Divorced: America and the homeless. Local solutions need to consider reconciliation on fair terms

Monday, Sept. 10, 2018 1:31 PM

Panhandlers aggressively accosting befuddled citizens and tourists. Drunken fire hazards stumbling through our precious forests late at night. Scruffy, dusty, downtown bums with coated tongues making the conspicuous consumption of the average citizen so unpalatable.

Are the homeless ruining Durango? Are they killing its heart? And could a campaign against the homeless conceivably do Durango more harm than good? The suitably-housed locals I know will have to reach deep into their required exclusiveness to deny Durango to the homeless, but some are being given the lead, and their motives are not good to question.

Philippe Lefevre

Certainly, the Trump administration promulgates such pettiness, but I always considered my Colorado community to be in search of a higher good. Ultimately, if we as Americans consume more energy and resources than any other nation on the planet, how can we claim we have the least to share or give away?

Pleased as I am that no one has publicly proposed jailing bums – who could live high off the hog on half the expense – don’t forget that Durango’s last attempt to “solve the problem” with voluntary incarceration above Manna soup kitchen is, half in jest, referred to by the homeless as “the concentration camp.”

The homeless problem can’t be solved because of the peculiarity of each person. And the homeless problem cannot be solved within a national economy aimed at 5 percent unemployment. The economy demonstrates that a majority of those jobless sink to the bottom for lack of funds and settle there. Without the long-term unemployed, the cost of related social services would significantly increase as the percentage of unemployed collecting full benefits would double.

Additionally, as the population increases, there are, naturally, more homeless as well. Meanwhile, statistics insist that every long-term unemployed person who “lifts” himself or herself into a job puts another borderline “wage slave” at risk of becoming homeless.

True, some homeless people can be “fixed,” but my experience proves it to be probably less than 5 percent of the local, shelter-challenged population. After being advised ad naseum about how tough they have to be before they’ll sense society’s love again, the homeless have been shunned and stiff-armed to the lowest level of our society; America has divorced them. Yet these dirty, scruffy people are endlessly berated to go back, hat in hand, to that same America, their ex, and regardless the terms, get married again. To do that, they have to believe that it’s worth it, even if they’re living in little more than a doghouse and constantly, oft rudely, reminded of their ex’s money-grubbing supremacy.

I’ve heard too many citizens complain they can’t keep the homeless employed because they can make more money panhandling to dismiss such circumstances out of hand.

But don’t the homeless, too, need a living wage to get out of the hole they’re living in, to clean and dress themselves appropriately, to accumulate “deposit, first and last month” for rent? And woe betide people who can no longer perform medium or hard labor, who need a sit-down job, for they lose the “right” to that when they lose their cars.

Just because the local media currently demonizes the homeless doesn’t make it politically correct to dissemble Durango’s real problems. What if climate change’s impact on ski and whitewater seasons poses far more of a threat to Durango’s citizens than the homeless? Is it in Durango’s best interests to restrict its future to a Western theme park?

What if Durango’s tourist-fueled future is dimmed the more we mono-culturally lock ourselves in? Look to Taos for some instruction, for it hasn’t pulled out of the tailspin of the last recession, and its art market, at one time, rivaled its tourism.

In the meantime, I’m going to begin insisting that my Manna-mates only descend into town in old-fashioned Western wear and mountain-man furs, grizzled and splotched to such historical correctness they will actually be encouraged to rock the nearest saloon.

Philippe LeFevre, who is homeless, has lived in Durango since 2012.