Photo by Brian Addison. Above: former residents of Lincoln Park struggle with their belongings before construction crews move in to build new Civic Center.
I actually respect Harry Saltzgaver, the longtime editor over at the Gazettes.
Salty (pun very much intended), dry, blunt, sometimes angry (in the good way), Harry has been what I like to think of as a great stalwart of local journalism. And whether I agree with him or not, I enjoyed when he started taking to YouTube to express his “Happy Monday” rants that were anything but happy. (I still laugh at the fact that he appropriately chewed out Mayor Robert Garcia and Council for showing up late to meetings.)
And credit must be given where credit is due: every damn Monday, he gives his thoughts on something in his very Harry way.
However, this week, I cannot let a thought of his slide by the wayside because it wasn’t just in bad taste but outright perturbing: amazed by the “creativity” of the homeless in being able to move their things around—even after the “smart” decision to make it illegal to use a shopping cart to do so–Harry thinks we should have a contest. And by we, he means those with roofs over their heads. And us privileged folk would judge the creativity of these “mobile homes,” as he calls them, and after they put on a monkey show for us showing off how they can live at the bottom of the barrel, we will offer a month of free rent to the winner.
I kid you not. This is actually what he proposed:
So instead of… Oh, I don’t know… Instead of taking an editorial stance on requiring affordable housing clauses to be built into development contracts, let alone maybe taking an editorial stance that housing should be a human right… Or, if so inspired by their “creativity”—FYI, Harry: it’s called survival and some are lucky to have a skateboard as you noted or other things; it’s not really creativity as we like to think of it though your constant surprise at their creations makes me think you feel one should be shocked that they can be creative—maybe partner with the many brilliant folks that have come up with equally brilliant ways for the homeless to both move and provide themselves shelter.
Harry, you turn their existence into a contest for something all humans should have? A roof? And then you have the audacity to caption the video with “Good News for the Homeless”? That’s what you consider good news for these humans? To have them vie for resources they are already dangerously trying to acquire and keep in the name of a contest that allows them a sense of normality for a month?
With utmost respect, GTFO with that.
Do I think you’re attempting to be helpful, Harry? Yes—I don’t think you’re not caring about the issue of homelessness or you’re attempting to be harmful. However, this thought experiment of yours wasn’t off-the-cuff nor done in jest; it was premeditated given the cuts, the zooms, the edits. You genuinely believe this is a good idea: to make a contest for something we should be providing homeless folks with in the first place. And again, I don’t think there is intentional harm…
But you’re a news editor. Use your power of messaging to promote long-term solutions that include creating housing, fostering and maintaining social services, discrediting thoughts and groups that fuel xenophobia —not horrible thought experiments that fuel ideas that do nothing to help these marginalized humans.
And one more thing, Harry: those things they carry around aren’t homes. Media in general needs to stop calling where homeless folks live “homes”–because they aren’t. Until they’ve reached stability in their location and health, those “mobile homes” never were homes and they never will be homes.