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LETTER: Editor's Desk bum solution spurned; editor responds

       You must have had a really bad day involving some of our homeless population that inspired your recent Editor's Desk column. (See "Editor's Desk: How to Solve the Bum Problem," by Kenyon Jordan, at this link.) I share your frustration with the apparently healthy people at almost every intersection asking for handouts, and the piles of trash they leave behind. It doesn't speak well for us as a people or city.
       Homelessness is an important issue that needs addressing - but not by the draconian police state methodologies that you've suggested. Packing off anyone found illegally camping to a mental institution is a page right out of Joe Stalin's book in which anyone deemed "undesirable" met exactly that fate. And yes, we do have debtors prisons. The only difference between the ones Dickens described and ours is that in Dickens time the debt was owed to a private lender. In ours, it's owed to the government. How is anyone benefitted by throwing someone, who poses no threat to anyone, in jail because of their inability to come up with a couple of hundred dollars bail money? It's an unjust system that hurts only the poor and indigent and leaves the wealthy unscathed. Charles Dickens would immediately recognize it for what it is.
       One of the most effective organizations standing up to attempts to nibble away at our freedoms is the ACLU, or as you described them, the "atheistic ACLU" with a membership largely composed of elites living in upscale gated and guarded communities. I've been a member of that organization for many years, know a lot of fellow card carriers, and none of them, including myself, live that lifestyle. As for the "atheistic" descriptor, I suspect that comes from too much attention being paid to our efforts to protect individuals from having unwanted religious beliefs forced upon them; and not enough attention to our efforts to give all the maximum possible protection to worship as they please. The ACLU website will list those cases for you.
       I don't have an answer to the homeless problem. Maybe a start would be a vigorous advertising campaign discouraging handouts and a monitored and maintained free campground for their use. I'm far from an expert on that issue. I am convinced that it's only a few short steps from trampling on the homeless' civil rights to the rest of us. We don't want to go there.
       I hope your days have gotten better.

       Steven Schwartz


       Westside Pioneer Editor Kenyon Jordan replied to the letter-writer as follows:
       Actually, I'm having a great day. I just think it would be a lot better day for most of us if the bum problem were solved, instead of being kicked down the road, like so many other political cans.
       Clearly, you only gleaned what you wanted from my column, jumped to an easy sterotype and started tapping on your keyboard.
       “You must have had a really bad day… Draconian police state methodologies… Joe Stalin's book… We don't want to go there…” How nice it must be to to simply denounce/dismiss/demean any thinking that doesn't match yours. No need for an idea exchange - just act morally superior and declare yourself the winner. I think Stalin would have liked your style better than mine.
       You propose no viable solutions of your own. A “vigorous advertising campaign discouraging handouts”? The Avenue Task Force, working with local law enforcement, implemented such an initiative many months ago. Have you been out promoting it?
       And as for your “free campground” suggestion - how is that a long-term fix for mentally impaired people? The likelihood of crime and squalor cannot be denied. You propose camp “monitors.” Would you like to be one? And what if the city put it in your neighborhood?
       The ACLU as heroes on this? Ha-ha. I spent a half-hour on the phone once with a Denver ACLU honcho, getting nowhere as I tried to explain to him how neutered vagrancy laws diminish communities, middle-class neighborhoods and small businesses. But no need to restate my column.
       And yes, Dickens would laugh himself hoarse, having been forced to go to work at age 12 to pay off his father's debts. What difference does it make if the debt was private or public? I'm pretty sure that nobody in his father's jail gave him three meals a day, climate control, a mattress and pillow and ready access to ACLU lawyers. Oh, and did I just mention the word “work”? Somehow, even in our “police state,” I think if a jailed bum ever showed the desire and capacity to be productive they'd let him out in a heartbeat.
       All I'm doing here is proposing a plan to get unstable people off the streets, away from their well-meaning but ineffective enablers and into the hands of trained specialists at mental institutions - while sparing communities the problems, costs and dangers these bums currently pose. We can certainly debate how such institutions might function, but why can't we agree that they're badly needed?
       And I hope you have a nice day.

(Posted 9/1/17; Opinion: Letters)

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