A DIFFERENT VIEW OF INDIGENCE
Photography recently became one of my passions after discovering the power of images to bring about social change. All by itself it cannot command the changes, but through its objective lenses it could give influential individuals another set of eyes from which to view life that they otherwise may not have known.
The kind of indigence found in Long Beach and Los Angeles are many levels different from that which is apparent in Aliso Viejo. My visit with my daughter was a chance to leave that life for a few days and be an observer of my homeless brethren, making use of my relevant personal experiences to ask better questions.
There will always be homeless people. But, a society should create systems that does not make it a permanent condition for an individual or families. It should also look for every opportunity to prevent it. More importantly, government should never be the cause of such conditions; as we have seen in micro-operations sanctioned by the FBI, homelessness is used as an extra-judicial form of punishment.
At a policy level, building tenements for the indigents is a question of financial resources and political will. It does not cost very much to put people under roofs, especially considering micro-home technologies now available. Some of the questions are: How many people need X amount of square footage? Where do we get the land to construct sustainable living spaces? And, how much will it cost to build? Is there a way for these people to own their own homes?
As often happens, politicians who could make those decisions are pigeon-holed into intractable positions that prevent such projects from leaving the ground. Spending money for the politically weak and voiceless is a dangerous political landmine. However, certain states such as Utah have found it financially viable to give people housing than to incur emergency and medical bills from illnesses and accidents that inevitably occurs from living on the streets.
Many are also victims of oppressive laws that unfairly stymie personal productivity. One of which is California Family Code § 17520, a remnant of reactionary legislation meant to punish dead beat dads & moms, but hurt children instead. Under the legislation, the government has the power to revoke a professional and a driver’s license if a parent fails to pay child support payments. It is but one example of excessive government intrusions on the people’s lives.
To some homeless individuals it may be too late, having developed the preference for living outdoors after years of knowing nothing else. They have shed all the pride that normally impels a person to have just a little bit more. Yet others carry with them medical challenges, conditions that deter employers from hiring them for fear of liabilities. Many of these people fall through the cracks.
One solution that should be seriously considered is a partnership between the public and private sector. The social nature of the problem brings it into the realm of public policy. Companies can provide the mechanics of executing the plan, much in the way that Habitat For Humanity has been able to do successfully over the many decades. However, to combat homelessness a holistic approach will have to be devised to affect an intervention that may include fixing a person’s broken heart, spirit and mind.
THE CHILDREN’S BURDEN
One of the most common questions asked of homeless individuals are, “Do you have family?” Next to it is the question, “Are you not ashamed?” In fact, they are painful scabs just waiting to get peeled. They are uncomfortable questions to answer at many levels. Society teaches us that family is the most important organizational unit in society, identifying a person’s membership. That is why we all have last names. In theory, every single person has membership to a family. Therefore, for a homeless individual answering the question requires an admission of fault, of being refused assistance, of some sort of banishment.
Placing the onus on one’s family to help an individual is tenuous concept. They could not be asked to give something that they do not have. It is particularly onerous if placed on the shoulders of the children. Unfortunately, that is the kind of thinking that has allowed this country to amass a national debt of approximately $20T by the time President Obama leaves office. It is a burden that this generation unfairly places on the next generation and the next. And if this country wants a vibrant future for its children the first thing that it must come to grips with is the way that the problem is viewed. It takes away options for generations into the future.
The question then becomes: Why can’t you stay with your children? The fact is an offer was made when both my children were still living in Westminster, but respectfully declined on account of work and income. My work of litigation does not bring me any income, and therefore could not provide me the usual amenities of life, including my own address. It’s a simple rule: If a room could not be afforded, one must sleep outside. Placing the responsibility on others, especially on one’s children, is a burden of shame.
For my homelessness, there is only the FBI to blame. Hence, fighting against malfeasance and oppression has become my life’s work. Where my body rests in the evening is determined by the flow of those many battle, where those fights must be waged. At this moment, the battlefield is in Aliso Viejo, the Santa Ana courts and Orange County.
Spring is now upon us. The battle lines are clearly drawn. Like the warrior ghosts mounting their charge from muddy trenches during the Great War, spring offensive shall commence with bright bursting flares and howling screams of whistles. The numerically superior aggressors have already gone over the top, and we shall mobilize with great dispatch. With steadfast courage we shall meet them in the field of battle, and fight until our very last – for our futures and those of our children’s and theirs.
For life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.