By Regina Henderson, Special to the Sentinel
I am insulted by the condescending op-ed written by Don Lane in last Sunday’s paper. I too came from a screwed-up childhood — an absent alcoholic father, a full-time-working single mother who, when home, was often mentally absent. By sixth grade I lost my childhood and became mom to my three younger siblings. Due to my unsupervised teen years, life and memories are foggy thanks to drugs and alcohol, so I too became a “traveler.”
I escaped New York in 1977 with $125 and a backpack. I bummed a ride toward San Francisco and ended up in Santa Cruz not knowing a soul. I lived on a couch, took advantage of MediCal and food stamps for four months. And then proceeded to get it together, got two jobs and became a contributing citizen at the age of 18.
Coming from a screwed-up home gives no one license for bad and criminal behavior.
Two years ago, Debbie Smith’s broken-down RV landed on my street for a week. In one of our many discussions she said “these 26-year-old kids take advantage of us older folks by stealing our SSI money and meds.” Debbie died two days later in a fiery blaze in that RV — that’s another topic altogether.
Harold the alcoholic and homeless Vietnam vet (who lived along the levee) cried to me, saying he was afraid to get services at the Homeless Services Center because of the many young, aggressive drug dealers who hung out there.
It is exactly this group that has given our true homeless population a bad name. It is exactly this group that has take over our precious green space and turned it into an environmental nightmare! It is exactly this group that has succeeded in changing the compassion this community has given, to one that is saying enough is enough!
We all want to and need to take care of the truly needy homeless — those who have contributed yet have fallen onto tough times — the elderly, the vets, the mentally and physically ill.
We can’t keep throwing money and resources at this huge problem and expect to see positive results if we don’t start weeding out the takers with no intention to give back.
Santa Cruz can no longer be the landing strip for these “travelers.” Either dust yourself off, get a job and start contributing or keep on “traveling.”
Regina Henderson lives in Santa Cruz.