Saturday, November 01, 2008

I've had enough of this.

Usually I post things I like about Astoria, and there is a lot to like. There are also things I don't like about living here, but I don't dwell on them. It's a wonderful place. I'm going to get on a very short soapbox right now, but I'm serious about it. Last night when I came back from a delightful walk near sunset, I came back, of course, to the building I'm leasing at 1490 Marine Drive, which is actually on the River Walk. The owners have completely renovated the pilings, the roof, the outside of the building, and their apartment upstairs. Our area downstairs was partially renovated before we moved in a year and a half ago, and all of the windows were replaced this year. They've taken an old landmark and given it new life. It's a nice place to work and a nice place to come back to after a walk. Except for one thing, and of that I have had enough.

This evening when I came back, there was a guy standing halfway down the railed walk on the right-hand (east) side of the building. He couldn't go further without opening a gate, and he hadn't done that. He looked homeless, was drinking, and appeared to be waiting for something or someone. What he was actually doing was taking a piss on the walkway. I couldn't tell that till later when the officer came to discuss how we could keep vagrants from hanging out. Behind the gate, the officer found a 24-oz can of Icehouse Lager and pointed out the pee with his flashlight. The guy hadn't even been able to get it past the railing and into the water. (By the way, I locked the gate when the officer left, and it was wide open by morning; this guy or someone else probably came back and slept here.)

One morning I found vomit, a bar of soap, and cigarette butts around the back of the building where it's more sheltered (and during a time when the gates were down for construction). It's not like the guys were coming back to clean it up. Another night, a guy, apparently in a sleeping bag, had fallen off the catwalk that goes out to the tower. His buddy leapt over the fence to get the other bag and (presumably) helped the first guy out of the river. Like most of us, I'm not happy about having drunks camped in my space or hanging out drinking and pissing in what should be a safe area for me (I pay the rent here). I have called the cops. I will call the cops, and we're going to have lights installed that may discourage them from coming back.
You see these guys and you wonder if you should have more compassion: mental/physical illness, "there but for fortune," and all that crap. But what I want to say is, in this country, anyone can get help. They can ALL have a place to live. The government awards SSI and SSDI benefits to people who can't work and can't make it. I know something about that, because I've been through my own private hell; I was sicker than sick, and I've been on SSI. It's not a lot of money. I was in the lowest pay bracket, because I'd always worked for myself and therefore didn't pay in enough to the system to get the larger SSDI payment. But I made it. I found roommates, I found apartments, I got food stamps, I got free medical care, and I didn't piss in people's doorways or sit around drinking beer because I couldn't or didn't want to do anything else. The medical system did not always treat me with the greatest respect, although that has improved. I've been turned out of doctor's offices after my 15 minutes was up because THEY could not figure out what was wrong. But at least I had a chance to see a doctor, and I didn't have to pay for it. When they did know what to do for me, the system usually let them do it. I didn't have a drug or alcohol problem, but I was sicker than you want to know about, or sicker than I want to talk about right now. Other people have given up drugs and alcohol. It can be done. And if you're not using your SSI payments to buy smokes, drugs and booze, you CAN live on the amount you can get from SSI. You don't even need a home address, just someplace you can collect mail. Help is there. Use it. Have some respect for yourself. If you don't want to live indoors, at least don't become a public nuisance. Stop turning yourself into nothing better than annoying litter on the street. I imagine that everyone has had a dream at some time in their lives about what they wanted to do and be, and I don't think it was to become a drunken homeless person pissing in someone's doorway or throwing up at their back door.

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