The poor will always be with us, and when the poor ask for help, those who are asked should help. Christians probably recognize this statement. Others may also. Flashback popular culture a few decades ago on radios across the country the lyrics, “Feed the babies, don’t have enough to eat. Clothe the children, with no shoes on their feet. House the people, livin’ on the street. Oh, oh, there’s a solution”. The lyrics to this song, Fly Like an Eagle, are etched in my brain. I can’t fly, but I want to walk the streets and trails of Paradise freely and safely. More importantly, I want all our children – everyone – to be free to roam, to feel and be safe outside.
The Steve Miller Band first performed the song in 1973. It was number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1977 and is on Steve Miller’s Greatest Hits album. It’s in my archive and streams in my mind often. Miller was right when he wrote, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’ into the future.” Find solutions now or we’ll have the same problems later.
Reality check 2018. Paradise Post “For the Record” column on Tuesday, Sept. 18… Transient Activity: 1:29 p.m. North Star Real Estate on Wagstaff Rd. Evidence of transient camp at location. Reporting party will clean up property, requests extra patrol for evening hours. Referred to Patrol…
“Transient Activity: 2:16 p.m. at Quail Run Professional on Clark Rd. Transient camps set up in woods behind professional offices. Reporting party requests extra patrol as available. Referred to Patrol.”
For the Record often contains reports of transient activities, suspicious circumstances, trespass, intoxicated subjects, theft, pedestrian checks, prowler calls, vandalism, narcotic violations, and more calls keeping police busy. Our new Police Chief may have some ideas on patrolling the Town for homeless camps. Not all the violations, of course, are attributable to those without a home, but the numbers of such people, with children, is growing.
Having a legal place to lay one’s head, keep one’s stuff, fix food, and hang out with family and friends is an amenity of life that folks with homes may take for granted, but most of us live a mere few paychecks away from homelessness. How long would you be able to stay in your home if you or your sponsor lost a job, ran out of unemployment, and for whatever reason cannot make ends meet?
The reasons for living in the streets vary widely – job loss, mental instability, drug dependence, belief in anarchy and unwillingness to work, insufficient social services, inability to deal with available social services, too expensive child care, too low wages to pay rent, and unavailability of affordable housing, to name a few.
How can we “house the people livin’ on the street” – and in the woods, in town and adjacent to town; how can we alleviate the problem now? The economy, improved as it may be, isn’t trickling funds and jobs down fast enough to keep the homeless population from growing.
We need manufacturing jobs in this town as well as service jobs. We know we need more businesses in this town that keep us shopping here and that attract outsiders to shop here. Taking steps, like organizing clustered septic systems or building a sewer system, would help to improve our local economy. I’m voting for candidates working on these issues.
Whether we’re talking about the town or families or individuals, life doesn’t hand out cards fairly; the deck is stacked. Some cities have more assets than others. Some families have more assets than others. Some individuals are, as the saying goes, “born on third base and think they got a triple.” Let’s recognize the privilege of being born on one of the bases, have some empathy, protect our local assets, and work on enacting policies in this town to help the homeless.
I’m not a socialist. I don’t want the government making too many laws or over taxing and over spending. It wouldn’t hurt for the Town to encourage and organize more truly low income housing from the private sector. The government terms homes without certain amenities like kitchens and bathrooms “substandard housing” and doesn’t allow it. Can we find a new name for a community of tiny homes that share facilities?
We could also encourage very small homes to be built that do have essential amenities. Clearly there is no incentive for builders, bankers, and realtors to support tiny homes; the shotgun homes and small homes in company towns of days past aren’t being built nowadays.
We can’t depend on a growing economy or raised minimum wages to house everyone. The raised minimum wage is causing more unemployment and more homelessness as employers cut the number of workers to pay for the increased wages.
Let’s get together – school board, town council, people who know about property owners’ associations, Sojourner’s House On the Ridge, and anyone interested in truly low income housing – and decrease the homelessness the Paradise way.
On Time and Solutions was published in the Paradise Post on October 3, 2018.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.