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New Times / Shredder

The following article was posted on October 10th, 2012, in the New Times - Volume 27, Issue 11 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [newtimesslo.com] - Volume 27, Issue 11

Come again another day

So, water started falling from the sky. Yeah.

I pay good money to live in a place where stuff like that doesn’t happen. But there I was, writing my column outside—in the buff and on my trusty Commodore 64, the way God intended—and instead of sunshine beating down directly on my totally and oddly hairless body, I felt the pitter patter of something wet.

At first I thought someone was spitting at me, because I get that a lot. Passersby, neighbors, family members—they’ve all expectorated in my direction, which isn’t as fancy as it sounds. But having something like that happen so often makes one a saliva connoisseur of sorts, and I very quickly realized that the moisture pooling and dripping off my body was something with fewer digestive properties.

Rain?

Seriously, somebody, give me back that kidney I sold to make rent. Just tuck it right back in that pocket on my lower back that never quite healed. If I wanted “weather” in my hometown, I’d move somewhere with actual green grass on the hillsides.

The upshot of this seasonal sign from the heavens is that homeless people drawn to the area for the same reason as tourists and retirees—the azure skies! the clean, ocean air! the 99 percent chance you’ll stay dry, even if you never leave the sidewalk for 10 months!—will be forced to huddle back under whichever bridges they occupy, troll-like, in inclement weather, and so be out of sight, out of mind.

No, wait. Did I say upshot? And troll-like? Sorry. My irony button was stuck in the activated position. Rain does that. Also, I need a new computer.

The scattered showers reminding us all that yes, Virginia, the water cycle does exist, also underscore—in as much as precipitation can underscore anything—the lack of a roof over local homeless residents’ heads. Yes, yes, I’m talking about homeless people again. If you’re tired of reading about, think about how tired such a population is of being vilified and actively campaigned against.

I’ll make you a deal: You fix the problem, and I’ll shut up about it. I’ll even sweeten the pot and throw in putting my clothes back on.

San Luis Obispo’s most open-air residents were on my mind again this week not only because of the rain, but because Matt Strzepek, a former SLO City Council candidate, recently announced that he’s back in the ring, making him a former former SLO City Council candidate. He’s re-entered the race, a move that will get you disqualified in the Olympics but seems to be totally acceptable in politics. Of course, there’s no gold medal waiting for you at the end of a successful campaign—just thankless public service.

So what would make someone who previously bowed out of the upcoming elections change direction?

Matt’s campaign materials reveal his desire to “weave our community back together,” which is a nice metaphor and all, but it doesn’t seem like the kindling spark to bring a contender back.

Ah, but beyond the campaign materials is the story of a man who knows what it’s like to sleep in his car in a city populated by people who think beds are for sleeping in, vehicles are for driving, and any unholy union of the two creates something property-value threatening and unsanitary at best.

Strzepek—don’t ask me to pronounce it, by the way—reported that he recently filed a formal complaint with the SLO Police Department after being badgered for occupying a car at night on McMillan Avenue, near the infamous Prado Road, ground zero in the ongoing parking ordinance war.

A final shot—if not the final shot—in the fight seems to have been fired by the current SLO council, which decided Oct. 2 to go forward with an ordinance that essentially bans sleeping in vehicles parked on city streets. Oct. 2 also marks the date Strzepek says he was harassed by officers, which is odd, because according to my calendar, the required 30 days between the decision and actual enforcement would push any action into early November. Plus, I think signs have to go up first—because, you know, you’ve gotta have signs.

Now Strzepek isn’t saying he was cited, so there’s technically no harm, no foul in the literal sense of the ordinance. But the ordinance’s passage—passing?—certainly didn’t send a “cut the less fortunate among us some slack” message to local enforcement agencies. In fact, by some accounts, it just seems to have added fuel to the prejudicially antagonistic fire.

Look, I know that this is a complicated issue, and saying that all homeless people are hard-working, upright citizens who just hit a bump in life is as naïve as saying they’re all drug-addled, hygiene-challenged criminals. But compassion has to factor into the equation somehow, right? Otherwise we’re just putting an ordinance-shaped Band-Aid on a gaping wound—something like a kidney-removal site—that looks good but lets blood seep out around the edges.

Homelessness itself is that gash, and we have to heal it, not just staunch the flows that pour out from time to time. Otherwise it’s going to get infected. And filled with gangrene and pus and stuff. How’s that for a metaphor?

As for Strzepek, if he can do something about this rain, I think he’ll get more than a few votes.

Don’t even get Shredder started on fog. Send galoshes—size 6 for the left, 11 for the right—to shredder@newtimesslo.com.