Thursday, November 27, 2008

Homeless Count Up This Thanksgiving

I slept late this AM. After being woken up by the kids near the 5:00 AM hour, I managed to turn back for a good bit, only waking at near 9 AM. If you know our house, that constitutes fully sleeping in.

This means that my Annual Thanksgiving, pre-gorging run started late. I thought that, perchance, this might change the validity of my annual count of number of homeless folk I see along the same route each year for the past few. Earlier in the AM you see people waking from the daze of the early dew. At near 9:30, most folks are wide awake and looking for action.

As I got into the main part of the run, the count was low. I started thinking that perhaps we would notice an improvement over the numbers from past years. About 2/3rds into the run, mainly through the park and past some of the bigger encampments, I was still only at 21. As I emerged from the East end of the park and back on to the city streets, the numbers ratcheted up like the balloons in the Macy's Day parade. There were a patch of nearly 20 homeless gathered. The upside, I saw at two people in red sweatshirts passing out food to a number of them. No reason to go hungry on Thanksgiving, I suppose.

As I strode east back toward my home the numbers flicked upward. Total count - at least 60. This is up from all years prior. I didn't notice any one drinking that early in the AM, as in years past, but I did notice human feces along the trail - how do I know you ask? Dogs don't use toilet paper.

In sum, it seems that the city has done a good job "cleaning up" the park, but that has only served to shuffle the problem out of the public park and on to city streets. The reason why the tally sits at 60 is that I had a hard time counting all the people in the first clump out of the park. I know there were more, but my run led me away.

As you plow through your second helping of turkey, think of those less fortunate. Usually the annual thanksgiving post is not political, but I have to note - if it weren't for Ronald Reagan closing most, if not all, the publicly funded mental health facilities, there might be less homelessness and safer places for many of the mentally disturbed individuals rather than fending for themselves on the urban streets of America. As for those who are large fans of Reagan and wondered what the effect of what he did, you needn't look to far into the homeless ranks to see the evidence.

Indeed, the proof is in the pudding.

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