Sunday, 3 August 2014

Fear of "The Homeless"

Prologue.

There are no homeless in Sarasota. But we have some homeless people.

Story.

I enjoyed a late lunch with good friends on Saturday.  We were in downtown Bradenton FL., alongside the Manatee River.  That part of town has been  renewed thanks to what is known as the River walk.  It's a very pleasant area, with some grand old buildings, good restaurants, and super views of the river.

We (four of us from Sarasota FL) commented favourably not only about the restaurant, but also about the pleasant neighbourhood.

One of our table party (a good friend who lives in Bradenton) said that she no longer visits downtown Sarasota because (in her mind)  it is not safe.

"Why is it not safe?" you may ask. My table friend (I like her very much) told us that on one occasion, after being at a Cinema on Main St. Sarasota,  she had been "pan-handled" by an aggressive vagrant -  therefore in her mind the area was unsafe.

(I held my tongue and forwent the opportunity to remind her that less than two weeks ago  a wonderful young eighteen years old woman had been shot and killed by a "drive-by" shooter as she left a Cinema in Bradenton).

My good friend went on to say that she will not use "your" (i.e. Sarasota's) parking garages because the homeless might be camped out there.

There is no evidence that this might be the case.

But "there is nothing to fear but fear itself", especially fear of the homeless.

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I have a bias, based on a conviction, and rooted in knowledge and experience. It is this:

There are no "homeless".  There are some "homeless people".  I pray with some of them every week.

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I chose not to enter into debate with my good friend.  That would not have been a good idea in a public place after a vodka and tonic and a fine meal.

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I awoke this morning (Aug 3rd) with the Saturday conversation on my mind.

I recalled that in eight years I have been pan-handled only four times in downtown Sarasota. Two of these times the pan-handling was by a man ("Pops") who I knew from my ministry at Resurrection House (Sarasota's day-shelter for homeless people).  He was a charming rogue who knew that he was pushing his luck with me.

I also remembered my one and only unpleasant encounter in a Sarasota  parking garage (the one First Street),  after my visit to the Opera. 

This multistory garage is not well lit.   

As I was backing out of my parking space I heard the tooting of a car horn.  I  moved forward, even though I could not see another vehicle whose way I might have been blocking.

After a few seconds I began to back-out again. I heard the tooting car horn once more.

In order to be safe and not sorry I drove back into the parking space.

Evidently my "backing out" had interfered with the progress of another car which I had not seen.

Despite my caution, a well dressed (and seemingly middle class) man began to bang on my wind-shield and to yell at me.  (No harm had been done).

I opened my window and said (in a very soft voice) "yelling at me will not do any good".  The man an his partner (wife?) moved away.

My obvious conclusion is to say that:  "I am afraid of prosperous middle class people, so I will not  use  any of "our" parking garages". (lol).

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Perception must be regularly checked, lest it become reality.

I am sorry that my good friend's perceptions of the dangers in downtown Sarasota have become her reality.




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