Alaska and Berkeley: Prejudice and Passion

NOTE BY NORSE:  Tip of the had to John Colby for passing on these stories.  The Alaska “compassionate cop” tale assumes and promulgates the mythology that homeless people are homeless because of alcohol, drug, and “mental illness” problems.  It’s not a housing, job, or income problem (when it’s a problem and not simply a life-phase or rebellion against the abusive social-political order), goes this status quo-buttressing mythology–it’s the people themselves who are defective and need “to be fixed”.  This, of course, allows for the money that might be spent on the obvious solution–housing–to be rerouted to social workers, police, drug programs, psych wards,  and other “helpers.”   It also paves the way for treating the homeless as incompetents who need to be forced to “take help”.    This encourages “solutions” that involve ignoring civil rights, forced “medication”, homeless sweeps, etc.
It also sets the stage for treating homeless–as is happening in Santa Cruz now–as a “crime” or “public safety” problem based on NIMBY apprehensions, police-initiated legal definitions, and class war politicies.   In my 25 years of direct interviews with folks outside, I’ve found less than 10% have an obvious alcohol problem.   Maybe the snow in Alaska is toxic.   If anyone has any local figures on Santa Cruz city or county, I’d like to see them.  Stigmatizing the homeless community as disabled because of “illness” (whether alcohol, drug, or “mental”) ignores the real disabilities created by sleeping bans, sitting bans, park closures, and other laws that destroy what community exists and aggravate confrontations with the police.

More typical, familiar to me, and positive (though still depressing) is the story of Sandy and others in this “invisible people” clip and story from Berkeley at

In Santa Cruz it’s illegal to sleep either in your car OR by the side of the road.  Santa Cruz wins the “least enabling of bad behavior” (i.e. homeless survival behavior that annoys, frightens, or angers middle class residents and merchants.


One thought on “Alaska and Berkeley: Prejudice and Passion

  1. I tend not to leave a bunch of remarks, but i did some searching
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