[Hpn] Where Are Diane and the Other Homeless Supposed to Live?;LA Times;column;7/15/01

Morgan W. Brown morganbrown@hotmail.com
Sun, 15 Jul 2001 13:49:11 -0400


-------Forwarded Column-------

Sunday, July 15, 2001
Los Angeles Times <http://www.latimes.com>
[California, USA]
Orange County edition

Dana Parsons:

Where Are Diane and the Other Homeless
Supposed to Live?

I wonder if Diane Grue knows about Rosa Parks.

I've never spoken to Grue and don't know the answer,
but the two women could strike up an interesting
conversation. They could compare notes about living in
a society but not really being of it. Of being seen, but,
in another way, being invisible.

Parks is the black woman who in the the mid-1950s
refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city
bus in Montgomery, Ala. Today, in her late 80s, she's
guaranteed a place in history for her defiance.

Grue is a homeless woman with a bum leg who just
turned 67. For her defiance, she's guaranteed a court
date on July 23.

Grue is fighting Buena Park's arrest of her for sleeping
on public property. It's her sixth arrest. The city says
that it doesn't want to take her to court, but that Grue
has forced the issue.

If a jury convicts her, Grue could be sentenced to six
months in jail. In losing, she would at least get a roof over her head.

But I don't see her case as ironic.

I see it this way: Where is a person who doesn't have a home supposed to go?

Jon Alexander is Grue's attorney (and, for disclaimer purposes, a friend of 
mine). He says Grue has been homeless about eight years. Her Social Security 
check lets her stay in a cheap motel about half of each month, he says. For 
the other half, she's on the street.

Theoretically, I guess, Grue could find a shelter. But it's fairly well 
documented in Orange County that the homeless population outnumbers the 
shelters' beds by anywhere from 8-to-1 to 10-to-1.

Alexander says Grue survives in large part because kind-hearted grocery 
store and restaurant employees slip her food. He says she doesn't have a 
mental incapacity and would much rather live under a permanent roof than 
under the stars.

I don't know that Grue is claiming any particular right, say one as 
fundamental as sitting where you want on a city bus. Her defiance, such as 
it is, stems from her belief that she hasn't committed a crime.

Obviously, she knows that a crime is what a city says it is, but Grue is on 
to something deeper here.

To me, it's the premise I laid out earlier: If you have no home and there is 
no shelter space, where is a person supposed to go? Oh, Grue could camp on 
someone's private property, but we know how that would end up. None of us is 
too keen on people sleeping in our yards. Grue could sleep in a tree, but we 
tend to reserve those spaces for animals.

So she got in the habit of rolling up some blankets and sleeping on the 

"There's a little bit of Tom Joad in this woman when you hear her talk," 
says Alexander, citing the Dust Bowl hero of John Steinbeck's "Grapes of 

"She has a tough streak in her, and I admire that immensely," Alexander 
says. "Where they arrested her [next to a freeway confluence and truck 
parking lot], all the NIMBYs in Buena Park couldn't be offended by where she 

Whenever I write in defense of the homeless, some readers take me to task.

Do I want them sleeping in my backyard? No, I don't. Do I want them 
urinating or defecating outside my business? No.

To that extent, I sympathize with neighbors or merchants who deal with the 
unpleasant effects when human beings have no place to live.

But those callers never seem to address the simple question: Where are these 
people supposed to go?

Why isn't the city or county's answer to that building more shelters for 
them? Why aren't the legitimate gripes from merchants and homeowners 
addressed by local governments?

No matter how you slice it, folks, if you don't have a place to go, you 
don't have a place to go. The homeless can't make themselves disappear or 
stop their bodies from functioning.

The feeling is that Buena Park is cracking down on the homeless because of 
its tourist reputation--as if any city relishes dealing with the homeless.

No, it isn't a civil right to be homeless.

But unless we want to relegate them to nonhuman status, don't we have to 
grant them the human right to lay their bodies down somewhere without 
calling it a crime?


Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Readers
may reach Parsons by calling (714) 966-7821; by writing to him at The Times' 
Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; or by 
e-mail at dana.parsons@latimes.com.


**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
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-------End of forward-------

Morgan <morganbrown@hotmail.com>
Morgan W. Brown
Montpelier Vermont USA

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