Let’s help vagrants, not use and enable them

Alcoholics go to Alcoholics Anonymous, and they can only leave on the wagon. Obese people often go to camps where their caloric use and intake are closely monitored.

So why do we encourage vagrants with drug problems to visit “shoot-up parks” to descend deeper into their sewer of dangerous and addicting drugs?

For that matter, why do we encourage their vagrancy?

This isn’t just a big city problem. Here in the beautiful Roaring Fork Valley, we have vagrants. The Glenwood Springs Post Independent recently reported that many vagrants illegally camp on private and public lands on the outskirts of town. They litter the area, defecate and urinate on the ground, often start illegal campfires and frequently panhandle and worse.

An online commenter on the news story from Boulder reported that upscale Boulder also has a problem:

“They panhandle, camp whenever and wherever they can get away with it even in town and leave trash and human excrement when they leave. When one helping group started dispensing food and other things by Boulder Creek and the library, the Boulder Creek Path (the most beautiful area in town) became the transient hangout and smoking, drinking and camping spot. … There have also been shootings and rape there, found to have been committed by transients.”

A bad economy is typically the reason offered for vagrancy, especially whenever there’s a Republican president. But that’s not very convincing when unemployment is at 3.9 percent and vagrants are panhandling outside stores with “Help Wanted” ads in the window.

So what’s the real reason for booming vagrancy in the face of a booming economy?

Officials down in Glenwood Springs think they know the reason. It’s because various community organizations inadvertently attract vagrants by offering them free stuff. They note that other nearby towns don’t offer free stuff, and those towns have very few vagrants.

The online commenter from Boulder said something similar:

“We have a serious problem with a large number of transients, who have admittedly and openly come to Boulder from other cities because of more and better free stuff. According to some of them, they refuse to use the shelters and services offered by agencies because they don’t like the rules and often want to keep drinking.”

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that everyone in this country should be offered basic food and shelter, no questions asked. America is too rich to allow people to starve or freeze to death, regardless of the reason. If someone is starving or freezing, I personally will feed them and clothe them.

But beyond basic food and shelter, the issue becomes problematic.

Vagrants typically fall into one of several categories. They either have mental or emotional problems or they have substance addictions or, in a few cases, they just enjoy the life of vagrancy.

Here’s what they are hardly ever. They’re hardly ever people like you and me, but who have suffered a string of bad luck. “There but for the grace of God go I” may make you feel noble but, deep down, you know it’s a contrived nobility.

There’s hardly anything that could reduce me to a vagrant, and, if you’ve read this far, there’s hardly anything that could reduce you to that.

That doesn’t mean vagrants are bad people. Some are bad, some are not. But it usually does mean that they have underlying issues different than yours and mine. They need help in addressing those issues.

The ones with mental or emotional problems shouldn’t be reduced to feral humans; they should be treated in mental health facilities.

The ones with substance addictions should not be enabled to continue their abuse; they should be put on the wagon. The few who just enjoy the life of a vagrant should not be given handouts to pursue that life at the expense of society and the truly needy.

Health care and law enforcement professionals mostly agree with this analysis. But delivering real help is hard work and it takes time and money.

Casual community activists seeking their daily fix of feel-good want more immediate gratification and they want it at no cost. And some on the political left like vagrancy because they think it reflects badly on America.

Enough. Let’s stop using this problem and these people to treat our own emotional needs and for political purposes. Let’s instead help these people and fix this problem.

Let’s get vagrants off the streets and into the treatment they need. We owe it to them, to our country, to our culture and to ourselves.

(Published May 13, 2018 in the Aspen Times at https://www.aspentimes.com/opinion/glenn-k-beaton-lets-help-vagrants-not-use-and-enable-them/)

3 thoughts on “Let’s help vagrants, not use and enable them

  1. I basically agree with your sentiments, but not with some of the draconian “lock ’em up” type “solutions” proposed by some of the commentators on your Aspen Times website. These “solutions” ignore the fact of Constitutional law that extensive due process is required before people can be detained against their will. (I don’t comment on that site because I don’t care to subscribe to Facebook out of concerns about my own rights to privacy that pre-date the recently disclosed scandal.)

    In doing a web search for “homeless shelters” in this area, I find one listed in Glenwood Springs and one in Aspen (which is only open in winter). Both are religiously affiliated and presumably do not receive government support other than tax exempt status. While I would support more federal funding support to municipalities in providing food, shelter, and work opportunities for homeless people, a modest measure that could be implemented immediately would be to provide better information to homeless people as to where to go for assistance. Most of them communicate with each other, but they obviously don’t have ready access to the Internet (or know how to use it in many cases). One way for individuals to do this would be to hand a map to people who are begging that shows the location of shelters in the area.

  2. im one of those people that likes the life of a vagrant… as you put it… but just like there are a million dofferent types of people who live in doors so are there a million different types of people who like living outdoors… i work… i bounce around to anywhere ive ever wanted to go… and when i find somewhere i like… usually places with lots of hiking trails… waterfalls… etc… ill go to the local homedepot or other hardware store and put up a sign for work… i work for a couple of weeks.. to a couple of months… save my money… continue to live outdoors… BECAUSE I PREFER IT… and once ive seen and done everything i want to in that town… i move on to another.. i refuse to be a good little free range slave for the rich… im not going to work my entire life away just praying i can pay off a house before i die in it and a bank takes it for my final medical bills… like the other 80% of the working class in this country do… if wages payed enough fore to work a 40 hr work week amd buy a new car and live in a nice home in a safe area… and go on trips on the weekends and enhoy my life… thats what id do… thats what i did before the economy tanked… i owned a roofing company… carrying 100lbs up a ladder a 100 times a day… im not lazy… but back then even working for someone else… i made $1000 a week.. at a time when a 3 bedroom house in a nice neighborhood cost $600 a month.. and a new truck cost $15k FOR A TOP OF THE LINE DIESEL… now the same job in the same place pays $800 a week… the same house costs $2200 a month… and thats same truck is what… $40k…. $50k… why the fck should i work 60hrs a week… to not even be able to afford to go to the damned doctor… to eat top ramen 5 times a week… minumum… screw you… you want to get rid of the “homeless vagrants” THEN MAKE THESE GREEDY CONARTISTS PAY FAIR WAGES… OR BUILD YOUR OWN DAMNED HOUSE FOR ALL I CARE… im fine with working when i need things… and then enjoying the rest of my week or month… i need a luxury resort.. amd wouldnt go to one if i were rich… id rather back country hike and camp in the most beautiful places in north america anyway… beats working until im dead just to make enough money this week to live long enough to do it again next week… so some greedy pricks spoiled little shits can drive mercedes to highschool and enjoy their lives… who cares if the unemployment rate goes down when republicans are in office… it goes down because once the greedy p.o.s. are in office… and they get rheir tax breaks… amd free roam to pollute at will… and pay sht wages… then they stop holding the economy hostage and open back up factories etc… not because the republicans are looking out for the people… theyre looking out for themselves… and slowely turning the working class into slaves… so until things change… ill travel amd see all the places ibe ever wanted to see… and work when i have to… and FUCK YOU IF YOU DONT LIKE IT… GO BEHEHEHEHEHEHEHEHE SOMEHWERE ELSE…

  3. and here is another suggestion… instead of telling a person that lives outdoors…. that they cant hold up a sign IN GENERAL.. why not make it illegal to PANHANDLE FOR CASH… amd make it legal for them to go to a homedepot… amd stand at the corner of the lot where they wont bother anyone.. amd put up a sign for work with their job experience on it… no truly wants to beg for change.. and be treated like trash by everyone everywhere they go all day everyday .. the ones that do that… have given up on life because of how they are treated… or theyre physically or mentally disabled… and if those people had better care… and werent treated like trash… we could help them… but then that would take not handing BILLIONAIRE ceo’s corporate welfare that eat up more of out taxes every year than maintaining the countries infastructure… why do people like you worship the rich so much… they are not superior to the rest of us… they are not gods… and their contributions to society are no so great that they deserve to have more money than they could spend in a 100 lifetimes… while someone who works 60hrs a week cant afford to go to the doctor when theyre sick… or retire comfortably…

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