Monday, February 16, 2009

Homelessness and cluelessness

Santa Barbara has a serious problem, and her name is Gina Perry. She is a columnist for the Daily Sound, a diminutive local newspaper, and perhaps the least qualified opinion columnist I can recall. Anywhere. She's something like Rush Limbaugh with a laptop and an old Jennifer Aniston haircut. Her writing makes the UCSB Daily Nexus opinion section look like Pulitzer material.

Earlier this month she published a column called "If you think chronic homelessness isn’t a dire problem in Santa Barbara, think again," in which she calls homeless people "eyesores" and "hazards to public health." It only gets worse from there.

Here is my response, as printed in the Feb. 12 edition:

Dear Editor:

I am astounded by the insensitivity of Gina Perry’s Feb. 5 column on homelessness. Yes, this certainly is a serious issue, most of all for the people who have no homes. As Perry pointed out, many homeless people have mental illnesses and/or addictions. I would add that others are escaping domestic violence, cannot find work, have been evicted or financially ruined by medical bills, or are kids whose parents have kicked them out for being gay. Whatever the factors that put a person there, living on the street can be tremendously stressful and difficult to escape.

In many countries of the world, homelessness is not the problem that it is in the United States, a land of extreme individualism with a growing gap between rich and poor. Despite talk of “family values,” many people do not help their relatives or neighbors in tough times. We do not have enough mental health services, affordable housing, or job programs to realistically address the root causes of homelessness.

Instead of analyzing these larger issues and showing compassion for people on the street, Perry calls them “eyesores” and “health hazards,” saying she won’t go downtown anymore because of having to “dodge” them. Well Ms. Perry, do us a favor and stay home. To paraphrase your last paragraph, I would like to be able to stroll Santa Barbara’s beautiful streets without encountering such selfish, spoiled snobs. I enjoy reading the Daily Sound and appreciate differing opinions based on solid arguments. This kind of uninformed, self-absorbed writing, however, does not reflect well on the paper, and I ask the editors to show better sense than to publish it.

1 comment:

Anne Liu Kellor said...

Good for you, Jeremy! Well said.