Monday, January 26, 2009

Gazette Letter to the Editor

Letter writer, Dennis Ryan, suggests some cruel and unjust punishment for Long Beach's mentally ill, Vietnam veterans and others who find themselves unable to provide a roof over their heads; aka: homeless. Ryan's letter was inspired by an article asking for volunteers to do a homeless count. He thinks the police should round up the homeless all year long, charge them with vagrancy and haul them off to jail. He thinks they all need to be fingerprinted.

Actually part of my homeless experience was being fingerprinted as if I were a common criminal. I wrote a reply mentioning my time serving on jury duty, volunteering for beach clean-ups & Adopt-a-Beach "mother"; think I forgot to mention helping with food preparation, serving, clean-up to feed the hungry. At one time I had a perfect rental/credit history and a savings account, albeit a small one.

I have paid Federal, State, City Income taxes, utility bill taxes, sales taxes, car registration fee taxes, gasoline taxes, Pennsylvania's "Privilege Tax" (which was only $10.00 a year for the privilege of having a job). Round me up and send me to jail?

Jails in Long Beach are so crowded when the police "round up" LB homeless prior to an event such as the Grand Prix, they are bused to Los Angeles, who also has a jail overcrowding problem. L.A. is paying other states to take in some long term prisoners. After the LB event is over, the arrested homeless are released with "time served" all their warrants wiped off the books. The warrants are issued for unpaid tickets that can be for jaywalking, public intoxication, loitering, camping or other minor violations of the law.

In my case, I acquired my first misdemeanor law offense, "Remaining After Hours". I have hardly been a master criminal getting away with a lifetime of crime, I simply obey the laws. The exception is driving. I have been known to speed and there was a time ~ long ago ~ I drove under the influence of alcohol.

Ryan irked me with the nasty tone of his letter. One reason is for his ignorance of the variety of reasons people become homeless, and who homeless people are, such as the large number of Vietnam war vets on the streets of LB. He also does not know that many LB homeless are working homeless. Hauling people off to jail is not going to help them get a job, once released and hardly a way to solve the problem. The problem is, of course, people like Ryan. Most homeless are not troublesome people, just trying to survive street living. Affordable housing and a year round shelter available during daytime hours are good starts in getting people off the streets. 1/19/09

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