The "homeless" attract a wide range of responses, ranging from disgust to compassion. We see them as we rush around town; guarding their shopping cart on a sidewalk or milling around in the parking lot of popular businesses. Most people I talk with take a live-and-let-live approach to their presence; as long as they are not committing crimes of violence or threat of violence, property loss or fraud, let them be.
On public property, there is nothing fundamentally illegal about "hanging out," even if some may not care for a person's appearance or pungency. However, if hanging out devolves into littering, defecating, public displays of illegal behavior, vandalism and threats of violence, then we the people have the right and obligation to take action to protect people and property.
I put homeless in quote marks because society has generally lumped many groups of people under the "homeless" banner: people with substance abuse issues, people with mental health issues, panhandlers, criminals/felons, and vagabonds. Additionally, there are situational homeless, who are temporarily down on their fortune, and chronic homeless, who have been in the lifestyle for a while; some have a thorough understanding of the "system" and know how to exploit it. By grouping them together and applying a one-size-fits-all solution, we start our quest to assist them on the wrong foot.
We as a community should reflect on why we have such a noticeable homeless population here. Are they Solano County natives who are temporarily down on their luck, or have they migrated from other counties and other states?
"Do we have abundant services because there is a large homeless community, or do we have a large homeless community because there are abundant services?"
Private groups using privately sourced resources are welcome to help the cause; we in the community should applaud their effort and initiative. However, when a person or group is subsidized with public funds, the bar is raised. Our government has transferred community resources to select organizations assuming that the group can address the issue more efficiently. Which groups are actually helping our community, vs. who is just a poverty pimp?
"If our public resources are being spent to solve the homeless issue, where is the assurance that we truly helping the sons & daughters of Solano County?"
Despite all our efforts, the homeless population in our area has increased dramatically. I feel that a good portion of our community safety net has become a hammock. There are many projects and initiatives in our town; are they duplicating effort? Additionally, some community programs conflict with county and state programs. These are questions that should always be asked. In the campaign to help the less fortunate, we must measure the success of our efforts by results, not by intentions.