The previously famous homeless camp, most commonly referred to as “Tent City” was located on Sante Fe, only blocks away from my house. There was many small, rough looking tents and make shift shelters, appearing as if it was an entire third world community. All those who inhabited this area were evicted from this location (insert date here) by county authority; soon after their vacancy I began riding my bike on that path, because I now felt safe to do so. I, of course, had my own views of the homeless and would have never been comfortable traveling that path prior to the evacuation. Personally, I saw them as leeches attempting to survive off of others, which I assume is a common public opinion.
Many people often feel offended or unsafe when in close proximity to them and also look down on them, as though they aren’t human beings. However they are people as well, and in these tough economic times some are suffering more than others.
By one account, in 2010 there were at least 123 homeless counted in Merced County, based in the count earlier this year the numbers have increased to 280 homeless in our area; a rise of 154 people. Nonetheless, this count only includes those that utilize shelters or live on the streets, there is actually more homeless than the city is aware of. Those included in the Census are openly and obviously homeless, yet there are additional homeless than are not as identifiable. These homeless typically live with friends or family or jump from couch to couch without a permanent residency. The purpose of this article is to show the community that homelessness is a growing issue and that it is more abundant than we are aware of.
[pullquote_left]The typical homeless person is one that you see on the streets, holding a sign, asking for assistance, often with a shopping cart filled with what little belongs they have acquired.” [/pullquote_left]
The typical homeless person is one that you see on the streets, holding a sign, asking for assistance, often with a shopping cart filled with what little belongs they have acquired. Have you ever wondered how they got into that situation or if there was a real person underneath the initial stereotype we see? James Keith, 57, is one of these homeless that reside in a shelter. He was previously in prisonfor turning himself in for a DUI and served a much longer sentence than he anticipated, he has been homeless and on parole ever since he was released. He blames all of his troubles on the State of California and the judicial system. When asked how people treat him, he recounted a time when a friend of his had invited him over to his apartment for coffee, and a man who works at the apartment saw this and commented, “don’t make this a habit.” People see them as pests and would rather not be around them. Keith says that some days are better than others but he still keeps a positive outlook and is determined to better his situation.
According to a national survey taken by the California Homeless Youth Project, about 1.6 – 2.1 million youths from the ages of 12 to 24 are predicted to become homeless within the next year, according to a national survey taken by the California Homeless Youth Project. About 5% of the homeless population is between the ages of 18 and 19; Daniel P., 19, is one of these young adults currently struggling with the dilemma of homelessness for about a year and a half. He switches from couch to couch but he is never allowed to stay too often. He stated “People usually mostly wanna avoid me, or just not want me around.”
[pullquote_left]’People usually mostly wanna avoid me, or just not want me around.'”[/pullquote_left]
When the Census takes the population count they do not consider those such as Daniel who live whoever they can for however long possible and have no permanent living arrangements.
There are shelters such as the Merced County Rescue Mission located on Canal St. in our area that provide a place to sleep, a meal, and sometimes even employment opportunities. However they can only allow a certain number of people to be housed there each night and have many rules such as: curfew, contraband, and a time that they must leave the shelter the next morning. Some of these rules and regulations prevent some homeless from make use of these resources.