A homeless camp in downtown Fresno during a recent “cleanup” operation conducted by the City. Photo by Emily Garcia

Remembering the Homeless on St. Patrick’s Day

Since the ’80s, a homelessness crisis

has beset our country—your advice is?

Yes, the limerick’s a mistake;

human lives are at stake

and need hearts and minds for what the price is.

Homeless people that seem they’re carousing

aren’t attending a party you’re browsing.

Though called self-medication,

substances risk ruination.

A death sentence:— That’s life without housing.

*  *  *

Homeless advocates need education

if they say Housing First’s mere donation.

Though the clients pay cheap rent,

they are otherwise tenants

and meet weekly, their main obligation.

Besides, Housing First isn’t effective

to house one fifth of them, our objective.

While the shortage is glaring,

HF is a red herring,

a rhetorical tool sans perspective.

But for the great majority,

Sam Tsemberis, an authority,

knows that Housing First works,—

a fact that, while it irks,

speaks to its superiority.

For the youth or for families, best practices

vary widely in crises. The fact is

people have unique needs

and ways they’ll succeed

from their homelessness to back with us.

Homeless advocates need elocution

if they say housing is just ‘the solution.’

They commit negligent homicide

since they forget what’s the other side:

Vital services—no substitution.

Some communities, whose members commend,

have brought homelessness to functional end.

They have solved it for veterans,

ably mending their severance

from society; ‘chronics,’ too, friend.

*  *  *

Homeless advocates need legal training

if they say the courts are restraining

cities from notifying

and then storing the things

as they do after public complaining.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

And disrupting one’s life, what a pleasure

for housed residents cramped

by the people encamped

and supposedly living in leisure!

Could your notice of ‘cleanup’ have chastened

disenfranchised, broke people, obeisant?

Your ‘abatement of nuisance’

may not inject translucence

in the people whose demise you’ve hastened.

Being forced to move, how are they ‘tramps’

when they lack stable, organized camps

because we lack the foresight

to keep them safe at night

and to help by the light of our lamp?

The smug residents shout while they hiccup

they’re the host of a citywide stickup.

(Do you breathe when you shout?

How would life be without

sanitation crews doing your pickups?)

You would do well to blame unto others

(meaning your homeless sisters and brothers),

as you’d first blame yourself

with perspective on wealth.

Then, indulge your dear, cosmetic druthers.

Rich societies have as their mission

both to look and be good—our moral omission.

And we still have to own it;

by no means condone it

as society’s social condition.

*  *  *

In our country, the crisis persists,

despite efforts through those by-name lists.

Not all cities, nor ‘hotspots,’

elect government despots.

Some at least let the people subsist.

Courts of law are not advocates’ make-believe:

Homeless advocates go with the take-and-give.

The decision in Boise

wasn’t dreamt up or noisy;

but somewhere, the people shall sleep to live.

Local government comes not from vacuums

as some advocates quickly assume.

Though its policy’s a better choice,

across decades still NIMBY’s dreader voice

drowns the officials in Fresno’s club room.

Unlike past decades, the wrongs are few.

But how great if the injured is you!

So, record those employees,

as they handle your properties,

for Risk Management or ACLU.

*  *  *

All those unsheltered folks are perceptible.

Their condition—but you are susceptible.

Question our and their propriety:

As a condition of society,

this much homelessness is unacceptable.

Living in the shadow and effect

of each other, we must learn respect.

Not arrived on the same boat,

we now sing our lives, grace notes

in concert, note values we strive to protect.

  • Paul Thomas Jackson is secretary of the Fresno Homeless Advocates (FHA), a voluntary association whose active members pursue the interest we share in a philosophy of community. Each of us on our own time also does tangible things for people experiencing homelessness. Membership in FHA is open to anyone demonstrating a serious interest in homeless advocacy. FHA has a public group on Facebook that is a broad forum for discussion.

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