You Can Come Out Of The Ditch Now

7 Dec


This is a mining town, in an oil boom. People here overall are pulling into close as much money as Los Alamos people, there’s a huge rental housing shortage and four percent unemployment. But still, too problematic to deal compassionately with the enormous homeless population in this country.


Carlsbad, New Mexico doesn’t have a lot of homeless people, though our climate is overall moderate. They live around Dark Canyon Draw, back near the railroad tracks. They set the area on fire last year, and now we’re in our second cold snap of the season, with lows down into the twenties.

The charitable gentlemen who run this place finally relented and temporarily opened up one of the senior centers as a homeless shelter.  I expect when lows get back up into the low thirties, they’ll throw them back into the arroyo.

We have a population of 23,000, easily enough for a permanent homeless shelter, and there have been efforts to Get That Done but they keep getting circumvented by the Then They Will Invade faction. 

I can see that, we have an attractive climate. I often feel short of homeless people here. I know many people live where there are way more homeless people than housed people can easily cope with, aside from inviting them in, until they are full up.

Also there’s the alcohol thing. People who do a lot of long-term drinking have a hard time of it stopping cold, and doing this repeatedly can aggravate withdrawal symptoms and lead to life-threatening convulsions. So this business of having drug and alcohol-free conditions on temporary housing is dangerous if you’re not up for providing at least valium, let alone ongoing support services. 

The world breaks you and then it’s your fault for not following the rules. 

 One of the most interesting pieces I’ve read about homeless alcoholics in the last several years was about a homeless bar, where the bartenders would gradually dole out lots of forty cent cups of cheap light beer. I thought that was brilliant. It would provide them a place to hang out and have a social context and not get plastered too soon, or be forced into a difficult sobriety. A place to grow. And it could be run more or less at cost.

Meanwhile, if you aren’t of the sort to follow alien orders, you’re stuck down in the arroyo, freezing your ass off with your bottle of fortified wine.

I hope none of those people freeze to death this winter. And what of the woman with the dogs and the shopping carts? One of her dogs is gone, who knows how long the other will last?

I hope more dogs find her if she needs them. And I hope people in Carlsbad, New Mexico stop being so damn selfish about people needing shelter. 


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