[Hpn] Compassionate Conservative Bush silent about DC's homeless (fwd)

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Fri, 9 Feb 2001 14:20:52 -0800 (PST)

http://www.sunspot.net/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.homeless07feb07.story?coll=bal%2 Doped%2Dheadlines FWD Baltimore Sun - February 7, 2001 WHAT ARE THE PRIORITIES IN A LAND OF WEALTH? President Bush has been silent about the people who usually sleep within viewing distance of his new bedroom. What does "Compassionate Conservatism" say about Washington's homeless? By Richard Pretorius WASHINGTON -- Winter's chill claims the lives of three homeless people who did not find shelter for a night. The story makes the front page and leads to the usual calls from officials to do more to prevent such tragedies. That same night, huddled in the shadows of the subway and in the parks, dozens of homeless try to survive another night. To them, even when given a place to go, coming in from the cold does not seem to be such a good option. The shelters are dirty and dangerous and run by drug dealers, they say. From Washington, D.C., to Seattle, from Miami to Augusta, Maine, and in Baltimore, the homeless are everywhere. Across this wealthy land, on any given night, experts say between 600,000 and 1 million people have no place to call home. America is not so beautiful when one's bed is a cardboard box. About a month before he left office, then-President Clinton gave the homeless a Christmas gift: the Department of Housing and Urban Development would dispense $1 billion in grants to try to bury the shame of homelessness in this country. It's certainly a lot of money. But money without a national commitment will not come close to ending the daily travail of thousands on the streets. President Bush has been silent about the people who usually sleep within viewing distance of his new bedroom. What does compassionate conservatism say about helping Mary, who probably will be sleeping in a box near the White House? What do members of George Bush's inner circle think about Edward Smith, who finds refuge from the chill by taking cover beneath bushes? Or Roland Hall, who watches the dawn roll in from underneath a bridge? All three spent the night outside on the eve of the Fannie Mae Foundation's 13th annual Help the Homeless Walkathon on Nov. 7. In urban America, homelessness has the pervasiveness of McDonald's restaurants. As Mary, who did not want to give her surname, said, "It is almost impossible to escape homelessness." Almost. Without an in-your-face Mitch Snyder leading the battle, the homeless have in recent years too often become an eyes-averted part of the big city landscape. The problem does not go away if it is ignored, or relocated, or if commuters drop a few coins into a panhandler's torn cup every few weeks. Anyone who has listened to the homeless -- and that is the best gesture a person can offer -- learns that warehouse-like shelters, where predators, pushers and psychopaths roam, are not the answer. Like thousands of others here and elsewhere, Mary, Mr. Smith and Mr. Hall won't go near the shelters. What will Mr. Bush, this son of privilege, do for the most vulnerable? During a fall train trip across America, when Mr. Bush was promising to be a new kind of Republican, the scene was the same, whether on benches in Philadelphia, on sidewalks in San Francisco, in parks in New York, by the water in Seattle -- men and women, in need of clean clothes and compassionate words, asking strangers for money. Some had that lost-to-the-world look; others were obviously trying to scam a few bucks for the next sip from a bottle or a hit off a crack pipe. But more were like Mark, who has been homeless in Philadelphia the past year, because, he said, he "mismanaged my life." Mark said he believed that "things would not stay this way." It will take a lot more than fund-raisers in Washington and HUD money scattered everywhere to change the landscape. It will take a nation that, like the movie character, is "mad as hell and is not going to take it anymore." Fully funded programs that include job training, substance abuse treatment, apartment-like living quarters and remedial education programs offer the best start at bringing everyone home. As does a populace that won't tolerate the intolerable anymore. As Mary simply says, "What the homeless need is housing. How hard could that be?" How hard could it be, Mr. Bush? Mary is your new neighbor. [ Richard Pretorius is a freelance journalist. ] END FORWARD **In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without charge or profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this type of information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.** Visit HPN for CONSTANTLY UPDATING NEWS on Homeless People: *************************************************************** Over 10,000 articles by or via homeless & ex-homeless people Been Homeless? Then JOIN! EMAIL Tom Boland <wgcp@earthlink.net> Nothing About Us Without Us - Democratize Public Policy ***************************************************************