Richard RiouxPauline HartePatti RasmussenTim WhyteLeon Worden

We should help homeless through winter

Pauline Harte · November 18, 1997

Last night I found myself watching "Cops," one of those gritty, slice-of-life shows that allows us to ride along with various patrol cars while officers answer calls and attempt to clean up the mean streets of their beats. I don't usually watch shows like this because I don't like to see my world as it really is, but I left it on.

I was absolutely amazed at the amount of patience and good humor displayed by the officers in very bizarre and life-threatening situations. And I wondered how anyone, no matter how patient and good-natured, could deal with these crazy people day after day, year after year, without becoming just a little jaded.

Then I read a letter in The Signal written by a policeman, and my question was answered. It was obvious that this guy had been on the front lines way too long.

He was speaking out against a homeless shelter in the Santa Clarita Valley, telling us what might be in store for us when hordes of homeless transients swarm to the shelter.

I agree with everything you said in your letter, Richard, but I have a different way of looking at things. You wrote, "I have arrested countless individuals for a variety of crimes including burglary, drugs, petty theft, grand theft auto and robbery."

I agree that some homeless could be dangerous drug addicts. But you know, Richard, there are kids in our local schools who fit that description, and good kids must attend school every day with some very bad apples. It's easy to spot a homeless person, but much more difficult to spot the all-American schoolyard druggie.

Kids are being killed at school by classmates depressed about a lover's quarrel. People go off to work and never make it home, their lives ended by a disgruntled co-worker they have been friends with for years. The enemy is no longer identifiable. The occasional transient may be dangerous, but so is the occasional classmate or co-worker. Madness and mayhem are everywhere, at ALL levels of society.

You ask, "What message will this shelter and these homeless people send to our children?" I think an act of kindness will send a very good message.

You write, "A lot of residents of the SCV moved out here because of the problems associated with other large cities. You have now taken our safe city and invented crime here."

This is a very good argument. The best. My husband and I ran from the San Fernando Valley 24 years ago. But I drive the streets of this valley every day, and I can tell you, there are homeless people here now. Giving them shelter from the rain and a hot meal is simply the right thing to do. I would do as much for a stray animal. And I have faith in our super Sheriff's Department. They have kept the Santa Clarita Valley one of the safest cities in the nation, and I think they can handle a few homeless people.

No one wants our lovely valley over-run with "lazy, good-for-nothing, drug-addicted bums." Santa Barbara has a serious homeless problem, and as picturesque as State Street is, I become a little uneasy with so many homeless transients milling around. I'm no Mother Theresa.

The SCV Interfaith Council will have to be realistic and fair about the homeless shelter. The citizens of this valley do count and this is, after all, our valley.

Many people have worked very hard and are still working very hard to keep the Santa Clarita Valley a safe place to live and raise children.

Richard, I couldn't do your job for five minutes, let alone the eight years you've been at it. Coming face to face with the dregs of humanity on a regular basis cannot be easy. But some people think it is our duty as compassionate human beings to help the homeless through the winter.

It's tough having a conscience.

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