Thursday, November 12, 2009

UN investigator accuses US of shameful neglect of homeless

A homeless man in California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This from the Guardian UK

A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis.

Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing.

"The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless."

She added: "I think those who are suffering the most in this whole situation are the very poor, the low-income population. The burden is disproportionately on them and it's of course disproportionately on African-Americans, on Latinos and immigrant communities, and on Native Americans."
See the rest of the story.
There are many in this county that think we do too much for those without homes.  I think the country as a whole, has done little to address this issue.  Since Ronald Regan closed all the mental hospitals and kicked the people there to the streets, it seems we just accept the situation as normal.  Our country can do better, our county can do better and yes, even Arcata can do better. 
Arcata is home to a blogger that just takes pictures of homeless people and people living in the cars and vehicles.  He mocks them and offers no real solutions to the problem.  There are many that believe that if we don't feed them and allow them to sleep that the problem will just go away. 
Contrast that with the work being done in this county by John Shelter, Paul and Betty Chinn, St Vincent De Paul, the City of Eureka considering parking lots for people to be allowed to sleep in their cars, and other positive steps to improve peoples lives and I think that Humboldt County is in the lead when it comes to real solutions to the problem.


  1. Tom,

    Thanks for the mention. I appreciate it.

    Michael Moore, Jr.

  2. Hello Tom,
    In Arcata we are overwhelmed with the homeless issue. We cannot fix peoples lives for them, yet they still pour into our town. These people did not grow up here, these people do not plan on staying and eventually contributing in a positive way to our municipality. Our town cannot absorb it's current population of traveling homeless let alone what might arrive in the future if Arcata is perceived as a "good deal". Compassion for the traveling homeless has negatively impacted my life in the town I have lived in for 37 years. Today I had to point out the human feces on the sidewalk in front of the Bank of America to my five year old daughter so she wouldn't step in them. There is no "solution", yet you Mock Michael who, like me, has had enough of the current situation. I have lost my compassion for traveling homeless, for converted buses, for drunks sleeping on the plaza, for cardboard signs on corners, for young people who would rather be stoned then work, for the homeless pets used to elicit more change, and for every hard luck story that has ever existed. It's been a nice run but they can go now. I am one of the people who believes "that if we don't feed them and allow them to sleep that the problem will just go away", and good riddance.
    So thanks for coming down off your high horse, and your nice secluded Westhaven home, and commenting on the plague hasn't decended on your town.

  3. Damn A,

    Nicely said!

    Michael Moore, Jr.

    PS- Tom, for the record I agree with Rolnik's observations.

  4. Mr. Moore, maybe we are getting somewhere. If these people had some sort of cubicle with access to restrooms, they wouldn't have to crap on B of A. (There is a strange irony in that story)

    With the economy what it is, things are going to get worse before they get better. When full time work at minimum wage won't keep a roof over your head, we have to make some serious changes in this country.
    I don't want people living on the streets anymore than you do but when people can't make a living wage, they turn to crime, drugs and alcohol.
    Before Ronals Regan shut down the state mental facilities and kicked thousands of people to the streets, it was eaiser to tell those that wanted to be homeless travelers from those that needed help. There have always been bums, and those that don't want to be productive members of society. I have little pitty for those that choose that lifestyle. There are those that don't have the mental capacity to hold down a job or be productive. What can we do for these?
    Who wants crazy people blocking the doors to their business? I don't think anyone wants that.
    I understand property owners not wanting to see their life savings degraded by people that could care less. I feel for you Mr. Moore having a home in Arcata and wondering if it will be worth anything in the future. I can say that this problem is not unique to Humboldt. I spent a decade in Anaheim and had to deal with having my home broke into while I was out working. Having to deal with homeless people wandering the ally behind my house. Having my car broke into.
    I lived two blocks from the police station but they couldn't keep up with the drive by shootings and armed robberies, much less the homeless population.

    Bush, like Regan was part of the problem. No solutions, just ignore it and it will go away.
    Well, it will not just go away.

    This country can be better!

  5. Hello again Tom,
    How are we to mandate that people grow up and act responsibly? Why should I continually pay the price and put up with the fallout. We tried keeping a bathroom open all night in Arcata and the city could not keep up with the problems that created. This is not issue that city's can solve. I thought that county's were mandated to figure out a homeless plan, maybe we can put pressure on county supes and let arcata attend to it's citizens. Also blaming Ronnie is a easy cop out, must also blame every politician since then who let it slide. btw - what was Anaheim's solution and why did you leave?

  6. First we must recognize that a problem exists. That's done. Second, identify what YOU as an individual can do to help the situation. That sure is easy to say but a whole lot harder to do considering the multiple variables that led to the crisis. If we exclude the stoned kid, the drunks, the anyone left? Maybe a few. And maybe you, me, us, can do something to get them going down the road to self sufficiency.

    The others mentioned require different approaches. It's illegal to be intoxicated in public whether it's bud or Budweiser. The police need to deal with that and make the streets a little less inviting to people who behave badly. Also, with the police/courts getting involved, it may help to open up the stoner/drunk to their problem and the help that is available.

    As for the lazy, don't feed them, don't give them stuff, and don't allow them to slow you down. Their lack of ambition should not create a detriment on our society.

  7. A said, you're right, that was a cheap shot at old Ronald Regan. Just because colleges were free in this state before he changed that is no reason to think that he had anything to do with the way things are now.
    Letting the mentally ill wander the streets has become acceptable to people that don't remember the way it was before Regan came along.

    As for lazy people, I have worked all my life. I have no time for lazy people.

    Reason I left Anaheim? Smog, crime, traffic and insane rent prices. I couldn't make the rent with my income so as the homeless travelers do, I moved. I don't miss it.

  8. I think we might be missing the point of Raquel Rolnik from the U.N. She said:

    "In the US, it's feasible to provide adequate housing for all. You have a lot of money, a lot of dollars available. You have a lot of expertise. This is a perfect setting to really embrace housing as a human right," she said.

    Rolnik has given a verbal report to the US state department, which has a month to respond to her observations. She will submit a final written report to the UN human rights council early next year.

  9. I don't want to troll this on forever, but I do like dialogue on this topic.

    I think you and greg are missing my point that YOU are being very generous with MY hospitality.

    When Anaheim started to suck you left. Well Arcata is starting to suck, but I don't feel like letting this drive me out. Arcata needs to find solutions for it's residents first, the party needs to be over, you guys need to go home and let us clean up.


  10. A said, when you say you guys need to go home and let us clean it up. Who are you guys?
    Greg doesn't live here and my family has had property here since the 1970's.
    Besides, why go back to Anaheim when Arkley is bringing it to the Marina Center.
    Same architecture, same mentality.
    Folks down south have a way to deal with the homeless. They lock themselves and their families behind walls in gated communities. There behind their walls, they feel safe from all the riff raff. They have their own parks inside the wall. They have bike trails inside the wall. They have box seats at the stadium so they don't have to be among the rabble.
    As one of the richest counties in the country, this is the solution they have come up with. Is that the future of Arcata, or can it be better?

  11. The solution for crap on sidewalks is to place a few portapotties around town, tucked in inconspicous places in alleys and on the back sides of buildings where appropriate. Portapotties are cheap, easily maintained and hard to trash.

    Stop whining about a basic problem of human hygiene that was solved in civilized cities centuries ago.

    Stop with the brick and mortar restrooms they are way too expensive and easily damaged. Portapotties are the way to go.

    have a peaceful day,

  12. As Tom pointed out, I’m in O.C. We have the same problem. Local government does very little to help the homeless. Most of the assistance comes from community groups and churches. In Fullerton, California, a homeless person can get at least one free meal a day between several churches. Also, several churches have been giving away EDAR's.

    A, what would you propose as a solution for the mentally ill? Would you be in favor of higher taxes for institutions to care for them? What about those who are willing to work hard (somewhat rare in Humboldt) but were laid off and then evicted from there home?

    I used to feel the same way but this past year I watched some talented people loose their jobs and then loose their homes. After several pay cuts and furloughs, I have been very close (still am) to loosing my job. If that day comes, what will I do? I will loose my home and the stability that a steady job and nice home bring to a family. I have numerous skills that will help me keep a roof over my head but I will still loose what my children call home.

    The only people who don't seam to understand the severity and depth of homelessness are the extremely wealthy and those in government cubicles. I used to fall into the latter.

    Lastly A, from what I have read above, you are not exactly a hospitable person, or at least no longer tolerable. I can appreciate the fact that your patience has worn thin, but I urge you not to loose the compassion which I detected in your post. I was taught as a cub scout not to complain unless I had a solution. Let's find it.

  13. We’re reaping the results of a conservative agenda to enable the very wealthy at the cost of the poor and the middle class. Consider the feces your daughter dodges as the waste product of the selfish elite.

    The liberal agenda includes living wage opportunities for anyone who is able to work and a reasonable safety net for those who can't. It does not include creating more people unable to work because of harm caused to them in wars of choice or criminalizing victimless acts. It does not include see-no-evil gated community social darwinism.

    We can ventilate and vilify, but the problem is systemic and will only get worse without a major retooling of national and international politics. For example, much of the problem comes from unfettered international corporatism. Of the top 100 economies in the world, half are corporations, yet many of us still don’t realize their power.

    If we really want to reduce problems caused by vagrants, the real solution is not vigilantism or even local legislation. It's a long-term battle with the corporate-funded greed-matrix of conservatism that serves the upper crust. The solution requires patience and hard, boring work within the global political system. It took generations for things to get this way. It's likely to take just as long to correct our course.

    I too was a cub scout. I was also a boy scout and an explorer scout. One of the things these experiences taught me was the importance of tending all facets of our lives including civics. The conservative greed-agenda actively discourages average citizens from accepting this responsibility. Instead, it encourages a divide-and-conquer strategy of alienating us from our natural allies. Anyone in this discussion has far more in common with the lowliest person sleeping in a marsh than the people who really are causing our difficulties.

    I also have experienced mental illness, disability and yes, homelessness where I was quite literally in danger for my life from vigilantes. Therefore, the Arcata Can Be Better blog scares me on a personal level. More importantly, it frightens me because meaningless vilification of those lower on the pecking order distracts from a desperately needed sustainable systemic solution.

    Maybe the next time you're inconvenienced by someone who has dropped out of conventional society, you’ll remind yourself of the real source of the harm and be just that much closer to joining the real fight.

  14. ...I want to say that as long as you have this mind set nothing is going to be acommplished...There are so many reasons why people are homeless can you put people all in the same clump...each situation is different...thatis why we need more services not less...there is alcoholism...yes...need I remind you..there are housed is a disease that needs treatment and mental goes on and on.. my point is each PERSON...each HUMAN needs have to be assessed by a proffessioal social worker ...the city is not the social worker!!! I also feel that the anger is misplaced....some of the young people that live here are displaced because of abuse and need help...saying not to feed or cloth people is really mean and doesnt help the situation...we should have at least basic social services...for health purposes we need to have showers and medicine available...bathrooms...


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