* I violated every guideline for letters to the editor, one reason why they didn’t print it.
I read with growing concern the front page ‘news’ story about the problem with “vagrants” in the downtown Oxnard area.
It reads like an official city response to public concern about the blatantly illegal and discriminatory ‘homeless no go zone’ established a few weeks ago, trying to explain why they did it.
First, the word ‘vagrant’ is an inaccurate, intentionally hurtful choice of words. Was ‘vermin’ considered to be too over the top? Most definitions of vagrant include illegality as a prerequisite, while the main targets of the article–the 42 Plaza Park regulars–are in no way illegal, by any definition.
Grouping them together, then defining them as vagrants, would be the same as saying that every person who lives indoors is a criminal simply because 99 percent of all crime is committed by folks with homes to live in. It’s discriminatory and, in this case, a lie.
Words like these are used to marginalize certain groups, and have been used to justify discrimination and encourage acts of violence against these groups going back to the dawn of language.
Folks who break windows and illegally enter businesses are ‘criminals’, not vagrants or homeless folks. That’s why businesses carry insurance, and why we have police.
Separating the 42, or The 42, or The Oxnard 42, however you phrased it, was irresponsible and dangerous, and pinning a numerical value to those specific individuals–$500k, was it?–was a bizarre and unnecessary addition. Why not just hand the money over to them directly? I’d wager they’d get more housing on their own.
In fact, I’d say the over-under on how many of The Oxnard 42 will be housed on that money is two. Take the under. It’s nobody’s fault, not really, it’s just how government grinds. Mr. Nguyen made this point with clarity in your article.
In the quest for the cure, someone needs to figure out how to do an accurate census. No one believes that homelessness in Oxnard actually increased 60 per cent over the course of a year, do they? By 200 people? C’mon! Why present those numbers like that, implying something that is clearly not true? It means one or both census’ are hopelessly flawed. We, the unhoused, don’t move around like that. Ask anyone.
I know many of the 42, and they’re made up of family units. All the family they have in the world, quite clearly. And in no situation in life does ‘strength in numbers’ apply more than while living on the street.
Nearly all have tried the shelter, but it’s far more difficult to conform to the many restrictions as a group, no matter how much someone wants to come up. For example, when one has pitiless dreams that we can’t imagine, and can’t stop crying out, keeping others awake, they have to go out, for the good of the many.
What then? Who leaves family out alone? Not The Oxnard 42.
I think it might turn out to be the final line of that article that gets the most attention in the long run: “It’s time to push back and restore order here.”
Really? What do you mean, exactly?
Mercy House Shelter
805 663 6145