Misconceptions

“Hola!”, was an unexpected greeting from a notably pallid bank teller in Santa Cruz with whom I expected to deposit a check. I paused briefly, and before I could ask if he could speak to me with English, he asked, “Hablas ingles?”. I paused again, and replied, perhaps with a Californian accent, “Yes; do you?”

As he efficiently adjusted his linguistic obligation and conducted the transaction, I felt compelled to mention that, on rare occasion, my complexion generates such misconception. I probably should have said nothing, and avoided the subsequent discourse.

“Where are you from?”, he asked.

“Here.”

“No, I mean where are you parents from?”

“Here, . . . Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.”

“Where were they originally from?”

As I wondered why white people believe that they were here before anyone else, I briefly explained that my very distant ancestors came to North America from Europe while all sorts of other Caucasians were doing the same; and that my complexion was inherited from ancestors who left Italy a very long time ago. None of my ancestors spoke Spanish.

“Do you know people in the ‘Old Country’?”, he invariably asked.

“. . . Well, . . . since just about everyone I know lives in California, YES!”

Misconceptions associated with homelessness are much more bothersome, and are sometimes used to justify potentially serious discrimination and mistreatment. ‘Homeless’ simply describes a lack of a home. It does not describe reasons for such lack. Nor does it describe symptoms of such lack.

Although some stereotypes of homelessness are more likely to apply to some who are homeless than those who are not, they are neither exclusive to the homeless Community, nor inclusive of everyone within the homeless Community.

For example, addiction is more common among the homeless Community merely because so many who are addicted to some sort of ‘substance’ are more likely to become homeless as a result of such addiction. However, many and actually most who are afflicted with addiction inhabit homes. Furthermore, many who are homeless are not afflicted with addiction.

Only a few residents of Felton are presently homeless. If all of them but no one else were afflicted with addiction to some sort of ‘substance’, then such addiction would involve only a few residents of Felton. Obviously, such addiction is a much more significant problem, and the majority of those afflicted with it inhabit homes. Yet, those who inhabit homes are not necessarily stigmatized as addicts simply because they inhabit homes as the majority of addicts do.

Generalizations generally do not apply to everyone they are intended to apply to, and can initiate inaccurate misconceptions. Everyone has a unique story.

Live In Fear II

“Those who choose to live in fear have the option of relocating to someplace where they do not need to live in fear.” I mentioned this last week, with a few examples of unpleasantries that those who choose to live in fear might otherwise choose to emigrate from. One example that I mentioned was, “If they fear houseless people, (…), they can relocate to someplace that is unpopular with (…) houseless people (…).

Does that seem harsh? It should not. Some of those who choose live in fear of the houseless commonly suggest that the houseless should relocate in order to accommodate them. If this is so easy or such a practical concept, then it should be just as easy or practical for those who choose to live in fear of the houseless.

After all, and contrary to what those who live in fear of the houseless claim, the majority of those who are houseless here are either native or have been here significantly longer than most of those who choose to live in fear of them. Many of those who live in fear of the houseless start complaining about it as soon as they arrive from somewhere else.

Those who choose to live in fear of the houseless should have become familiar with the local Community and society prior to deciding to immigrate. They should not have immigrated to a Community or society that is unsatisfactory for them.

Since so many of them believe that the houseless migrate here, they should migrate to where they believe the houseless migrate from. The houseless whom they choose to fear should be gone from there, since, according to those who choose to live in fear of them, they came here.

Those who choose to live in unrealistic or unjustified fear seem to be rather deficient of common logic.

Live In Fear

“Bars on windows are a sign that I am in the wrong neighborhood.” I heard that a few times when I was a kid, mostly from people of my parents’ generation. It was not intended as disparagement of any particular neighborhood. It meant that relocation was a better option than installation of bars on windows.

I do not remember that anyone who said that actually relocated. Situations just never got that bad. Bars appeared on windows of a few businesses in some neighborhoods, but were eventually removed as people realized that the neighborhoods were not so bad.

Besides, some believed that bars on windows just informed potential burglars that there was something worth stealing within. Others believed that there was not much within their homes that burglars would be interested in. I believed that if a burglar wanted something within my isolated home, that bars would not stop him or her from taking it.

Most of us choose to not live in fear. We happen to live in an excellent place, and intend to enjoy it. It is certainly not perfect, and burglaries sometimes happen. We just do not allow such unpleasantries to dictate our lifestyles.

Those who choose to live in fear have the option of relocating to someplace where they do not need to live in fear. If they fear crime, they can go someplace where there is no crime. If they fear drugs, they can go someplace where there are none. If they fear houseless people, and believe that houseless people migrate to this region, they can relocate to someplace that is unpopular with the migratory houseless people whom they fear. Surely, there must be a place like that for them to go to. It is more practical than expecting those they fear to relocate for them.

Misconceptions – Bus Fare

There’s no place like home. Most of us genuinely and justifiably believe that our respective hometowns are very special. There is no doubt that they really are. We can get a bit overindulgent with such belief though. We tend to assume that social problems of all sorts are worse within our own Communities than they are in other Communities that we do not identify so much with.

No place is perfect. Most towns of significant population in America must contend with some degree of poverty, unemployment and homelessness nowadays. Even more contend with some degree of crime. Addiction has become an epidemic. Mental illness continues to proliferate. Conservatives blame liberals. Liberals blame conservatives. Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!

To make matters worse, some believe that other Communities, both near and far, send the less fortunate of their respective societies here. Such Communities supposedly compel those who benefit from their generosity and willingness to assume the expenses of travel, to board airplanes, trains and buses to Felton. Communities within minimal proximity purportedly use Uber.

So, . . . where are they? Where are all those who arrived at the train station or airport here in Felton from somewhere else? Where are the airport and train station? Of those who ride local buses or use Uber, who got just one of their fares paid by another municipality who wanted them to leave? We are acquainted with all of the less fortunate here. These are simple questions.

When we help someone from here get to somewhere else, it is only because of some sort of opportunity at the destination, such as employment or a domestic situation. If the less fortunate of other Communities come here, it is likely for the same reasons. They are now likely employed and living in homes.

Political View

Why do local politician get blamed for homelessness here? Did one of them evict someone from a formerly functional domestic situation, . . . or several someones? Did a local politician cause people to become unemployed and consequently unable to afford their respective mortgages or rent? Did just one politician somehow contribute to anyone else’s personal social dysfunction?

Well, like I said earlier, blame is easy.

Now that the rate of homelessness here continues to decline, will local politicians get the credit? Will anyone thank them for the locally declining unemployment rate? Should there be at least some scrap of acknowledgment of the effort devoted to improvement of local homeless shelters? Will we merely take all of it for granted, and find something else to blame local politician for?

Apparently, gratitude is not as easy as blame is.

Politicians have enough to be concerned about without being blamed for other people’s problems, and being expected to fix them. All they can really do is develop strategies and promote the development of opportunities for others to improve their situations. Implementation of such strategies must be a team effort that includes other governmental officials and the Community.

Yes, the Community. How many of us are willing to rent a vacant studio to someone who has been homeless, perhaps for less than market rates? How many of us would help an unemployed neighbor with overdue bills? Fortunately for our Community, most of us would silently do what we could when necessary. But of course, most of us do not blame politicians for homelessness.

The same minority who blames politicians for homelessness also does the least about it. Their irrational intolerance of homelessness is, individually, their personal problem, which should not be assumed as a problem of those who work for the entire Community.

Misconceptions – Immigration

‘Misconceptions’ could become another category for this blog, like ‘Hypocrisy’. There is quite a bit to write about that could be categorized as such. It would be more relevant and interesting than the ‘Hypocrisy’ category, especially if the ‘Hypocrisy’ category is eventually deleted, as has been suggested. Furthermore, ‘Misconceptions’ would be less objectionable than ‘Hypocrisy’.

‘Immigration’, for example, is an interesting topic that is unobjectionably relevant to homelessness, but only because of the misconception that most homeless people here immigrated with the intention of being homeless. This misconception is obviously perpetuated by those who are not very acquainted with homeless people, particularly the local homeless residents of Felton.

There are certainly more homeless people in California than elsewhere. There should be. There are more people of all sorts in California than elsewhere. California is the most populous state. Because real estate here is more expensive than all but only a few other places in America, a disproportionate ratio of those who live and earn income here can not afford a mortgage or rent.

Most homeless people in California lived here while they were not homeless. They payed mortgages and property taxes or rent just like anyone who lives in a home. Some payed significantly more than average. Most had gainful careers here. Some raised families here. Sadly, some who are homeless are in the process of raising their families. Some have never lived anywhere else.

Of the few homeless people presently in Felton, only one immigrated from outside California less than a decade ago, early in 2013. Only one immigrated from outside America, but did so for work in the early 1990s. All others are Californian, and have been in Felton for many years. More than half are native to the San Lorenzo Valley. More than half formerly owned homes.