California Forum

Another View: County should do more to help homeless

Dustin Rae, 27, of Sacramento panhandles on the corner of Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard. Sacramento Homeless blog writer Tom Armstrong says Sacramento County can help break the cycle of homelessness by empowering homeless citizens to feel in charge of their own lives again.
Dustin Rae, 27, of Sacramento panhandles on the corner of Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard. Sacramento Homeless blog writer Tom Armstrong says Sacramento County can help break the cycle of homelessness by empowering homeless citizens to feel in charge of their own lives again. hamezcua@sacbee.com

As a homeless citizen of many years in the city of Sacramento, I would like to weigh in on the back-and-forth between The Bee’s editorial board, with its resounding call for movement to address the suffering of thousands of homeless people in the county (“Leaders dither; homeless shiver”; Editorials, Nov. 22), and County Executive Officer Bradley J. Hudson’s response in defense of the county (“County is a leader on issues of homelessness”; Another View, Dec. 14).

I think Hudson fully misses the point. He writes that the county “contributes millions every year” for a raft of programs that aid homeless people. I don’t think any knowledgeable person could doubt that. The issue that the editorial board targets, by my reading, is the laggard effort in our area to make “the big push” to get homeless folks out of the “big muddy, muddy” of a dreary, pointless life out on the streets.

It is one thing to sustain people with food and give us shelter from extreme weather conditions. It is something else – something transformational – to find oneself in charge of one’s own life again, to be exhilarated by a sunrise, to choose what to wear each morning out of a closet that has an array of clothes that fit and that are yours. And it is sublime to have complete control over what you will eat for your evening meal.

Hudson is probably right that the title of the editorial was a mistake; “dither” was a poor word choice. And the editorial should have acknowledged that many homeless people are finding their way out of the rut of homelessness to new beginnings. Guys I know named Jessie and Billy and Downtown have smiles on their faces I hadn’t seen before. And a fellow from the mission, Anthony, has been extracted from the miseries of homelessness at the age of 92.

A fellow I know describes his homeless condition as “life in a goldfish bowl.” You travel endlessly, by foot, day after day, in a circle, going to the service providers that sustain you while the possibility to act outside this well-worn path becomes cut off from you because of your ragged clothes, benumbed sensitivities and lost hope.

Focus sharply on fixing this, Mr. Hudson, with your county millions. Pull people out of the bowl – the toilet bowl of being homeless and without hope.

Tom Armstrong writes the Sacramento Homeless blog.

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