Most people aren’t comfortable talking about this. They feel that to have feelings other than benevolence for the homeless, as they are called, is somehow cruel or meanspirited.
And so, they line up on the side of the oh, well, they’re here, I guess we have to live with it and what can we do.
I’m not an unkind person. I care about people. But this is another thing altogether.
I contend that what we’re dealing with here is not always what we’ve been told. I’m here to say that many of those who masquerade as victims are not, in fact, homeless because of circumstances over which they have no control. For many - more than you may think - this is a lifestyle, not a circumstance.
A lifestyle is a choice, a conscious choice; we all make them. Being a victim of circumstance is another matter. It can be more easily remedied.
You cannot remedy someone’s lifestyle choice unless they themselves choose to do so. So why is it our responsibility? I submit that other people’s lifestyle choice is not our problem and we should not have to take it on as our duty.
Lifestyle choices are a personal thing. We make choices in life and we live by these choices. That’s how we learn.
Many areas of the country have found themselves besieged. They deal with encampments where they live, at their workplace, all around them. They step around garbage and feces and needles. They put up with destruction of public property. They deal with aggressive panhandling and lewd language.
And they get little or no support from their cities. They’re told they have to allow for it. They’re reminded that these people have rights, and, in many cases, they see their own rights subjugated.
There are those who are somehow driven to homelessness because of abuse or sudden economic hardship. That is a different matter, and those people deserve what help we can give them to get back on their feet. But what of the people who have no intention of lifting themselves up and becoming a productive member of society?
These people aren’t homeless because no one has given them a chance to be otherwise. They are homeless because they have made that lifestyle choice, to not have to work, to live as they please, and to not participate in or contribute to society.
They choose instead to take handouts, to play the victim card, to not live by the rules like the rest of us; to prey on our sympathy; to feed off and take advantage of our innate good nature, our misplaced compassion and our blind vulnerability.
Most of us do not feel that the world owes us a living. These are the good, hard-working people. They work at grocery stores or at gas stations or as housekeepers. They live here, work here and pay their taxes. They do their fair share.
The others stand in the parking lot, with hands reached out, as we reach into our pockets.
There was a time when it was okay to call things for what they are. When people were drunk and disorderly, when they pilfered and vandalized and loitered and left garbage in their wake and showed no regard for others. They were bums.
It’s time we recognized things for what they are. Brookings doesn’t need more homeless solutions. It needs to let the bums know they are not welcome here.
Avery Freauxbischer is a Brookings resident.