“You can spend the money on new housing for poor people and the homeless, or you can spend it on a football stadium or a golf course.” ~ Jello Biafra
Recently some homeless people were discovered squatting in a house that used to belong to Sam, an older neighbor. There’s a lot of land on this property but the house was never really finished. You see, Sam couldn’t get a permit to redo his septic system because it was too close to a river. He had about 20 tires holding down a tarp on the roof after some storm damage destroyed it’s efficacy. This is not a pretty house. And the county access standoffs for rivers (150 yards either side) and the gas pipeline (50 yards either side) really cut into the available property for building.
Much to the neighborhood’s satisfaction, the county immediately decided to purchase the property to turn it back into a natural growth preserve. But the price point was going back and forth and a year later the two sides had not come to an agreement. To make it even more interesting a third party had a lean on the property. Turns out someone loaned ol’ Sam $300,000 for his house and property a few years before he died. Note, they apparently approved the loan without looking at the property because, even on it’s best day, it’s not worth very much.
About a week ago, two young men started squatting on the property. They were brazen, unapologetically parking their bicycles in the front on the building, entertaining older men who should have known better, and using candles at night in the house that could be seen by the neighbors. Eventually the county and police got involved and after escorting the boys off the property twice, they just kept coming back.
Today on our daily walk we saw that the county had sent a work crew to put up plywood over the windows and bar the doors. They had already put up huge Jersey barriers to keep the cars and trucks from parking there to loot the empty building. The county says they intend to tear the building down if they are allowed to buy it. The house straddles the creek. So this would be a very good thing on many levels.
This activity has really opened my eyes, I really thought we didn’t really have homeless in my backyard. No, really. I remember watching a nature show about coyotes and seeing a map of where they are. Guess what? They are everywhere and as nocturnal animals, most of us have no clue. This map isn’t the same one I saw, but it gives you an idea of how ubiquitous that creature is.
So I wonder how ubiquitous the homeless are. Look at this, especially if you think you don’t have much homelessness in your state:
My state has the 7th largest number of homeless people. Who knew? The number one state is Hawaii, I bet there is a back story about that. Bottom line, given any night, homeless people are most likely moving about in your neighborhood. They are looking for food, easily stolen items for quick cash, and opportunities to find a place to sleep for the night or longer.
In our community we have a number of shelters, but I’m guessing a lot of the transient do not want to stay there. Most homeless are people who have been given up on by family and friends. A scary percentage of the are not sane at the worst and less than trustworthy at best. At what point will the numbers of transients get high enough that communities will have find solutions to protect their population?
I have a lot of security suggestions for anyone who wants to discuss that. But the top three things that I recommend are:
1. Know your neighbors: communicate, share contact info, be helpful.
2. Assuming you are a decent person, own a dog. My dogs have always alerted me to people on/near our property way before I would normally notice. Since she sleeps by my bed, we help each other in so many other ways too.
3. Make your house more secure than other houses. The old joke about the bear (I don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than you) comes to mind. Deadbolts, motion-sensor lights, security system … you know the drill, can convince a potential thief that another house would be easier to break into.
But perhaps most importantly, be aware. Be aware of your surroundings, new vehicles in the neighborhood, people where they should not be. Report these to the owners asap, that is how we got rid of this group of homeless people. In most cases, it’s the oblivious types who end up becoming victims. Be safe out there.