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Squatting & Gear
The Coyotes in Needle Park
Vonne Woodruffe, Jul 26, 2007

This is a response to the 'Needle Park' article from the SF Chronicle linked here:

I read several of the comments from the SF Gate website that this link goes to. It is overwhelming how much in support the general commenting public is of this article. It makes sense mostly, who wants to see needles or litter on their stroll through the park? I don't. I used to camp in Golden Gate Park. I loved it, except for the garbage strewn about by less responsible campers. Of course many of the people leaving the trash have mental health issues. We all do. Also getting woken up by the police was a drag. A drag, sure, but it didn't stop me because I had nowhere else to go.

Many people commenting spoke on the huge welfare benefits that draw people here. Well, that was the case maybe four years ago, but since Gavin Newsom became mayor you need to pay rent to collect on that and there isn't enough housing for everybody to go around. There's a waiting list for. All homeless can get is about a hundred bucks in food stamps, forty dollars in cash and all the hassle that comes with it. These people really are at a dead end. Many people commented that they should be forced to move somewhere else, refugees. They are already refugees, many of them veterans. They have been here for decades.

I think it is about time that the city accepted these people at face value. Not as numbers, not as human trash. They need help first, and then they can help themselves. It would only take a little creativity to help the problem of the litter and crime that the homeless residents of the park are accountable for. A little creativity would help, on our part, the litter and crime that we ourselves, the rest of the population, are accountable for too. We all make garbage and it gets put somewhere, but it is still there.

What I noticed in this article was a lack of depth of understanding, a selfish and superficial examination of a dirty park. The truth is most of the park is clean. It is only a few parts that are really messed up. The real problem I believe is that people are not willing to expose themselves emotionally to reality. It is not as easy as sweeping the bad things under the rug. If we closely examine ourselves we find many bad things that are hiding inside us. These bad things are always there, even if we chose not to pay attention them. But with patience, courage and loving compassion we can come to terms with the bad things, letting them out in the open and doing what we can to allow them to exist in our lives the healthiest way possible.

The homeless, just as everyone else, deserves a safe and comfortable place to sleep. They also deserve healthcare and food. We, as a city, can help to meet their needs without sacrificing our own happiness. If we accept them for what they are all the problems that we are now encountering with them would change face. What if there was a legal camp, monitored by the city? There could be homeless volunteers to keep it clean, education about drug use, receptacles for litter and possibly a tent distribution program. If the homeless were rewarded for acting more responsibly, without coercing them into living a way that may not be realistic for them, a more healthy and happy community might emerge. Then that way too, the park would not be littered as much. And people could avoid the majority of the homeless camps if they wanted. It might even cost less money than beefing up the police force. I think that would be a much more humane solution, one that is not driven by hateful fascist vendettas against those who are most vulnerable in our crowded little city. Yes, the coyotes have their place.

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