Home Letter To The Editor A Reader Reaches The Limit Of His Compassion

A Reader Reaches The Limit Of His Compassion



I read a line in one of your recent articles and found it to be true: “That the characterization of our homeless population – are we really calling them “residentially challenged” now? – should not always depict them as innocent victims but, rather, often as aggressors.”

While I have nothing but the utmost concern for those among us who find themselves on the streets through circumstances beyond their control I have also begun to realize that there are some among us who prefer the lifestyle and have gotten it in their minds that we – governments, churches, ordinary citizens – somehow owe them something and that if they don’t get what they want when they want it they feel within their rights to demand it.

This has led to more than a few encounters with homeless people on local streets in recent weeks with many declining offers of food or shelter in favor of money for what I have to assume is the drug of their choice. My family and I have been challenged on the street more than once, my daughter verbally harassed, and while we try to keep calm and maintain an open mind I believe we are about to see the problem explode as the weather gets better and more people? come in search of assistance.

We know several people and several local groups dedicated to helping people who are on the street and we have given them our support but our patience is wearing thin as we see no change for the better and even more bluffs and threats from those we are supposed to be helping.

I would be interested in hearing from any of your readers who has an idea how to address if not fix the problem of homelessness in our neighborhoods.

Can it be done?

Pete Rivas


  1. Part of the fix will be separating the truly needy from the professional scammers. Living off the generosity of others is a full time business for many. And it will not be an easy fix.

  2. I would like to believe I”m an optimist and want to believe this country can fix its problems but lately I’m not so sure. This one may be beyond our ability to solve it.

  3. I don’t know how to fix or address the homelessness problem, but I know how to address the homeless in the streets to keep them from bothering me. Treat them with dignity and respect. Smile and say hi to them first. Not only does that put you in control of the situation, it throws them off script – and they leave you alone. They don’t expect to be acknowledged, especially nicely.

    The only uncomfortable situation I’ve had with the homeless is homeless men offering me money twice (in SF and San Diego). It’s gut wrenching, but I realize why they’re doing it. They’re lonely, and they’re human.

  4. In the There Should Be A Law department I would make it a felony for people to use their kids while begging for money outside of any area store.

  5. Using your kids to beg for money is sad, but it’s up to society to wise up and not give them any money. The only way they’ll stop is when they stop receiving.

    Also – showing fear or scornful disdain to the homeless on the streets will only create a negative reaction. Body language is easy to read. Homeless people with substance abuse problems and mental health issues can be “very trying” but you can work around it if you carry yourself properly. It’s all about the approach.

  6. They’ve gotten much more hostile lately. Don’t know if there are more here now fighting over the same handouts or if scaring people is effective. I have seen several incidents downtown.

  7. I have supported the construction of clustered emergency shelters (not tents and not armories or gymnasiums) in outlying parts of the county in order to spread out the number of those in genuine need of shelter and to prevent more of the potentially harmful behavior we have seen in urban areas in recent years. These should be equipped with basic services needed for people to search for work and to maintain their lives. Act up and you’re under arrest. Set a fire and you’re under arrest. Try to find work and get your life on track and we will help.

  8. Does anyone have a handle on how much it costs the taxpayer to respond to and extinguish the many fires and other potential health hazards caused by people living in the camps we seem under bridges and overpasses?

  9. I volunteer in a “no questions asked” food pantry in a rural area once a week. We have our regular clients/locals-lots of hidden poverty in the Bay Area, particularly single seniors. Our weekly offerings of fresh produce, staples (sometimes little luxuries) provide $50-$60 in retail food value to those who show up to shop. We have our one time and short term shoppers as well; a few weeks ago, a woman came and was very selective and careful about what little she was taking, even as volunteers pressed her to take more, or this, or that. Finally she said in the most heartbreaking and gracious way that she had no storage or cooking facility, she had started “car camping” after losing her housing. How to get a fifty-something woman out of her car and into a tiny house with a shred of dignity and safety is the question. I think trying to solve the global problem leaves cities spinning their wheels. The solutions are going to come from the far edges of the crisis, catching and helping people like this woman, then working inward toward the hard core and hopeless.

    • Well, that’s no fair – suddenly all the hard-shell scribblers here in the News Bunker are looking away and dabbing their eyes. We’d really like to get into this subject because we believe that you are quite correct when it comes to your knowledge of “hidden poverty” cases – many of them in plain sight. Thanks for writing and for the work you do.

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