I dont know how else to say it.
Al Fonzi, who writes regularly in the Atascadero News, went too far in his column in the Jan. 26 edition titled Enabling the deadly lifestyle of transients. He chose to paint with a very broad brush those who find themselves on hard times. Reading his column sounded much like Professor Harold Hills warning in Music Man that theres trouble, right here in Atascadero, and it begins with T, yes, transients, who are threatening the very safety of the community.
I will agree with Al that the problem with transients does present some problems to the community, but I dont see the threat as dire as he portrays it.
He says we are enabling those who choose to live a lifestyle of living under the bridge and begging for money.
I try to help where I can. My wife, on the other hand, will drive around the block to get in a better position to hand someone money. I dont know where it goes, she always says, but I cant ignore the person asking for the handout.
I applaud ECHO (El Camino Homeless Organization) for its efforts to provide at least one hot meal a day and a place to sleep for those in need.
One letter writer, agreeing with Fonzi, said he has witnessed bad behavior by what he called transients in his neighborhood, which, he was quick to add, is the same neighborhood as the ECHO shelter.
I live in a condo just over the fence from the shelter. One day I noticed a section of our back fence had been broken out. The plants had been stomped down. So I crawled back into the bushes and replaced the boards. The next day they were broken out again. So I replaced them once more, this time using wood screws.
The next day I heard the cracking of wood and caught a man breaking out the boards. When confronted he said he didnt think his child should have to walk around the block to get to the high school. He lived in our complex. It wasnt one of those homeless folks.
Ive sat at the table with those who get those free meals. My service club provides a hot meal to the ECHO patrons every other month, which means a lot of other clubs and individuals are helping out.
Yes, Al, we may be enabling some who have adopted the transient lifestyle. But I am thankful I live in a society that strives to enable those less fortunate to get a hot meal, a shower, a warm bed and maybe even a nudge out of that situation, a situation that often times a person got into without doing anything wrong in the first place.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.