Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pouring It on the Poor

From the "blame the folks at the bottom for there being a bottom at all" file, a position expoused by the likes of Matt Drudge and all the conservative bleh-gers who parrot him, we have all the brouhaha about Los Angeles' latest homeless facility, the Midnight Mission. Here's how the Christian (cough cough) Science Monitor puts it:

Opening Monday and trumpeted proudly by city officials is the Midnight Mission - and one of the nation's plushest homeless shelters. The $17 million state-of-the-art facility boasts a full-sized gymnasium, library, playroom, hair salon, education center, and professional kitchen. The shelter is the city's latest effort to address one of its most visible and resistant social problems: the more than 6,000 people who live on the streets.

Now, when I read that paragraph, when it says, "The shelter is the city's latest effort," I assume it's a city-funded organization. But if one checks out the Midnight Mission's own website, and I assume Christian Scientists are allowed to use the web since they publish their paper on it, you find out this on the FAQ:

How are you funded?
A. The Midnight Mission relies almost entirely on community-based private donations. On a limited basis we will accept government based funding. In fact, a very small percentage of our operating budget has come from government sources like funds used for Project Safe Sleep

So, even if the $17 million seems like too much, it's not like the money could go to schools or potholes or a politician's pocket.

But wait, there's more. The biggest "problem" with this new facility is that some elements of it sound attractive. That's what rankles critics on the right--what are the poor, the homeless, the huddled masses yearning to sleep for free, getting a gym for? a salon? Shouldn't they have to grovel and suffer and at least pray or something?

All I can say is not enough people have ever read George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London and too many don't realize that Ayn Rand was so convinced by self-sufficiency because her head was so far up her own ass all she could see was herself and it looked like the outside world to her.

Well, I can say more. First, why can't the poor have some comfort? Second, have you checked out the comfort, or just heard the tales breathlessly repeated by the rich who hate when anyone gets anything for free unless they inherited it?

NPR's Luke Burbank decided to spend the night at Midnight Mission, and his report certainly takes the charm out of the so-called Homeless Hilton. First, the "hair salon" is two barber chairs. If you get your hair cut there, it's by other homeless people who know one cut--the full shave. Second, the gym isn't even open yet. But if it was, isn't some physical exercise a good thing for people we want to: 1) have outlets for their energy beyond violence; 2) channel obsession positively, so they don't otherwise become obsessed with drugs; 3) stay hale and fit, for if they get sick, they will be at the hospital on society's tab?

Finally Burbank says it's not the most restful of nights. Sleeping quarters are in two huge single-sex dormitories, so you have to deal with light from the bathrooms, others listening to their radios, and about 200 men snoring.

It does sound so wonderful and comfortable. I hope every whiny right-winger complaining about it checks in for a few nights.


Blogger Justin said...

I'm afraid that by criticizing this post, I may only feed your own sense of importance.

Therefore, no comment.

8:39 AM  

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