Guest opinion: The difficulty of homelessness, firsthand
Homelessness has been a problem in Glenwood Springs for some time. But prevailing attitudes do change over time, and the general population becomes more apathetic to the plight of the homeless.
At first we might feel sympathetic to their needs, then perhaps frustrated at the lack of change, and finally, to feel disdain that they don’t find a job and get on with things. We’d like everyone to share in supporting our society, yet we may wonder what the missing piece would be for solving the problem.
I have been homeless myself off and on for the last couple of years. This most recent time, I’ve been conned by a 67-year-old woman, shot at by kids with BB guns and arrested for sleeping on private property on the riverfront. Things are not very easy for the person who suddenly finds himself homeless. But things are not made any easier by the laws that we have concerning the homeless.
You simply do not have a right to rest in most of the United States if you are homeless. Every piece of land is cordoned off, either by private citizens or the government, so there is no place where you are allowed to sleep without the threat of arrest or a ticket.
You can stay on private property, but it can be difficult to find anyone willing to take a chance by helping you. You find yourself being “moved on” by the police and private citizens alike, and you cannot stay on state or federal land for even one night if you do not have a provable residence.
This is understandable in some respects. Many of the homeless currently on the street have no serious intention of getting their life together and finding a job and a place to stay. This number is inflated, of course, because of the duration with which these people stay on the streets. But as you may have guessed, some of us are really trying hard to get ahead.
For this reason, I believe that it is important that when dealing with anyone that you get to know the person in question. If you have a homeless person in the area of your home and are concerned with safety issues, then there’s nothing wrong with getting to know your homeless person.
It should be easy to spot the drug-using, subculture person anyway. They will often be unable to be selfless because of the drug use. Note that what you say is unimportant to this person and that they are merely waiting for their turn to speak, whereas some homeless would be concerned with your interests and would probably help you with your lawn or maintaining your home. We want to be part of society and have a real life.
We all simultaneously have an impulse to help and to criticize. We would like to help, but we don’t want to throw our money away or waste our time. Getting to know your homeless person would help you to determine if you are making a good investment, if you are so inclined to help. Things other than money and food are needed, too. Just a place to be out of public view would bring welcome sanctuary, and sometimes good information can be a boon to the homeless person – where to find a job, sleep, or the local laws and ordinances.
Remembering that many of us are actually only a couple of paychecks from homelessness ourselves should make apparent that we are all in this together to begin with.
Brett Warehime is homeless.