Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Bridge Troll Lair

I pass the bridge troll's lair each morning on the way to work. I've seen him several times. Over the last three months, his home has grown more complex. Three days ago I spotted four other trolls standing on the incline drinking coffee. They seemed excited about something. I don't know what.

Libertarians would say that private philanthropy should step in to help. Only they won't. The Government does not care. Public agencies don't venture under the bridge, it is too dangerious. At some point the police will show up and destroy this bridge roll lair. The bridge trolls will move to a new home and start again.

I want to help, but I don't know how.

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Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

I am a rarity, I believe, among bloggers, because I know what it is like to have been homeless. I was never a 'bridge troll,' but I spent two periods of time in men's shelters during the 80s, once a short stay, once for six months. I would suggest that you work with a homelss advocacy group, if any, (and you may have to overcome your justifiable dislike of religion and work with religiously-based groups) and attempt to get 'live-in' shelters set up. They don't need to be 'overly generous' bunk beds, three meals, and entertainment facilities, as well as people who can work with those who can be found jobs -- such as handing out flyers, messenger work, or better jobs for those who can handle them. The one thing that is vital is SECURITY, making sure that the people there can feel safe.
You will have to fight two attitudes. The most difficult is "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard). Which means you are going to have to try and suggest that at least one shelter be set up in your OWN 'back yard,' so the opponents can't claim you are 'dumping the problem on them while you are safe in your own middle-class (or above) neighborhood.'
The other is the fact that there will be some people who become 'permanent residents' either because they are mentally incapable of holding a job, or because they have given up, or simply because they are satisfied with what they've got. SO WHAT? Better they are there than under a bridge. And if they do 'pose a danger' better they can be in a place where they can be watched -- I had to have one guy prosecuted for an attack on me -- than left in the streets.

Sheldon said...

As an undergaduate in archaeology and anthropology I did a class project on people and their settlements like you show in the photograph.
Some things I learned.
Many were adamant about not living in any kind of shelter/institution.
Many worked at day labor or other enterprises. Some hoped to avoid more permanent jobs and responsibilities.
I learned many other things to numerous to mention.
In the end, the city forcibly removed these people from their impromptu settlements. All for the purposes of urban renewal and green parks next to yuppies' condos. I find it unfortunate that some allowance won't be made for people to live like this if they choose.