Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The battle between compassion & concerned-for-my-safety sides of me

The compassionate side of me wants to realistically, systematically and humanely address the conditions of growing number of homeless people in my community. They come in on an express bus from more urban areas of our metropolitan area, and I know they come here because our small town is safer than most other places, that it's easy to find a safe place to sleep or to sit quietly why the drugs flow through their bodies and feed their addiction. They are addicts and/or have mental issues, and are in urgent need intensive medical care - and cannot get it because of lack of services, waiting lists and lack of money. They are frequently targeted for sexual assault and robbery - crime victims as much, and maybe more, than they are perpetrators. They will say, "I chose to be homeless," with pride, but you know it's not true; the young people have left abusive homes, or are gay and have been thrown out, the older people have lost their job and families because of their addictions and mental issues, and they'd each love to have a safe place of his or her own. They all seem broken in some way, even when they are talking full of bravado, the result of abuse, combat trauma, chronic pain or mental disabilities. Many are suicidal, and this is their way of killing themselves - slowly, fully medicated all along the way. They are so young, or so old, and they often look like they are dying - too skinny by far, sores on their face, thick winter clothes on a sunny day. I know that they can't simply take a shower, get some clean clothes and get a job - you're an addict, you're disabled, you don't have the capacity to hold a job. And I know that if they get removed from their campsites near my house, they will just be another community's problem.

The concerned-for-my-safety side of me is angry - really, really angry. I'm outraged that I'm scared to go out of my front door after dark to walk my dog one last time, because of the times their off-leash dog has come hurtling out of the darkness towards us, or because it's frightening to see a hooded figure, hands in pockets, walking toward me on the oh-so-empty block. I'm outraged because of the needle and cans and trash I've found in my yard, and my fears of finding much worse, or my dog being harmed because of what you've left in the yard. I'm angry because I have to walk out of my house at various hours of the day and night and around the corner where my house sits and tell people sitting on my wall to please move on because they are so loud they woke me up or I can't hear my TV or they are screaming - and the reaction may be "Sorry ma'am" or it may be "Fuck you, bitch! I don't have to move!" I'm angry because I have to lock my door when I'm out in the front yard gardening in the middle of the day, because it would be oh-so-easy to slip into my side door without my seeing someone doing it. I'm angry that the bus I take stinks from the stench of so many of these people, and I have to be careful of where I sit because of what they may have left behind, and I'm too scared to listen to music or a podcast because of your fights and outbursts. I'm angry that I no longer feel comfortable walking on the hiking trail near my house because groups of homeless people emerge out of the woods or up from the creek, hungover or in the throes of the high, either way, volatile, or because you have sex under a bridge on the creek, for anyone to see. I'm angry because I'm tired of calling the police to get homeless people off my property and to stop screaming. I'm angry that I have to be afraid of pissing you off and that you will retaliate in some way because I told you to move or called the police. I'm angry that these people tried meth or opiates or heroin or crack or whatever horrible drug that no one - NO ONE - gets away with using without consequences, or are alcoholic and won't go to the oh-so-many AA meetings all around town. I'm angry because they don't really seem to want any help.

The compassionate side of me and the concerned-for-my-safety side of me are in full battle right now. I am at a total loss of what to do.

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