Letter to the editor: Help the homeless in the city be self-sufficient

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In response to last Thursday’s front-page article regarding Measure S, it seems to me that the heart of the issue should be elsewhere. Passing the measure would not change the fact that there are more than 600 homeless currently in the city of Berkeley, but then neither would blocking the measure change that fact. My understanding of the measure is it would only prevent the homeless from sitting in commercial areas of Berkeley, areas which during the school year are congested enough as it is. In that regard, it would be nice to see Berkeley’s major streets cleaned up a bit.

Something should be done, however, to help the homeless stand on their own feet, rather than stringing them out on the handouts of private citizens, in which category I include government welfare programs, as it is our taxes that pay for the shelters. Perhaps some form of a community service project, bay cleanup or the like could be instated that would enable the homeless people who participate to be guaranteed meals and a spot in a shelter, or even perhaps an apartment expressly for that purpose. Regardless of the solution, it should be made that homeless can begin to build a resume and reenter into society.

I understand, though, that some homeless would prefer not to be mainstreamed, and that their homelessness is a choice, a form of protest against the greed or what have you, of modern life in mainstream society. For these people, I pose a question. Is it fair for these few to reap the benefits of a social welfare system and to receive monetary contributions on the street, living off a system that they have forsworn? Not that I propose to leave them to rot, only to point out the hypocrisy of their position.

To conclude, something should be done that would lead to making homeless people self-sufficient members of society, rather than bickering over laws and measures that treat them as nothing more than dirt to be swept under the rug.

Maximilian Pitner, UC Berkeley junior

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