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Listen, I'm all about helping others. I was a single mother of three sons, destitute, almost homeless, living on $500 a month for awhile, so I understand being crisis mode and feeling hopeless. I volunteer a lot and have always been there for others. I understand there are some very needy people who are ill, destitute and legitimately homeless; but I have become calloused after witnessing the "Professional Homeless" (my term) who don't spend their income on basic necessities or try to improve themselves. They've chosen drugs, alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and dogs (in any combination). And they know where to go to get "compassionate hand-outs." They act like you're their "Bestie," use you, lie to you, steal from you, trash the place you provided for them, then move on to the next place that will "help." What they really want is for us to support their lifestyle unconditionally. I say: "Count me out!"

This town lacks the infrastructure to help. There are no jobs, no medical facilities, rehabilitation, counseling or law enforcement. The library has free computers to look for jobs. CCAT is trying to get us public transportation, but it's never been reliable due to funding problems. It's also very expensive to house just one homeless person.

A question every town should ask itself before starting a project is: What's in it for the betterment of the neighborhood? Any institution receiving taxpayer funds needs to be accountable to its citizenry. Outcomes, not quantity of services should be the goal. However, FACT: if you open homeless shelters, you get a greater population of homeless. Every West Coast city who has opened their doors to the homeless has increased the homeless population tenfold. Many come from out of state. Our beautiful West Coast has the highest population of homeless in the country because of our mild weather and the politics of unlimited compassion.

The decriminalization of hard drugs has led to more homeless drug addicts demanding we care for them. Drug rehabilitation is VOLUNTARY. Don't let your idealism get the best of you thinking if you provide it they'll be fighting each other for placement!

My suggestion is for Lakeside to adopt a zero-tolerance tent camps policy (but we won't be able to enforce it without police ... ), and buy a van to transport the homeless to cities that already provide services — preferably have a network system of some kind available. There is all kinds of help if people seek it. I've never understood why homeless people come here, as there are no services. (No, they don't get stuck here!)

I feel no professional homeless person should ever get free help. Substance testing should be required at shelters, and anyone using drugs, marijuana (except for verifiable medical), tobacco or alcohol and/or have dogs, (even "service animals") should pay a fee for services, even if it's only $1. Accountability and responsibility need to be encouraged through "tough love." Perpetually funding bad behavior is irresponsible business management and "enabling."

It's time we differentiate between the "definite-legitimate-needs" and the "help-me-feed-my­addictions-and-dogs," and have the individual and political courage not to become a part of the "compassion brigade" for those who need an "accountability brigade." Let's refuse to make the homeless population worse in this town, but come up with other solutions to help.

Diane Beggs



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