Letters + Opinion » Mailbox

It’s the Food, Stupid

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Editor:

I agree with many of Bradley Mack’s assessments (“Mailbox,” Dec. 17). The local media does give preference to the service providers over those they supply services for; many of our non-profits practice “politics without principle” and service providers often use injudicious procedures against those they believe can’t fight back. What I don’t agree with, however, is that we must scrap all that does work because of the problems Mr. Mack identified. Admitting you’re dysfunctional is the first step to curing it.

Mr. Mack has pointed out the tendency to aid “goofy,” or broken, individuals over a seemingly healthy, working, young adult male. The current “continuum of care” policies reward non-profits who practice it with federal, state and local grants. What continuum of care does is reroute money earmarked to aid the poor into “case management” of their lives. Instead of food, shelter or jobs, this money is used to pay for an extra layer of bureaucracy. That layer just happens to be one which requires large salaries, expensive equipment and numerous, likewise costly, other bureaucratic layers.

Food is cheapest part of homeless services. The stores donate enough food to feed many more people than we now feed in Arcata. This is not entirely the fault of the Endeavor — it is the city which restricts the right to feed the hungry. Compromises with the Endeavor that prevent them from feeding lunch, proposed anti-begging laws, police harassment of Food Not Bombs and other self-motivated street feeding groups, the locking of dumpsters, requiring IDs to recycle at the Arcata Recycle Center, a 12.3 percent unemployment rate and a vilification of houseless people has led to an inhumane lack of opportunities for people to feed themselves.

If Mr. Mack believes he will get better treatment in Eureka he is ignoring the national trends. This is not just an Arcata problem. Those that believe in privatizing the United States have been implementing “homeless strategies” designed to put aid money in the pockets of “service providers,” instead of in the bellies of hungry children. Despite what the politicians say, their actions are ones of blaming the un- and underemployed for the results of the unemployment problem.

The whole problem revolves around the false premise that homelessness is the result of something broken inside the houseless individual. The prevailing belief among politicians is that the economic situation we call homelessness is a direct result of a “chronic” illness on the part of those without housing. They claim that by fixing broken houseless people with multiple case managers, supervising the rest of their lives, we will end homelessness and save a lot of money. All that this premise does is give large amounts of your taxes to the pharmaceutical corporations for doping a fluid segment of our population, and leave houseless people without food.

Between the governmental push for the continuum of care paradigm and their “new” unrealistic strategy to this centuries-old problem — building housing for every houseless person — we can be assured that the need for food will easily outstrip the opportunities. It doesn’t have to be greed creating desperation when it only takes a little love to create abundance.

Tad Robinson, Arcata

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