve been “touring” for 23 years. I am 38 now… I was in
Sacramento, coming from Reno, saw a bus and caught it
A lot of people in Davis have taken to
calling me “Smiles”. I fly a sign panhandling outside
Uncle Vitos, corner of 2nd and E Streets. There are usually not many panhandlers near me; they are usually on G Street near Starbucks or Chipotles further up E Street, or the corner up from there, so I fly on this corner. The sign I fly says “ At Least Spare A Smile’”
“The business owners and college
kids are great; they have been very kind, not just generous, but kind and respectful, courteous even… I love the faith I see in Davis. This faith has helped restore my soul. When I showed up from Reno, I was mentally and spiritually in a bad spot and Davis has rebuilt me, restored me. Their faith generosity and has bolstered my own. I’m glad to live here in Davis as long as I can.
*Editor’s Note: Jeremiah is under outpatient medical
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care for a life-threatening disease and believes he
“may not make it though the winter.”
“A bad reaction to a medication mentally
altered me, badly, and physically altered me too. Apparently only 6% of the populace react the way I did to Goedone, which is a mood stabilizer/sleep agent. I am a horrible insomniac.”
“I was heavily abused as a child. Me and my
Mom were lucky to survive; we are still best friends. So, I say smile because things can always be worse. No matter how bad you have had it, somebody has always got it worse.”
*Editor’s Comment: No argument there and good luck to you too Jeremiah.
*Editor’s Note: The Spare Changer enjoyed the good fortune of being afforded the time and opportunity to view police/homeless interaction
in Davis from the perspective of two members of local law enforcement (as promised last issue.) Thanking
Bicycle Patrolman A. Penrose and his boss Lt. P.
Doroshov of the Davis Police Department, I believe you will appreciate the delicate balance police department policies and their staff must maintain between resident calls for service and civil rights of the homeless with whom these officers come in contact, as I do.
I was talking with one of the Ofc. Penrose, an officer sees everyday downtown. I asked him what it’s like to be a beat cop on bike in a university town where we see students, residents, homeless and not. “What’s it like when you come in contact with homeless or homeless looking people
(i.e. “panhandlers,” for example.)
Policing the Homeless I
Interview with Officer A. Penrose
Davis Police Dept.
“I have a number of different kinds of
reasons for contacting the homeless that I see. And a lot of it is based on complaints.”
“In enforcing laws, which is my job, a lot
of times I just talk to people. Daily, while on bike patrol, I talk to tons of people. Lots of people come with questions about laws and current events and want advice, or have general questions about law; sometimes they just want directions. Sometimes they want tips on good place to eat.”
Here’s a big one, especially last month,
parents want to talk to me; their kids come from other cities, they come from other towns. They want to know this city is safe for them, and where there’s a good place to live. And they also want to know ‘crime trends’.”
“They want know
where they can park, if
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they can park where they are…A lot of people lose their cars, which means they kind find them because they cannot remember where they parked. Easy to do in a new place when there is so much to do and to get done for their kids starting college. Or the parking meter is broken, or where they can park and for how long. These are some of the good ones.”
“So now, since homelessness, is
topic, sometimes, at times, it can take up the majority of our day responding to complaints from citizens and merchants. We get both.
range from intimidating behaviors in front of businesses, to having aggressive dogs dominating a sidewalk where people, especially with their children and people walking by with their own dogs, have to pass by.
Sometimes it’s somebody talking to themselves but
with aggressive yelling which intimidates others who happen to be nearby.”
“Loitering and dominating can be a
problem, although we do not in Davis, have laws against “loitering” or panhandling except where posted and when you are in 50ft of an ATM machine.”
“Also, “public intoxication” is a
common call for service. I get reports of people, possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or both, all too often, or of homeless (looking) people arguing loudly amongst themselves.”
“Our calls for service happen often in the
downtown. A lot of the merchants don’t like the homeless panhandling in front of their stores because they feel it negatively affects their business. They believe it might intimidate potential customers who will avoid
the downtown area. I have had bank managers tell me that their customers are intimidated by groups of homeless people panhandling directly in front of their entrance to the bank, and it doesn’t represent their particular bank branch well, when compared to other branches.”
“And then there are the dogs-off-leash
complaints. Dogs off-leash are extremely intimidating to a lot of people, especially people with children; especially pit bulls, or pit bull-looking type, which have been getting the wrap of being aggressive and deadly animals, although some are very very friendly and loving dogs. In any case, regardless of the type of dog, a city ordinance states that all dogs must be under the control of an owner under a leash.”
“When homeless subjects with dogs
gather together in public places, in common areas
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like the downtown, their dogs get into a fight, which alarm the public and generates calls for service from the police department. They feel their safety is threatened.”
“Some of the homeless people here
are in town to avoid law enforcement from where they came from; they may have arrest warrants, or on probation or parole or, PRCS, the downsizing of the state prisons. It’s for your safety that we do our jobs finding out who is who. Some homeless call this police work,
‘harassment.’ It isn’t. We are doing our job.”
Sometimes we respond to calls for
service when we have kid’s summer camp sand special events at our parks where they cannot conduct their activities because of the problems I spoke of earlier.
We respond to all these situations, for all
calls for service and we analyze each one on a case
by case basis and, the different factors in each one determines the correct response by us as officers, which can include generating a criminal case or simply and education warning. Of course, this is only a small portion of what we do as police officers. Sometime we give stickers to little kids.
Editor’s Note: I also asked Lt. Doroshov more detailed questions regarding policy.
Interview with Lt. P. Doroshov Davis Police Dept.
TSC: As job availability decreases, homelessness increases and, with that, of course, quality-of-life infractions do as well.. How are officers trained to balance complaints by residents against the civil rights of the homeless?
Lt. Doroshov: Officers should respect the civil rights of everyone, including the homeless.
TSC: When a resident complains of noise (loud talking in a group, homeless-owned barking guard dogs, etc.) let’s say, what do you say to the
“offending party?” Do you routinely check for warrants? How do you decide who gets a citation and who makes it to “The Blue Chairs” at the woodland police station in cases where there is no outstanding warrant? Do you return to the resident and tell them your dispensation? Do you educate them about homeless people? Are they left with the feeling the police are responsive? Or that “they don’t do anything?”
Lt. Doroshov: We, the police, respond to multiple noise calls per day. The calls vary from loud talking to large parties. Issuing a citation is at the discretion of the officer and is dependent on the following factors:
Lt. Doroshov: Is there a violation of the city noise ordinance?
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Is there an identified complaining party? (under the noise ordinance there has to be a complaining party)
Lt. Doroshov: Is this a problem area? Have there been numerous complaints about this noise problem over and over again?
Lt.Doroshov: The vast majority of noise ordinance violations are infractions. This means a person is ticketed and not physically arrested. If the person lies to the officer, resists, or refuses to sign a ticket they could be taken into custody. If someone is intoxicated in a public place, and cannot care for themselves, they could also be arrested.
Lt. Doroshov: Notifying the complainant about the noise violation really depends, in many cases, on the complainant. Some ask to be notified of the disposition, others just want the noise to stop.
TSC: There is a huge difference between
threatening someone and feeling threatened by them. One is illegal, yet the other plainly is not. What do you do to educate our residents? Can you help to make residents understand there is insufficient funding for housing, and many of the homeless are either waiting for government benefits, which takes quite some time these days, while many are to mentally ill or helplessly alcoholic, so much so they do not have the courage, if the where- with-all, to seek and accept what is available?
Lt. Doroshov: We really cannot control how people
“FEEL”. When we receive a complaint, we evaluate the complaint and the facts surrounding that complaint for any illegal behavior. We take action on some complaints, and some we do not (when there is no evidence suggesting any type of wrong doing).
TSC: Speaking of availability: Funding cuts have resulted in no detox facilities. Rehabs typically do no admit without proof
of 30 days detox. Something of a Catch 22 for these people isn’t it?
Lt.Doroshov: Chemical dependency is a very complex issue. Our job is to deal with the disorder and violations of the law. This question would be best directed at experts on chemical dependency and addiction.
TSC: What about repeated contact with the same local homeless? Sometimes its camping. Sometimes its drinking or drunk in public. When your officers see and accept that THESE people see no hope other than to panhandle and drink away their pains, stone away their pains, or meth away their disenfranchisement, How much ”social work” are your officers trained/allowed to do?
Lt.Doroshov: Officers must respond to community complaints and concerns. If laws or local codes are being violated, officers take action to prevent further violations.
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Officers do receive some training in dealing with people who have a mental illness. At times, officers offer resources to those who are mentally ill or have obvious issues with chemical dependency. Officers cannot, however, force someone to go get help.
Thank you Ronald Reagan..
TSC: As you must know, Yolo County has been granted specific funds to pay for a mental health worker to go out with you on dispatches that suggest mental impairment of some kind is on board. Not exactly coincidental, one of the newest readers of The ‘Spange also happens to be the Director of this program. “I just got here. We are going to start in
West Sac. I haven’t even gotten my staff together.” I mention this now because we have no less than 5 full- on schizophrenics that do not commit crimes, although I think their aggressive side has come out recently—I think
“Taryn” spent a night last
weak, and “Mary” as well walking the downtown of Davis and yet, generally, there is no mechanism short of jailing these people who obviously need meds, therapy and other forms of help, or their will be no end to their homelessness. Does that mean the community is doomed to their “acting out?”
“Peter” is a very good example of how the police’s hands are tied when it comes to resident complaints. Always dirty, disheveled and smelly, Peter shuns conversation though will ask for a nickel or a dime. Hardly a
“panhandler” of the kind we see as visible eyesores increasing in the downtown. Peter is a physicist who went off the deep end from best I can tell, needs help, but there is no mechanism. Reagan fixed that one for us all. Net result? For the rest of HIS life, the downtown business owners will perceive him as a threat to
“enjoyable shopping” by potential shoppers, particularly those who live
near outlying shopping centers.
Some of the homeless, I suspect the overwhelming majority, are functionally disabled, though not
“mentally ill” enough to be eligible for even SSI. This means continued homelessness, often punctuated by brief stints in jail if not a prison term. So I ask you, at what point do you say to them “ This is where you go to get this kind of help” and “this is how getting that kind of help will get you off the streets?”
Which begs another question: Do you see this as part of your job, and if not, why not?
Lt. Doroshov: We often offer resources (that we are aware of) to people we contact on a regular basis.
TSC: Your job is to prevent crime, enforce the law and arrest suspects. How hard is it to arrest suspects whose crime is to be so poor they are homeless panhandlers or recyclers going into bins they are not supposed to? Or so poor
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and homeless they must take everything with them, and it becomes an eyesore if not a threat to business, to families with children, to the ‘pristine’ that is Our
Little City of Davis?
Do our local ordinances criminalize homelessness? (The symptoms, I mean) Members of the homeless feel this way. Would you like to see a policy of
“containment?” (I certainly bet you would like to see the drinking homeless take their cans with them, yes?
Lt Doroshov: The police enforce laws that are enacted by the state and the community. We do not make them. Whether certain laws criminalize a group of people is a much broader discussion. I do not believe it is my place to make that judgment.
A Broken Bottle
of Old English
(Reprint January 2008)
When someone reads “A Broken Bottle
of Old English,” a person associates the term with the imagery of a broken bottle of Old English 800 (beer) on the pavement. Such imagery shows the association of Alcohol consumption and fighting.
This holds true for the sheltered and the
unsheltered (poor.) Alcohol and fighting can go hand in hand.
While alcohol may be associated with
fighting in the homeless community, the cause of the conflicts among the homeless stem from the need to numb the emotional pain associated with being homeless and the challenges of life. We can decrease the incidents of fighting and other instances of homeless on homeless crime through more community investment in the non- profits that serve our homeless.
Putting our homeless to work with shelter,
and sufficient living
resources, would stem these incidences of homeless on homeless crime.
Alcohol and fighting among the housed
goes back many, many years. From stories of the drunken sailors of World Wars fighting in Naval bars to the stories of college students fighting each other in the G Street parking lot after drinking some brew, the association is quite clear. You see dear reader, Alcohol is well known to decrease ones inhibitions to act spontaneously.
A sober college student who walks
along the side walk after being insulted about the make of his Honda from a BMW owning student ,will be likely to do no more than flip the middle finger and say a couple of curse words at the insulter, and get into his vehicle; let’s hope so at least. That same student, after consuming a few pints of Pabst at a local Davis bar, may instead
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challenge the insulter in the parking lot--at 1:30am in the morning--and throw a few punches.
In fact I was the witness to such an
event on one of my many nights casually strolling the local Davis bar scene. You see dear reader, alcohol consumption and fighting is as common among college students who have shelter, as it is in the homeless community of people who do not. This fighting association disappears if a person drinks responsibly which I am all for.
assaults, in the homeless community, are a bit more complicated. The homeless are a group who face many challenges of living, including those challenges which caused one to become homeless in the first place. In the homeless community, there are those who “choose” to be homeless and there are those who want shelter.
Common to these two groups are the
reasons for how they became homeless. Untreated mental illness, biologically and environmentally acquired, is a big reason for that homelessness as is a loss of hope and a bad childhood. No one wakes up one day to say “I want to live under a bridge in the cold rain.”
There is a reason for one to sleep under a
bridge. A homeless person will consume alcohol to numb emotional pain or just to create a happier mental feeling for a while. The lifestyle of homeless is fairly chronic and so it is easy to see that the pains of homelessness will also be chronic because of the challenge of living a homeless lifestyle. So it goes, the common imagery of a homeless person in America is that of a alcohol wielding homeless person pushing a shopping cart.
The emotional and
economic struggles of trying to survive in
capitalistic America compounded with mental, emotional or physical disabilities will surely motivate many in the homeless community to open up that can of 211 or that can of Sparks. For those unfamiliar with my alcohol related terminology 211 refers to malt liquor with a alcohol content of above 8 percent while Sparks is a bit stronger. If such strong alcohol beverages are needed to numb the pain for our alcohol consuming homeless, it’s clear to see that the homeless in our community are dealing with a lot of emotional pain, and for many reasons.
I want to point out that not every
homeless person in our community drinks alcohol but alcohol consumption is fairly common.
The homeless, in an
attempt to survive the outdoor elements, may attempt to achieve a happier mental feeling with
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the consumption of alcohol. Then a homeless individual may hang out with other members of the homeless community to avoid the feeling of isolation from the greater community; our homeless are not integrated in the events of the Davis community. Can you tell me how many homeless individuals you have seen attend a City Council meeting over a City concern, or how many have e-mailed a city council representative? The answer is very close to less than ten in the past year in my mind though I could be wrong. Our homeless are preoccupied with the challenge of surviving eating, staying warm (and avoiding getting caught with a Open Container).
Ask the homeless their feeling about the
California Primary Election if you do not believe me. There are some in the homeless community who are very articulate and who could debate someone on the most articulate topics one could imagine- our
homeless are not stupid- though the more frequent response will be that the chief concern is that of the present challenges of living.
Homeless individuals hanging out in a group
and consuming alcohol may get into a disagreement for many different reasons. Before you know it a group of homeless individuals are fighting each other with fists and beer bottles. City officials and neighbors around such an area will associate alcohol as the chief cause of the fighting and avoiding the underpinning reasons for why our homeless are consuming alcohol.
There is pain in our
homeless community for the above reasons. The solution is not an Open Container Policy-arresting our homeless after watching them with binoculars for consuming alcohol in public when all else is fine. The drinking just goes under the radar
screen- it does not go away. The state of homelessness is still in our very community causing the homeless to consume alcohol.
Students could help
instead of being angry about Davis’ No Open Container Policy and perhaps purchase alcohol permits for the homeless who may want to drink responsibly (inside) so that our homeless can avoid harassment from the police! A kind of Bring Your Own Booze place to go.
I would encourage students to learn more about the dangers of the Open Container Policy. If students became more politically active and voted on city politics- we could be more progressive for our homeless.
I want to say that I am a fan of the
homeless court- a court which allows a homeless person to avoid a fine or jail time for a minor violation by doing community service.
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Our homeless need
accessible mental health care and access to housing. I am talking about rent free housing and a stable job in construction or other fields. Investing in a non- profit like The Spare Changer which allows a homeless person to provide an issue of The ‘Spange in exchange for a donation is a great idea!
The biggest need in the homeless
community is housing and employment. Davis businesses please hire some of our homeless! And for the rich community member, cut a check of 50,000 dollars to your favorite homeless non- profit so that more homeless folks can get on their feet instead of fighting and getting arrested by the binocular possessing police and cell phone calling residents!
Editor’s Note: Below, is a little something different, first published here in 2005, written by Cindy Burger, founder of Grace-in-Action and hostess at the now
closed drop-in center, Gracehouse. Although Cindy retired awhile ago, GIA lives on, and still offers lunch and respite for our homeless community members for a few hours during the week at United Methodist Church and Pole Line Baptist Church, Monday and Wednesday.
Cindy Burger, Director Grace-In-
(Reprinted from TSC Sept. 2005)
I watched her carefully as she left
my office, tears washing her cheeks. She was weary, genuinely weary. She didn’t understand how I knew what she was going through. Her suffering had been revealed and that frightened her. She had spilled her story of abuse and pain and family separation. I held her hands in mine and gently spoke, “I’ve been where you are, I know your suffering.”
She looked at me incredulously before
the tears suddenly welled up in her eyes. “I’m so glad
I found this place, she whispered.” Then she grabbed hold of me, pulling me toward her in a hug that nearly choked the air out of me. It was as if she were holding on for dear life. In that moment, I suppose she was.
This thin, frail
woman was just one of many homeless guests who need someone to listen to their life legend. Grace House is more than a home away from homelessness; it’s a safe haven, a sanctuary…a place full of God’s mercy.
Our mission is to
offer the shelter of
God’s hope and love.
Someone asked me when that mission was born,
“What does that mean exactly?” I struggled to find an accurate explanation then. I realize now, it means something different to each person who enters there.
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For some, it’s a safe and much needed nap
on the couch. For others, it’s a quiet place to read and pray. For someone else, it’s a place to vent their anger and frustration.
For this woman…it was a place to weep, to be held, to be renewed and to find…hope.
It was not the first time I had seen a
person ravaged by drugs. The telltale signs were evident. She was gaunt with sunken cheeks, eyes darting, and nervous energy with nowhere to go except in search of her next fix.
Confusion, sadness, anger, grief…all of it
poured out of her until she could speak no more. I reminded her that God offers us a “new beginning” in life. That was the good news of Christ’s suffering on the cross. That new beginning doesn’t mean the pain of the past will immediately disappear, but it does mean there is hope for a future. I shared the
scripture from Jeremiah
29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Her eyes flickered with an inner light the
drugs had temporarily veiled. She smiled for the first time, tears still fresh on her face. She said she knew that, but wanted to believe it more than know it. I invited her to stay if she felt comfortable, to rest a while…and to return to the Grace House whenever she felt like it.
She cautiously entered the living
room where other guests had gathered. Before she left the house, she timidly asked if she could have a bottle of water. “Of course, this is your home; you’re welcome to whatever God provides.” She smiled weakly and headed for the door.
Then suddenly she stopped and looked up.
There on the wall, behind the door hung a wooden cross. She looked at the word written in the middle of the cross. “GRACE” and then slowly her long frail fingers touched the cross…as she whispered, “I like this place.” Then suddenly the door opened...and she was gone.
For the longest time, I could not let go of
the image of her frail hand reaching up to touch the cross. It was an act of reverence and awe, like no other I had ever witnessed. My mind flashed to the woman who had reached out to touch the hem of His robe…tentative, frail, wounded and in need of healing…but with a faith and reverence that caused Him to call her daughter.
This single act of reverence and awe
before the fragile woman vanished from the doorway of the Grace House, spoke the truth of why we are all here…to offer the shelter of God’s hope and love to
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one another. Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” “The righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you something to drink?”
“When did we see you a stranger and
invite you in or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick; or in prison and go to visit you? The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’.’’
The door stood open for a long time after
she left. I was transfixed on Holy ground unable to move across the room. God had entered this house, touched the cross with love and then left the door open as if to echo words spoken to the disciples long
ago, “I will return…”
*** I Love Poetry That Makes Me Feel***
Why did she play that sound?
Comfort her, hold her
All she ever wanted was to see
Take her in your arms Tell her tales that are long keep her warm and let her know that she will always and forever be loved by someone
Look in her eyes and tell her what you see
Even if you disbelieve Remember the time near in your heart
Never give up on your part She needs you know more than ever
Keep her close and it will get better.
Climb a mountain Cross the sea
Make it right until you believe
It's so cold out there no one can see
Just a place for loneliness and disbelief
Questions are doubled more than they were before
And all she does is look for a cure
It's dark and not many can see
Shine the light and let her dream
Passion underlies the lonely cries
But love conquers all so you never have to fall
Join hands and feel rejoice She needs to learn how to make a choice
Playing isn't the same as it use to be
Women-hood is what will set her free
Let's think sensibly
Next Issue: Women
Who Live unsheltered
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