Hobos, bums and vagrants

Ishmael Raymon is a writer and poet with a gardening business in Chico. His first Guest Comment--”Who let God in?"-- ran Feb. 15.

With societies at the mercy of political mismanagement and archaic religious belief systems, symptoms of these social calamities have become evident, in one way, by the increase of homeless people, drifters, vagrants and other idle, aimless souls.

In the early 20th century, hobos were men who sought enough work to meet their means, coming into populated areas with ample enthusiasm for employment that provided helpful service to local inhabitants.

Bums, as opposed to hobos, usually aren’t too interested in work but rather a handout, putting them alongside drifting vagrants, wayward teens and other homeless souls asking for spare change or an extra cigarette.

Now, you won’t find many Latino immigrants among the down-and-outers—if they ask for anything, it’s work. Meanwhile, you’ll find bums and vagrants begging for dimes and quarters for booze, drugs and cigarettes; how about offering something back? Wash the windows on my car, shine my shoes, sell me a pencil, play the harmonica and dance … something!

When I work hard all day and see a young, capable person asking for money, I feel no obligation to oblige him or her. I sometimes carry an apple or two in my pocket or chocolate gold coins to give panhandlers instead of money.

You can tell when someone is truly down and out, and when someone is just running a scam. Two of the regulars in downtown Chico have told me they don’t want to work because it would jeopardize their SSI benefits.

What happened to the cop walking his beat and keeping the loitering citizens moving so they’re not camped on the edge of public sidewalks every day?

Many of these souls require only work and direction. There could be local areas where they live in bunk houses and grow organic produce and flowers to feed themselves and to be sold to the public. Also, there could be designated spots for them to check for work in exchange for meal and transportation tickets.

With so many idle hands, our streets, parks, roads, creeks and waterways could always be neat-looking and clean. Every winter, street drains are plugged with leaves, causing flooding that these people could easily alleviate. Small appliance, toy and furniture repair by the homeless and unemployed would help eliminate overfilling the landfills.

The United States spends billions accelerating death overseas while the simplest misfortunes at home are left to escalate. Locally, we could do away with homelessness, unemployment and other social issues using common sense, organized intelligence and appropriate distribution of wealth.