Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Epater le Bourgeois 

Image hosted by Photobucket.comThe library is executing a crack down on the size and number of bags patrons are allowed to bring into the library. For security and hygiene reasons large bags have always been forbidden, but patrons have traditionally managed to drag in ridiculously large bags with impunity. I suspect the recent reinforcement has something to do with an epidemic of a super strain of bed bugs that is bedeviling all of the residential hotels and shelters in the city. Several of my patrons, victims, have rolled up their sleeves to show me their shockingly red pocked arms. They look like they have a severe case of the measles or tropical impetigo. I sympathize with certain patrons' reluctance to part with their bags, especially if they are homeless and have no place to keep them, but for reasons of practicality and safety the library simply cannot acommodate them.

One man brings in filthy white king size sheet stuffed full of grimy papers and wadded up clothes and God knows what else. He spreads out the contents over an entire table and spends the day fussing with and folding paper. He carries the bundle atop his head, which droops down around his head so when he walks by the desk he looks like some kind of ambulatory toadstool. He has been trying his luck every day, hoping to slip by an inattentive guard or for enforcement to loosen.

One of our patrons was trying to drag in a couple of bags and I waved over at the security guard. One bag ended up being crammed with feces caked blankets, potentially seething with hepatitis. He had been coached well by the advocates and wrote down the badge numbers of the guards. He has a long history, and used to come in smelling so wretched that he constituted a public nuisance. He finally was told very compassionately that he was going to need to shower before he returned, and was provided with a list of free showers around the neighborhood. The next day he was returned all scrubbed clean, but accompanied by two homeless advocates, who marched him right up to the chief’s office to file an official complaint and threaten the administration with a lawsuit.

I don’t know who some of these homeless advocates think they’re helping. I don’t mean to denigrate the valiant altruists who are trying to make a difference, and more power to them for working with this population. But there is a certain tragically misguided faction that believes people have a God given right to live in their filth, and contaminate and ruin the library’s furniture and other peoples nostrils, even though an odor and lack of hygiene are indicative of a horrible sickness, like an animal that stops grooming itself right before it dies. Just as there is a military industrial complex, I believe there is a non-profit charitable complex. On some level, members of this complex have no real interest in these people getting better because it would put them out of a job and remove their purpose from life, which just must be an orgy of angry self righteousness and crusading codependence. As an extra bonus, these people get to be a thorn in the side of decent society and “The Man,” who I suspect they have somehow confused with their father, since most of this type seems to be from a very privileged background. I can’t quite put my finger on it but there is something creepily Oedipal about the whole business.

Right with you. I also find something creepy about the child sponsorships that various members of the Non-Profit Charitable Complex organise - there's something really exploitative about them.
These rabid homeless advocates need to get real! The majority of homeless people are either rude, violent, or aren't interested in getting out of the position they're in. I would wager that those homeless individuals who DO wish to rise up out of their situations would have enough self-respect (i.e. bathing, acting normal, etc) that the average person wouldn't be able to identify them as homeless!
Just my two cents. Love your blog!
Most of the homeless who come in to the library are perfect patrons - courteous, quiet and intellectually curious. I consider it an honor to provide a safe, well ordered place where they can seek solace, refuge and knowledge. Often they have led very interesting lives and can tell a damn good story, which goes a long way with me. However, to make the library a safe and welcoming place for all, certain standards of basic decency must be maintained. What I find so frustrating about these advocates who purport to help these people is the wasted and misguided energy. They do nothing but ruin these people's lives and the quality of life for the rest of society.
Most of the homeless either have serious mental issues, alcoholism or drug addiciton. So they probably don't really care of they offend Anon's sense of smell. That said, many of the "rabid" homeless advocates around here should be helping the homeless get on track and into the right programs rather than worrying about their rights at the library. Imagine if they did something productive with the hour they just wasted. At least the homeless guy was probably crazy, what was the advocate's excuse?
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