Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: SLO’s homeless need real solutions

So Becky Jorgenson blathers, and James Duenow blathers right back (Viewpoint, Sept. 12). Now, we are close to a homeless circus here in our county. If Oprah were to visit now what would she think?

I am a nobody. I don’t hold any positions within the county that qualify me to be an expert on anything but teenage behavior as a high school teacher. Being on leave currently, I have time on my hands.

So I want spend some time on homeless issues. Why? For the same reasons many of us do: a sense of guilt mixed in with the desire to do things that make me feel as if I’m part of the solution. Like many, I wish for anyone who doesn’t want to be homeless to get his or her life going, and the best place to start is to have one’s own place to sleep at night. This place needs to be warm and safe.

I don’t come from complete ignorance. I’ve never been homeless, but someone in my family was, as a child. And there is something about this child that is different from the other children he grew up with. He will always have his homeless part of him for the rest of his life. It is as much a part of him as his right thumb. And he struggles in a society that doesn’t understand the day-to-day issues a homeless person must learn to live by. I can’t relate to that, but I do watch it, and it has greatly affected my life.

It is no surprise to me that homeless advocates in our city are behaving as politicians do in Washington. Blame here, blame there. Hold rallies, get on the news. Write letters and take sides. Are you with the county government, Prado Center and the numerous programs run by volunteers, or are you with Dan De Vaul and Sunny Acres? The middle ground is no man’s land. Just try and present a case for the opposite side, and one side will run you right out the door.

Everybody is a liar. Conspiracies, small and insignificant, abound. That is what I hear as I talk to members on both sides of this issue. And to a person, everyone is completely exhausted by Sunny Acres, on both sides. I give a standing ovation to all involved on both sides. Wow what a happy place to be.

Certainly there are countless citizens who put their hearts into making things for our homeless population as comfortable as possible. But they don’t speak to the media, nor claim any great credit for their donation of money and time. So what we are left with are the leaders on both sides. And as it is in every state and local government in our great land, we dissolve into petty squabbles over power — nothing more, nothing less. It is how government operates, so none of the onlookers in this should be surprised.

A few years ago, I designed a unit on homelessness for my sociology class at San Luis Obispo High School. We visited the Prado Day Center and Sunny Acres. We worked on the farm at Sunny Acres and served breakfast at the Prado Day Center. We had speakers in, and we pored over statistics. We researched, role-played and wrote essays. We debated, and we discussed. And then we took to the task of offering solutions. On paper, they are long gone, but these solutions resonate still in my mind. We sent our solutions to Adam Hill, we sent our solutions to Dan De Vaul. Neither party gave us even a response. Both parties will now swear they never saw my email with our solutions. No one would ignore high school students wanting to help, would they? That’s some cold stuff, man. But both parties did.

Make of that what you will. All I can tell you is this. In 50 minutes, my students came up with ideas that I don’t see happening right now in our county.

I only gave them one day. Of all persons involved, only my students were able to be completely objective. Their ideas still top anything I’ve seen. But no one is interested. We are all just onlookers as the so-called advocates for homeless take the low road. It is not intentional on their part. They believe they really are doing what is in the best interests of our community; I can’t argue with that.

But look at where we are. Closing Sunny Acres. Overflowing numbers at Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis shelter. And the blather, created by and owned by our so-called advocates. Quite a civics lesson for my students.

Brian Miller is on medical leave from San Luis Obispo High School, where he taught math and social science for 25 years.