Letters for November 5, 2015
Reactions to homelessness
Re “Street warrior” (cover story, by Howard Hardee, Oct. 29):
A runaway, recently diagnosed with traumatic brain injury from a beating on the street, tells me ordinances criminalizing being in the public eye force her, and others, to sleep in unsafe situations. A chronically homeless woman in her mid-50s limps out of downtown Chico on a sprained ankle because she is afraid a camping ticket would affect the section 8 housing voucher she just got after a four-year wait. Her destination is a creek bed.
In September, HUD announced it would begin requiring applicants to describe the steps they are taking to reduce the criminalization of homelessness when applying for local Continuum of Care grant money. If we are indeed a community that believes everyone deserves a home, then we must start housing the roofless, instead of viewing them as criminals. Portland, Ore., recently declared a shelter crisis and its mayor wants to shelter every homeless woman. Let’s follow their lead and eliminate the caste system where vulnerable woman are sexually assaulted and left crying on a bike path curb by embracing Housing First with Harm Reduction.
It would be difficult to argue that Stairways is anything but a model program. Social worker Mike Madieros is deserving of praise.
Nevertheless, what the public should understand is that when Madieros says he supports the further criminalization of homelessness—with expansion of Chico’s already draconian antihomeless laws—he is not speaking as a homeless advocate.
Some who provide services believe that forcing the homeless to “choose” between incarceration and services is a useful approach. That is, with the right stick and the right carrot one might achieve “success.” The problem is that the stick is both unconstitutional and cruel—and the carrots are very often plastic, especially for the most mentally challenged people. Meanwhile, the entire homeless population—many times the number that will be offered housing in any form—is perennially terrorized with arrest warrants.
Also, for financial reasons, Madieros must navigate the fetid waters of downtown commercial interests, intent on homeless removal/exclusion—while contending with a culture of homeless intolerance in Chico. (For example, mega-downtown landlord Wayne Cook recently rescued Stairways from foreclosure—this being the same Wayne Cook who, in 2013, filed an objection to a use permit allowing a long-established Sunday evening feeding program at Chico City Plaza.)
There seem to be many “experts,” including the City Council, offering their opinions and solutions regarding the homeless population in Chico. However, there are few, if any, voices we hear from the homeless. Therefore, on behalf of the homeless in our community, and the over half a million homeless in the rest of the country, I offer the following lyrics from a song titled The Shape I’m In, written by The Band and sung by the late Richard Manuel:
“I just spent 60 days in the jailhouse/For the crime of having no dough/Now here I am back out on the street/For the crime of having nowhere to go/Save your neck or save your brother/Looks like it’s one or the other/Oh, you don’t know the shape I’m in.”
Roger S. Beadle
Cities across America have a growing homeless problem and every city seems uncertain of how to fix it. Compassionate people believe the answer’s to give them money, food and shelter. The government’s idea is to jail them. Both approaches are short-sighted in that once the treatment’s stopped, transience likely will resume.
Consistent with the parable “Throw a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime,” a better solution would be to address the factors that caused the person’s homelessness in the first place. A likely factor would be alcohol and drug addiction, but what caused that? That might be losing a job or abandonment by a significant other, but what caused that?
Because homelessness is such a complex problem, the task of resolving it shouldn’t be left to local governments. Rather, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be charged with developing a uniform, scientifically based program that provides vagrants the room, board, counseling and job-skills training needed to become productive members of society. It should also provide them sufficient work to both aid in their rehabilitation and to pay for their treatment’s cost.
Re “Coming to terms” (Greenways, by Evan Tuchinsky, Oct 22):
Thanks for the article. Fifty people came to the talk and workshop with Carolyn Baker. More and more people are accepting that we are heading for some tough times (or are already there) and that it is helpful to grieve as individuals, as a family and as a community.
Even some mainstream media is getting in on it. National Geographic, Bill Nye and Arnold Schwarzenegger just did a program called Explorer: Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown, which explores the five stages of climate grief. You can watch it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=63zubdqM_eQ.
There are also monthly grief meetings called “Death Cafés” here in Chico to explore grief and our deepest emotions (see “Let’s talk about death,” Letters, by Vicki Redridge-Kunst, Oct. 22).
All this to say that the more we share our feelings, our fears and our joys, the better suited we will be to face the unknown future. We are all in this together and we are going through a “collective rite of passage” called our changing world.
Stop the growth
Re “Too many babies” (Letters, by Nathan Esplanade, Oct. 29):
Nathan Esplanade is alarmed by the U.S. population growth, and he should be. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population in 1950 was 151 million. By 2010, having gained 27 million during the past decade, it was 308 million.
In the relative short period of 60 years, from 1950 to 2010, the U.S. population has increased by over 150 million people. Census data reveals that during the last several decades at least 75 percent of that increase has been due to immigrants and their children.
A remarkable consideration about this population increase is that all the 308 million Americans are consumers of natural resources and to some degree are also polluters of the environment. While the population is increasing, certain essential natural resources, including oil, are being depleted.
It is long past time for our legislators to reduce the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, that enter the country. Over a million legal immigrants now enter the country each year. With those efforts in place, the nation could eventually achieve a more sustainable economic and environmental condition.
Re “Banner years” (Newslines, by Robert Speer, Oct 22):
Really, don’t you think we have this covered? Even the dogs? This year alone, March was Month of the Military Caregiver and K9 Veterans Day; March 29 was Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day; April was Month of the Military Child; April 5 was Gold Star Wives Day; May was National Military Appreciation Month; May 1 was Silver Star Service Banner Day; May 8 was VE Day and Military Spouse Appreciation Day; May 13 was Children of Fallen Patriots Day; May 16 was Armed Forces Day; May 25 was Memorial Day; June 6 was anniversary of the WW II Normandy invasion; Aug. 7 was Purple Heart Day; Sept. 2 was VJ Day; Oct. 26 was National Day of the Deployed; November is Military Family Month; Nov. 11 is Veterans Day; Dec. 7 is Pearl Harbor Day; Dec. 12 is National Wreaths Across America. There are also celebrations for each service member, such as Alive Day, which commemorates the day a veteran suffered near-fatal battlefield injuries but survived; birthdays and wedding anniversaries, during which organizations supporting deployed military personnel send gifts; and Red Shirt Friday, which is meant to support the troops.
Let’s talk about it
Re “System overrride” (Newslines, by Howard Hardee, Oct. 1):
All over California, smallish cities like Chico have been changing their way of electing local politicians from at-large to by-district, partly to improve economic and cultural representation, mostly to get into compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. Some cities have been sued.
Chico elects council members at-large, so citizens every other year elect three or four of them at one time, and that’s that. The council members take turns being mayor. In October the Chico Silly Council voted 4-3 to not even put changing the way we elect local politicians on the agenda. Please ask your council members to support a public discussion of by-district elections in Chico. Let us at least talk about it.
Anthony Peyton Porter
The New York Times recently printed an editorial commenting on presidential candidate Chris Christie: “Mr. Christie earns $175,000 a year, the fifth-highest-paid governor in the nation, according to the Council of State Governments. Yet he hasn’t offered to forgo his salary or take a pay cut, as nearly a dozen full-time governors have done.” Chico pays our city manager far more than that. Why? The new numbers from the state controller come out in December. In recent years, they have shown Chico paying city employees more and more compared to other California cities. What should voters think if the new leaders at City Hall have continued this trend? Is this fiscal conservatism? If not, what word would you use to describe it?
The Fed’s a fraud
If you are middle class, poor or dependent upon Social Security, I suggest the Federal Reserve is stealing money from you. It is encouraging you to borrow with its low interest rates and to gamble in the stock market. Its low rates also discourage savings as you are actually losing money on any money you have in banks. By printing unlimited amounts of money, it has decreased the value of the money you have and made it harder to sell U.S. treasuries. It has redefined the CPI (consumer price index) to make inflation look less than it is for you and me. They thus allow the government not to provide an increase in Social Security payments because they are based on CPI. It has redefined unemployment rates, making them less than they actually are and this gives them an excuse to keep interest rates low and benefit banks and large financial corporations. Low rates also create bubbles in investments, which eventually burst. I suggest we abolish the Fed!