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Bill Hart, San Clemente
Last week’s letter on homelessness by Ms. Sandra Weaver is full of recriminations. Her letter criticizes a woman who unexpectedly encountered a homeless person in a supermarket restroom drinking from a stolen box of wine. The letter then generalizes that San Clemente is lacking compassion. However well intended, I fear that Ms. Weaver hurts her own cause.
San Clemente is a quality of life community. Nobody lives here to be confronted by anti-social behaviors, unsavory acts in public, or to be confronted by crime committed in the open. It is not wrong for community members to speak against things that diminish our quality of life.
Social norms against stealing date back to Moses and the Ten Commandments. Open theft of alcohol in a supermarket should not be accepted as an inconsequential act. One might show compassion toward an impoverished mother stealing bread for her starving children, but this is not the case. Being dismissive of someone getting drunk from a stolen box of wine is not a good premise for a reasonable discussion on compassion.
Homelessness is not a condition in and of itself, but instead is the result of any number of negative conditions. Perhaps those conditions are economic misfortune, mental health problems, criminal behavior, laziness, substance abuse, or others. Different conditions might call for economic assistance, law enforcement, medical intervention, addiction recovery, or other measures. True compassion is helping people solve these different kinds of problems. Simple charity without solutions is only a Band-Aid.
Homelessness is not a condition; it is a result. Compassion is helping those who are willing to accept it while holding those who refuse help accountable. We can and should empower the good in people while providing disincentives for the bad. Instead of wagging a scolding finger at San Clemente, let us step up our game by addressing the underlying conditions, so we can work toward real and compassionate solutions.