Thursday, July 24, 2014

The people for whom I am responsible

From page A6 | July 15, 2014 |

I was maybe 11 when my father brought Archie home to live with us for a bit. Archie was ruddy and a little loud, but gentle and gracious, especially at dinner.

Archie had no job or home. For who knows how many reasons, he could not reconcile his memories of Vietnam with the reality of a life forever changed by war, and the dissonance revealed itself in unpredictable ways.

I am reminded of Archie as I confirm the now weekly evidence of one or more people taking shelter overnight behind the building where I work. Behind a wooden fence, tucked between HVAC units, there are blankets, sweatshirts and towels, travel-sized tubes of toothpaste, cigarette butts, empty water bottles and worse. There is both order and chaos to it.

Sleeping things seem to go here, toiletries over there; but everything is tossed and partially buried by leaves and flattened cardboard boxes.

Stepping through the gate, I am an intruder to someone’s make-shift home.

I notice how loud it is. And hot. But there is a hose nearby, there is shade from a few giant old pine trees, and the fence and adjacent rose bushes provide cover from the street. I could walk downtown in 10 minutes, find something to eat or catch a ride. I think about what would have to change in my life to put me here — everything a person might have lost or never known that leads to this — and how much worse it could be.

I also have to consider the risk to personnel and property from an errant cigarette, or an errant mind. The same trees that provide shade also cover the ground with pine needles, now tinder-dry. The building is busy with students and staff coming and going, sometimes after hours. How many of them would be surprised to find someone living so near? Or frightened?

I think about health and hygiene; the law and keeping up appearances; staying safe and creating peace of mind for the people for whom I am responsible.

But in my experience that includes Archie.

Kyle Monhollen


Letters to the Editor


Discussion | 16 comments

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 13, 2014 - 3:28 am

    What exactly is the point of this letter?

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  • CBCJuly 15, 2014 - 11:28 am

    To make you think Fred; obviously Kyle has failed.

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  • SteveJuly 15, 2014 - 12:47 pm

    to make you look like a douche. oh wait, you already did it to yourself.

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 15, 2014 - 5:28 pm

    What incredibly intelligent statements from a pair of retards.

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  • Greg JohnsonJuly 15, 2014 - 5:37 pm

    Fred, I believe the word "Retard" is unacceptable in the Davis community!

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 15, 2014 - 5:45 pm

    Would "intellectually challenged" or "in-bred" be acceptable terms? Of course I made the assumption that CBC, Steve and Max are from Davis. They very well may be from McFarland or Tupelo.

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  • ***July 15, 2014 - 11:59 am

    I think I get the point of this blog, but it’s far more vague in meaning than thought provoking. The limited services that are provided to the homeless by different organizations could and should be increased if it will help. However, the City of Davis and its residents are not “responsible” for every homeless panhandler that sets up camp in and around the city. Also, the unsanitary and possibly hazardous conditions of such homeless encampments are a growing problem, as with the increased panhandlers hustling people for money down town. I don’t see an easy solution, but the problem needs to be addressed.

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 15, 2014 - 5:27 pm

    My life-long observation has always been that if a person has the motivation, energy and resources to panhandle why not put those resources to work earning a legitimate keep or exchanging volunteerism for some worthy cause in exchange for food and shelter? So long as there are gullible people there will be panhandlers.

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  • Max DisgustedJuly 15, 2014 - 1:22 pm

    This is an excellent letter, and certainly thought-provoking. If Kyle made any mistake, it was simply in assuming that there are no idiots among the readers of the "Davis Enterprise." As for Archie and his colleagues, it's pretty laughable to look to politicians to solve their complex problems, and it's not not going to be done by bankers, that's for sure. But, each person can make a decision to help at least one other person, one act of kindness at a time.

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  • DougJuly 15, 2014 - 3:11 pm

    I agree that this is a heartwarming letter. However, the holier-than-thou comments left by Steve and "Max Disgusted" are totally uncalled for. Have you ever asked yourself at what point will there be too many homeless in Davis to care for? What is our city's responsibility to care for the homeless, mentally ill and addicted individuals versus our neighboring cities? At what point will the quality of life be so destroyed in our town that people start leaving Davis for greener pastures? I agree that the plight of the homeless is a tragedy. I also agree that our society does way too little to help the homeless and the mentally ill. But, to expect our small city to carry a far greater load than the rest of the surrounding communities isn't only unfair, it is downright reckless. If you really care about the homeless, then stop whining about those of us who are demanding an end to the handouts and start giving to your local charities. Many of the people that are begging are professional panhandlers who come into our town during the day because they know there are a lot of naïve people here. They simply ride the public transit, which costs very little or they bike here. So start doing the right thing and giving to organizations that will help feed, clothe and shelter the individuals that really need it. That will not only help the homeless much more than your direct handouts, but it will also help our town.

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 15, 2014 - 5:36 pm

    Doug: Layoff off CBC, Steve and the mad Max as being of severely diminished intellectual capacity, they just cannot help themselves. To paraphrase the Bible, the infintile morons will always be with us.

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  • The ObserverJuly 15, 2014 - 4:27 pm

    In Del Paso Heights and other similar neighborhoods in Sacramento where the homeless and addicted are more numerous, there are plenty of single family houses with nice backyards for sale for $80,000-$90,000...with few takers. Given enough welcome in Davis, I'm sure they could work the same price magic here.

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  • Greg JohnsonJuly 15, 2014 - 8:05 pm

    I think either of those terms would be just fine, Fred

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  • Emma M.July 15, 2014 - 8:20 pm

    When did Davis start having panhandlers and homelessness? I haven't lived there in years but grew up in Davis and much later visited my parents when they were alive. I loved Davis and have always been proud to call it my hometown. "Magical" used to come to mind. As much as the current Davis residents want to help with the problem, the best way is by donating to legitimate charities. I work in the SF Financial District, and have seen a constant influx of homelessness, disabled, mentally ill, panhandlers, druggies and theft occurring in broad daylight for the past 25 years. SF has a lot of social services, but the problems continue to increase and run amok. So much for "helping." As much as you care for the downtrodden, keep in mind the problem will only get worse if they are encouraged. Sad but true.

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  • Greg JohnsonJuly 15, 2014 - 9:29 pm

    I find this whole debate in Davis fascinating. It is as if this virgin community has never even realized that this problem existed, and now they say "Oh, my God, there are people without homes, what do we do"? The world is filled with people (probably 99 percent plus of them) who have it worse than we do. If you feel it in your heart to give, then give. But there is an insatiable appetite that you will never satisfy, and you will encourage more to come. This is a local example of what is going on with the border situation. It is a tragic and dysfunctional world. You have to target your limited means to where you feel it will do the most good.

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  • Fred HarveyJuly 16, 2014 - 12:39 am

    Greg Johnson's comments are intelligent and insightful. There is indeed an "insatiable appetite" created when the word gets around that a particular place, locale or intersection is easy picking. I travel extensively in South-East Asia where poverty, caused by government and industrial corruption, exists in extreme amounts. Yet beggars in Bangkok are difficult to find as NGOs and beat cops are on top of the problem. It is clearly understood that beggars, especially the ones with drugged rented infants, who congregate around areas frequented by Western tourists, are simply Mafia plants with personal transportation just around the corner which they use to make deposits into their bank accounts. As a result of public knowledge of these phony panhandlers, they have become scarce or non-existent in the inner city and most likely have returned to Cambodia, Laos or Burma from whence they were recruited by Indian or Pakistani gangs. The problem simply cannot be solved with handouts on the street corner. I lived in Woodland where for years we had a historical panhandler named Marie whose "home" was the ivy by the Opera House. Social Services tried in vain to house and feed Marie who simply preferred her way of life. People just got tired of five and dime donations to her directly and ceased thrusting largess into her den in the ivy. Yet there she remained for years. I believe that she died of natural causes in the ivy den actually leaving a legacy. If the citizens of Davis dislike panhandlers, then stop encouraging them with "do-gooder" contributions.

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