By Dawn Cranfield
San Jose “Tough Love” Cleanup Efforts of Homeless Encampment Raises More Questions than Answers
Last week, a large encampment of more than 100 displaced people and their belongings were cleaned up near the Guadalupe River in San Jose. Although there are estimated to be approximately 60 such camps in the San Jose area, the efforts to tear down the makeshift shanty’s and pick up the strewn trash of the Spring Street “city” drew a great deal of attention because of the large number of people living there.
Most of the residents claimed they would simply move on to another of the area sites, having nowhere else to go, and with so few resources.
The city is adopting a new “tough love” approach to their homeless problems. Councilman Sam Liccardo said Monday, “It’s apparent to anyone who has walked through our parks, along creek trails or on the streets of our business districts that homeless has exploded,” Liccardo went on to say. “We’re trying to find a strategy that balances the need for rapid rehousing while also applying a tough-love approach to the people living in our parks, creeks and streets.” (marinij.com)
While officials in San Jose are doing everything they can to hide their displaced population, a mission in New Orleans is trying to highlight some of their homeless with a new campaign called “Sincerely, Homeless”. The promotion is a series of television spots featuring area residents that the New Orleans Mission would like people to “slow down long enough to look at as real people”. (wgno.com)
Jeanette Shelton, one of the people featured in the spots says, ““The hardest thing about being homeless is knowing that I have family, who know I’m homeless. My family wasn’t willing to help. They were pretty much about themselves. I truly think deep down inside that homeless people are being misunderstood.” (wgno.com)
“We’re not invisible people. We all have a background. We all have a past. We all have a future. Everyone needs to know there is
love and compassion,” James Harter, another participant in the advertisements, said (wgno.com)
Nobody would deny that homelessness is a problem across the nation. However, just how each of us defines the issue is often at the heart of what many officials and even the homeless themselves struggle with on a daily basis.
For many, homelessness is unattractive, ugly, dark, and we do not want to look at it; we may have that notion of “out of sight, out of mind”. If we do see it, we want somebody to do something about it, wrap it up tightly in a neat little box, and pretend it does not exist.
Others may be more philanthropic and feel as if they can do something about it such as provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical care when necessary. They spend their weekends and evenings at places where they know those who have less than they do will be gathered and they do what they can. They may work administratively to help do anything to provide assistance as well.
Then there are the homeless themselves; some are there because they were forced out of homes, they may not have ever had the means to support themselves, they may have mental health issues that prevent them from getting gainful employment and from seeking the services they need and are entitled to, and some are there simply by choice.
In just the past two years alone, I have heard several stories of altruistic people who have personally taken in somebody who was homeless; they helped them find jobs, provided clothing, stability, and all of the things in life one might need to be successful. Within months, the person they helped was back on the street and their unselfish act was forgotten. However, they would do it again.
While the homeless problem is tremendous, it is challenging to determine just where the responsibility lies; the family, the government, the homeless themselves. It is certainly a conundrum.