Do We Pay Enough Compassion?

In response, to a friend's blog post, I have this to say:
Helping the homeless easy and impossible to solve. It's been a big concern about me for a while. The bottom rung is where the trouble happens. That's the person who saps your taxes; he'll take your stuff; she'll go (more) nuts and take a swing at your mother as she's closing up the store. If everyone in your surroundings is a billionaire, the millionaire will need to bum a ride on your lear jet. If you have a roof and groceries, the guy with nothing will try to get your roof and/or your groceries.
I take a moment to think every time I see a homeless person or someone who is high risk (there are two houses just up the street where the people aren't homeless: they have a base of operations and they're much more dangerous). I ask, "how could I fix that?" In case you don't know me: I'm a loud mouth and a busybody and I try fix anything broken. The difference engine chugs for a few moments, comes to stalemate and outputs a shrug. I move on. Here are the solution scenarios I play out and if you think one or more of the solution scenarios are out of order, please tune me in.

Theory 1: Give them enough money to live.

Victoria has about 700 homeless. Take the at-risk-people: let's say there's as many high risk people as homeless who live somewhere but are the source of our woes. So 1400 people or about 0.5% of the population of the region. Give them each $1500/month to live. Most of them probably get $500/month as it is from welfare. So, shell out $1.4 million extra per month to pick up the tab for these people. That $17 million per year to keep the riff-raff indoors. The good news: that would help our economy. The poor are the backbone of our economy. The rich are the real freeloaders. If you earn $100K/year, you pay about 30% of that in income tax. That $70K of left overs is spent on living expenses, building a nest egg, recreation and whatever else they wish. If they buy big ticket items (car, electronics, etc.) that capital takes flight to the Motor City or overseas. Give that $100K to five poor people: they'll spend it on food, housing and a little bit on the extras in life. Alot of the money will stay in the local economy.
If we could earmark $17 million per year, the homeless wouldn't have to queue up at soup kitchens. They wouldn't have to break into our cars. They wouldn't have to piss on our streets. Would that work? No and here's why: What do people do with their tax refund? Many people blow it instead of paying down debts. What happens if you give an alcoholic $1000? They'll buy $1000 of booze. If you give somebody $1500 to live: why should the guy who works full time for $1500/month work at all? That's the propellor for plunging welfare (that's an BC Liberal neocon dogma): if welfare is unattractive, you will work.

Theory 2: Keep Them Safe
Between welfare and grants to aid giving organizations and United Way donations and spare change to the homeless, we're spending a lot of money as it is. Why not say to the homeless: we have this apartment block and with a commissary in the basement. Throw your laundry down the chute and live indoors. Homeless people: live here. In Victoria, there is a toilet of a place called View Towers: 14 storeys tall with about 20 suites per floor. It houses 280+ people. It's a hive of scum and villainy. If you built a place capable of holding 700 people, that would be pricey in Victoria's rarified climate. At $50,000 per suite (a DEAL let me tell you), that institution would cost $35 million. That's a lot of coin and all it does is give them shelter. Also, it means we hope Victoria has 700 homeless forever. #701 shows up and he has nowhere to live. If we have 600 homeless, we have a 100 suites that are not fully realized. BC Housing does a lot to provide affordable housing in Victoria. There could be more, but could there be 700 more suites? Again, these people bring in a whole host of problems. Will they stop drugs the day they move in? If they have a place to plug in a stereo do you think they'll keep it down and respect their neighbours? If you neighbour is blasting music at 4AM, wouldn't you 'spain it to him? Will they set fire to the place? View Towers has had a bunch of small fires. I know a piece of crap who almost burned down her place when she absent mindedly was smoking while on the phone. 700 bad apples don't make an apple pie. Put them together and you get a toilet. Spread them around and that could put 700 problem people in many locales. We're sort of living with the latter as it is.

Theory 3: Uplift
This is sort of happening nowadays. The government gives them courses (that are useless). They will give them vouchers for targetted purchases. There are lot of NGOs trying to take people at risk and the homeless and improve their lives. Give them counselling and improve their ability to cope. That's the problem: they can't cope. Some are sociopathic. Some are simply stupid. I worked at a department store. A super pregnant couple came in with a voucher to buy baby things. You know: new babies need clothes and diapers and the like. So the combo fetched toys and soothers, and doo-dads. They also got one outfit for their kid. Greeeat. On the bus one day, this guy was coming home from a construction job. As he outlined a friend: "I got paid today, so I was going to go home, change, hit the soup kitchen and then go out drinking." You give someone stupid some money and they will piss it away in the wrong direction. This chick (fire girl from above), was only capable of sitting at home on welfare. As soon as they turfed her and she had to work, she started working. She couldn't handle work and her kids, so she thrust them onto her mother. Her job was so crappy that she couldn't pay to support her kids. Her mother had to foot the bill for the kids and that so wrecked her finances that she's now bankrupt. Uplift helps a little, harms a lot. If we somehow do a brain transplant on the social misfits, uplift could work but we're dealing with a lot of self-flipping turtles.

Theory 4: Make It Illegal
Make it illegal to be homeless. That's a harsh concept. It's also nearly impossible to be breaking the law in your default state. We're all homeless, we're just artificially "with domicile" when we pay our bills. It can't be illegal to do nothing. But, if it were illegal to sleep in a park or a store doorway, we could criminalize and institutionalize people. The spectre of jail keeps some people from shoplifting. The spectre of jail could keep vagrants off the street: some by fear; some by arrest. Making it illegal would also stop the recreationally homeless. I dated this girl: she was Camosun student who earned money as a care worker. She had a small apartement in a building that a friend used to live in. After we went out for a drink, we walked around downtown and we talked to a few panhandlers. They were the cast of regulars that you would know if you frequented downtown. I ended the date and left it at that. Three days later, the Times-Colonist, Victoria's "paper" had a front page story on the plight of the homeless. The huge picture to accompany: my date from days prior. I've heard that women fall apart after they date me but in three days she supposedly lost her job and her apartment and quit Camosun? Wow. In addition to her, I know kids who panhandle because its cool. It we could get the chaff away from the wheat, we could get a better impression of the city's homelessness. Even if homelessness stayed out of the criminal realm, a lot of homeless people do criminal things. But police compassion has a volume control that's missing everything between 2 and 9. They either pepper spray or cuddle the homeless. How about help the homeless who don't break into cars? Why not lock up people who are drunk in public? Why not charge them with drug offenses if they're in possession of drugs?

Theory 5: Do Nothing
On the bell curve, someone is at the top and someone is at the bottom. No matter what we do, someone is going drop off the bottom. In nature, if the slow in the herd aren't culled, they'll breed on their weaknesses. It's mean, it's cruel. When someone is found dead because they fell asleep in the cold, that's a person who people cared about. Even if only one person cared about them, they mattered. It's nature. Theologians used to separate man and beast. There is no separation. We can't be lifted above the ken of animals because we are human. We can only ask: why?

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