Thursday, March 29, 2018

Home is where you hang your hat

The County of Sonoma and City of
Santa Rosa are About to Intentionally
Increase the Homeless Population
"Home is where you hang your hat."  People living in tent villages like Remembrance and Last Chance Villages on Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa have that.  They hang their hats in the same place each day. They keep their belongings there. They sleep and eat and perform the other necessary functions of life there.  They greet their pets and their families and their neighbors there each morning, and say goodnight to those same loved ones there before turning in to their beds each night.  They have their own space to take pride in and to which they can make improvements, with some residents even managing to scrape together the amenities many with houses enjoy: furniture, cooking space, solar power, television, a porch, etc.  Friends and family and advocates and service providers know their addresses and can find them to visit and help.

Being without a house sucks.  It is cold, hot, wet, and windy at times.  It isn't as secure as having a strong structure with lockable doors and windows.  It means access to electricity and plumbing and storage space is usually very limited to nonexistent.  It socially and economically excludes people by bringing with it extreme stigmas created by elements in our society ready to form quick, strong, and unyielding judgments of lifestyles other than their own.  It is a problem we need to solve with the same voracity that we solve full homelessness, by recognizing housing as a human right and finding good shelter to offer everyone. But people living in tent villages are NOT homeless, and the community and benefits they have built need to be protected so that they can take the next step, just as we need to give them and other houseless and homeless residents our acceptance, love, and support.

The politicians of Sonoma County—and their agents within the media and non-profit industrial complex—imply that allowing tent villages to form and grow increases homelessness.  There is a problem with that implication, which absolutely anyone who has lived in the villages, or has worked directly with people who have, can spot immediately: those who move into the villages do so from the streets, and had no home before moving in.  They were homeless. They move to villages to establish a home, when they cannot establish a home that is in a house. They are going from homeless to merely houseless.

As they have before, the County of Sonoma and the City of Santa Rosa are planning to tear apart tent villages on or shortly after April 3.  They will take Remembrance and Last Chance Villages and scatter their residents to the streets, where they will have to try to find remote corners to sleep and exist in, with the hope that the police will not harass them constantly and keep them from sleeping or resting; with the hope that they can find a bathroom to use without having to put down the possessions they've been carrying with them everywhere long enough to lose them.  In so doing, the county and city are going to take over 100 houseless people and make them homeless once again. It is time that the residents of Sonoma County break free from the propagandist narrative that the county and city are "addressing the homeless problem." They are not. They are about to INCREASE the homeless population, and to do so using tools of violence and terror.

Merlin Davis