Our discussion of laws gone wrong and Will’s relation of bums taking over the dollar theater veered close enough to trigger another thought from me: the intriguing problem of grifters/panhandlers/”homeless” in cities.
Colosse has what some might call a “homeless problem.” Being a southerly city, it’s warm most of the year, and so it’s easier for people to survive “on the streets” as opposed to cities where it’s snowed in for half the year or more. With the exception of northern metropolises, one rarely sees “homeless” in small-town areas crossing the country until getting below the lower half-mark of the US, and weather has a lot to do with it. By the same token, it’s no coincidence that on the list of the “meanest” cities compiled by two well-meaning but rather ass-backwards organizations, the only non-”southern” city in the top 10 is Lawrence, KS and you only find 5 more “non-southern” cities by expanding to the top 20. Anchorage, Alaska probably counts as an “outlier” since it’s the only city in Alaska that could even remotely support a “homeless” population as-such.
Colosse’s problem has been twofold. The first is panhandlers. Before the passage of a few laws in the Colosse area, it was seemingly impossible to pass a city intersection without some grimy individual trying to ask for money. Driving around with your windows down was asking for trouble, because you’d be subjected to a stream of nasty language and yelling if you (a) ignored them or (b) rolled the window up after saying no. Getting past an intersection sometimes involved waiting for the worst of them to clear out of the street, since a few got so brazen that they actually stood in front of cars and demanded money to move. These days, the same holds true except for the “no panhandling” zones surrounding the business and theater/restaurant areas of downtown. Southern Tech, being on “the edge” of one of those zones, actually gets more panhandlers these days than we did before.
The second problem is the use of public buildings. During the hot months of the day, pro-homeless organizations urge them to use “public” facilities for air conditioning. Will points out cheap dollar theaters as one option; another frequently pushed option is public libraries. A few of Colosse’s libraries became completely overrun with “homeless”, some of whom were making it impossible to reach books because they slept in the aisles; the “straw that broke the camel’s back” was when an enterprising crew of them set up shop in, and then barricaded, one of the library restrooms in a bid to stay overnight. The hygenic level of the fellows taking over the libraries was also… scary.
In a discussion of this at another forum, the following comment stands out to me:
A huge proportion of the homeless suffer from mental illness or are alcoholics/ drug addicts. I think there was a study in NY years back where something like 80% of the homeless they tested had drugs or alcohol in their system. Can you say self-medicating? We have also swung the pendulum too far in treating mental illness. After the horrors of the 70’s in which people with mental illness were locked up as prisoners and treated like shit, we swung it back the other way to make it almost impossible to force people to receive treatment without their consent. I have no problem with erring on the side of self-determination, but there has to be a better system for deciding when someone truly lacks the capability.
It may sound like a cliche, but the scenario in which a homeless person will not enter a shelter because he has to give up his knife (or whatever) is not uncommon.
Based on the panhandler types in Colosse, I can name precisely two. The first are the legitimately problematic and probably “actually homeless” types. As stated above, alcoholics/druggies or otherwise mentally incapable of dealing with society, and having big problems. They’re the ones likely to fly off at someone, jump into traffic, and cause the worst of the problems. I find myself agreeing that for many, some form of analysis on whether they are mentally competent to take care of themselves - or instead should be put under supervised care of some sort - needs to take place. If they really are mentally incompetent, and the reason they can’t hold a job or maintain a place to live is that they are incapable of staying on whatever medication they need, then society it seems has a responsibility to get them off the streets and into some form of supervised care.
The second are the outright scammers. I don’t know if 100% of them are non-homeless, but I do know that they make quite a bit of money from observing them (counting by number of suckers and presuming an average of 75 cents per handout they could be making easily on the order of $50 or more an hour). A number that I have observed either operate in “shifts” with another accomplice, or have been observed walking away from “their” spot after peak hours to some rather ritzy and well-maintained (custom paint-job wise) cars. In the case of one, the shifting signs meant to accommodate various disasters (economic collapse, hurricanes, storms, etc) make it pretty obvious that the person is scamming; one in particular that hangs around SoTech has been a former MCI employee, trailer destroyed by tornado, Hurricane refugee from three different hurricanes, “lost job due to Obama recession”, and so on.
To deal with these people, many cities (including Colosse) have had organized advertising campaigns urging citizens to donate, if they see the need, directly to homeless shelters and soup kitchens rather than giving change to bums. The ass-backwards organizations previously mentioned have called this “mean.” But as research shows, there are quite a few of these “homeless” who will misuse money directly given, and are outright scamming or worse.