A few weeks back there were a series of articles that gave us a bleeding heart’s perspective of The Bridge Emergency Shelter and its denizens. Never a shrinking violet with my opinions, permit me to present a different point of view. The generally accepted one is that the The Bridge’s inhabitants are down on their luck due to the recession and just need a short-term hand up to get them through! I can accept that there are some of those among the occupants. However the ones that I see on a daily basis don’t fit that test. Now before you throw the Journal across the room in anger at my hard-heartedness, realize that I have been in those circumstances.
Let’s start with what I see on a daily basis. Sandy and I go to the Recreation Center Monday through Friday. We pay a fee to use the facilities. On two days a week Sandy uses the Lazy River while I work out on the machines on the second floor. The center’s vestibule has a television set and chairs for those waiting for family to finish their exercise regimen. On many mornings every seat is occupied by the bums ejected from The Bridge and now eating, chatting, and sleeping in those chairs with no place for the members to sit. Most of these loafers are in their 30s and 40s and seem to be in good physical condition.
Last fall I approached one of the younger guys and told him the excelsior plant was hiring and that he could get a job there to help him make some money. He was offended and told me he had a deteriorated disc and was waiting for his Social Security disability payment to come through. Sandy and I happened to walk out just as he was leaving. We went to our 1999 pickup truck and he got into a new four-wheel drive ¾-ton pick-up.
Most of these layabouts leave the Center and spend the day at the library or McDonalds before they go back to the Bridge for a meal and a bed and more television. They get government welfare, disability payments or other entitlements that you and I provide. They have money for cigarettes, booze, and cell phones but not for shelter? Even though they hang around and use the public facilities, I’ve never seen them volunteering to shovel snow, sweep the floor or any other task to show they appreciate the freebies they are given.
It is obvious they are not paying taxes. They receive handouts but are unwilling to give just a little for what they get. Is this the future of our country?
I earlier said that I had been there. Most of us remember the Carter recession and the long gas lines. Well, during that period I was living in a small town 45 miles east of Seattle, Washington. Duvall had about 15 businesses on Main Street and its economic base was dairying and logging. I was a surveyor and that business was gone. My vehicle was on its last legs and my wife was pregnant. To pay the rent I canvassed the stores and the dairies. My sales pitch was, “I need a job. I’ll do anything and after a week you can pay me and keep me on. If you don’t like my work you don’t have to pay me.” That netted me enough money to make calls on the surveying companies in the surrounding area. No luck!
I finally found a job with a company in Seattle. Then my car quit! I found that I could get to Bellevue and grab a bus that would get me to within a mile of the office. So I set out at 5:30 a.m. to walk or hitchhike the 15 miles to Bellevue. I kept that job till the company went bankrupt. I didn’t resort to welfare. We watch Greece imploding, shake our heads and believe it won’t happen here.
However once we enable loafers to live without working we have created the victim class that will destroy our country.
“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” (Lao Tzu)
Larry Tradlener lives down McElmo Canyon.