Where will All the Homeless Go?

“That does it, I’m leaving,” said W.C. Fields in one of his movies as he was being physically removed from a bar. For about a week now, authorities in Bucks County PA have been trying to roust the homeless out of the woods near the public library in Levittown PA.

The homeless are having a tough time in lower Bucks County, PA; the sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads, facing eviction daily. Many homeless have been evicted from their areas over the past few years. During moving time, they have to carry out all their possessions and scramble for a place to stay.

Bucks County needs to find a better way of handling the homeless problem than by continually pushing the homeless away.

August, 2014, I emailed Bucks County Commissioner Diane M Ellis-Marseglia and offered some ideas about how to resolve the homeless problem, which has plagued the county  since the late 80s. One idea is to set aside county land that is trucked away and use it for official homeless camping areas, the same way you would open land for tent and cabin camping.

The commissioner’s response: “That will not happen because there is too much liability. I also do not think that is helpful to the homeless. It just creates more space for them to avoid going to Housing Link and getting the referral,. they need, to start getting sober/clean, on medication, in therapy, signed up for assistance or some type of work, and a solid roof over their head…”

Too much liability? Why? People camp in public parks all the time. So what’s different here? Because we’re talking about the homeless? Sounds like hobophobia!

Create more space for them to avoid going to the housing link for a referral? Holy non-sequitur, Batman!  Like the temporary homeless shelter, there is a long wait through the housing link, up to two years!  As I said in my last blog, authorities in Bucks County must think that like Dorothy, the homeless can just click their heels three times and chant “there’s no place like home” and problem solved!

Like many people in Bucks County, the commissioner is looking at the problem from an Ivory Tower, completely removed from reality — to quote Mick Jagger, 1,000 light years from home. These people have no idea what it’s like to be homeless. Many of them I doubt even talked with the homeless.

I lived in my car for a few months, and got a taste of homelessness. Finding a place to stay is difficult, even if you have a little money. There is always someone with more money and other assets a landlord may like, and you are completing with other potential renters in a market where there are more people who need a place to stay then there are places.

Renters can afford to be picky, even anal.

Of course some of the problem is the asinine housing laws that were passed. For instance, a landlord has to go through hoops to evict somebody who causes problems. So there is at least some grounds for landlords to be anal.

The law is also the problem for allowing the homeless to camp in public parks. This is the liability argument — that, as Bucks County Chief Ranger Steve Long told me, if someone camping on their own on county land gets hurt, attacked, the county is culpable.

As Charles Dickens wrote “the law is an ass.”

I’m in a motel, renting weekly, as at least a temporary solution to housing. And I’m still on the waiting list for the shelter and I’m on the housing list — that “link” the commissioner touts.

It wasn’t the government agencies that have helped me with this situation, but tips and counseling through people of faith. State Representative Tina Davis said at Stand Down said “you need the government, you need me” to resolve the homeless problem.

Talk is cheap!

Addiction problems certainly exist among the homeless, as it does in any population. Not all homeless people have an addiction problem. Assuming homeless people need to “get straight” before they can get a place is the “one size fits all” mentality.

Bucks County, evidently, does not have the answers. Actually very little to none when it comes to the long standing homeless problem.

But the county at least needs to get out of the way and at least accommodate caring individuals who could find ways to house the homeless, the way it allowed volunteers to serve needy veterans during the Stand Downs.

If the Bucks County government isn’t going to have a solution to the problem, it should at least get out of the way.  But, as governments often don’t, people with the wherewith all need to challenge the government, the way homeless advocates challenged, and overturned, the public land camping ban in Portland, Oregon, on constitutional grounds.

People of Bucks County: the ball is in your court. Please help these unfortunate people help themselves!