Friday, September 14, 2012

Homeless Hoedown

 Homeless shelter for one, woods off University Drive

While thankfully there were no arrests last night at the "Celebrate Amherst Block Party" for noise, nuisance or disturbing the peace, one of the usual suspects -- Maurice St Onge -- was arrested for open container violation while consuming "Five O'Clock Vodka" at 7:49 PM on North Pleasant street, in town center, at around peak attendance time for the family oriented block party.

This is precisely why Town Manager John Musante was leaning towards forbidding Craig's Doors, the homeless shelter at the Baptist Church, to increase capacity by 50%, going from 16 beds to 24.

His bosses, the Select Board, have publicly all-but-ordered him to allow the expansion ... not to micromanage of course.  Pretty safe bet Mr. Musante will not wish to jeopardize his $142,100 position over a homeless shelter. 

The B-I-G difference between Amherst's homeless shelter and all other regional facilities is that Craig's Doors is a "wet shelter," meaning folks can still attend even if under the influence of drugs.

Which is kind of like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting trying to increase attendance by hosting meetings next to a bar.


APD gets calls when the homeless are overly aggressive about occupying benches in town

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where have all these people come from lately? They are not people from around here. They are people gravitating to Amherst because Amherst is providing beds. This would not be a problem to me, because people that are down on their luck need housing too, but they are nasty, confrontational and genuinely act like a nuisance. An angry drunk, drinking hard alcohol on the street and then annoying people is hardly part of a population worth cultivating.

Anonymous said...

3:49 is right, but they are coming to Amherst because it is a wet shelter. I think increasing the capacity would be fine if they change that. What other town allows it?

Anonymous said...

They are not from here, they don't live here, they should be deported to Springfield.

Anonymous said...

Look, there's a logic to housing people in our community that become homeless, but that's a whole different thing than becoming the promised land for homeless.

Anonymous said...

Are these the same commenters who want to wave the flag at every occasion in praise of the good 'ol US of A? 'Cause if so, I should guess we'd be thinking a bit more about the "poor, huddled masses". You know, like the inscription on the Statue of Liberty says:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Must be a different bunch of folks concerned about Amherst becoming "the promised land for homeless" than the flag wavers, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly why I no longer bring my family downtown for any gatherings or festivities. All it ever turns into is a stage for one noble cause or another. Amherst can never seem to have any event without drunks, protesters, or some other yahoo ruining it. all these individuals seem to think all the hard work that goes into them was on their behalf. I think if there is a drunk downtown during any family event it should be an instant trip the lock up no excuses or group hug interventions.

Anonymous said...

To 6:52:
I don't think anyone would have a problem with helping the "poor huddled masses" that are down and out short term, the people that might be trying to lift themselves out of their situation, putting an effort to get a job or get clean. But the ones in Amherst have settled in nicely and seem to be increasing in number. Is there anything tracking how often the same people stay, and how long they have been coming?
Make it a dry shelter.

LarryK said...

Yeah, that might be one way for the Town Manager to push back a bit.

Tell the Select Board that he will approve the expansion on that one condition.

Of course under those "dry" conditions they probably would not need the extra beds.

Anonymous said...

ietnces 53"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.."

This refers to immigrants looking for a new life in a land where they could find a job. They became the people that built the infrastructure of our country.

The drunks up town are not looking for jobs. They are not looking to contribute anything to Amherst. They are just looking a few bucks to buy little mini bottles of booze. In exchange they harrass people and generally spoil the quality of life for others.

Anonymous said...

i agree with everything larry says and everything posted.....but WE HAVE TO LET THE TOWN MANAGER KNOW....so let's email him, go to the select board meeting let our feelings be known.....that is what needs to be done so the town manager can go back to the select board saying that residents oppose this....instead of letting gerry weiss get up there an think he is the lord and speaking for all of us...because he is not speaking for me or you.....thanks larry for posting this story...i hop[e you get a lot of comments and hope people will pass it along to town officials...
thanks

Anonymous said...

Even though they are drunks, do we want them to freeze to death?

And you're right, of course, these are not employable people. But they are human.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it is the flag wavers speaking, but their song has been rewritten... "My country 'tis of ME." Homelessness is a complicated issue folks. It involves disease and addiction and, unfortunately for all us non-homeless, is not always pretty to look at. That doesn't mean that we should be content to let people shiver and possibly die on the cold winter streets. The shelter is doing good work. Part of that work is trying to funnel services that help address the underlying needs of the population so that they CAN have the opportunity for more stable, productive lives. Why don't you try offering up a donation to support that work, rather than just hoping to erase the issue from your view?

Roach Patrol said...

Um, Gerry Weiss speaks for god, doesn't he?

Anonymous said...

Those bums are such a pox on the town. They're not here for anything other than a night in the shelter, a free hand out from people stupid enough to think they're helping; which they're not. You feed squirrels in the backyard? You get squirrels destroying your wood siding, living in your attic, and digging your lawn up. Same with bums like these. I've avoided downtown for a LOONNGG time thank you. No intention of going there anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Why don't women feel safe at the shelter? How many familes use the shelter?

Anonymous said...

I don't know about women feeling safe at the shelter, but I know my teenage daughter and her friends don't feel safe alone downtown. The comments made to them and about them are unacceptable. I've never let my kids downtown at night when the students start to gather, but now I have to worry during the day. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

The truth is that homeless were never on the street during the winter or at night. They always found places to stay and their were only a handful. The police were never consulted about homeless people on the street even though they are out in the middle of the night and would have said that it is not a problem. Expand the shelter and you will continue to see downtown decay....

Anonymous said...

I'll trade you homeless people for college kids that destroy mailboxes every weekend.

Anonymous said...

college kids spend money in this town...provide jobs for residents at the colleges......

Anonymous said...

The homeless people provide fragrance...the fragrance of booze mixed this urine.

Anonymous said...

In fact, homeless people have frozen to death in Amherst. Whether we like it or not, they are our neighbors - let's be neighborly.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

In fact, homeless people have frozen to death in Amherst. Whether we like it or not, they are our neighbors - let's be neighborly.

September 15, 2012 6:32 PM

When did that happen?
And froze to death, not by ETOH.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:32 "let's be neighborly."

Yeah. But keep in mind, neighborliness is a 2-way street.

Anonymous said...

Look, so why are they here in the winter? They don't have homes? Why don't they go to Florida? I mean really! Sit on the beach and drink.

Anonymous said...

In fact, homeless people have frozen to death in Amherst. Whether we like it or not, they are our neighbors
no not our neighbors not people from amherst but people from other towns where there are dry shelters...homeless people come from all over because we let intoxicated people in......i bet very few residents in the shelter ever called amherst home until the town got into the shelter business

The Ponziville Karma Show said...

The gods and goddesses of Ponziville screech mercilessly regarding others (read "conservatives'") approach to "social issues" yet look at the state of their utopia with its' coupla (itty bitty) thousand full timers...

Now imagine if this were a metropolis!


WAAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!


Can you say, "chimps"?

Yeah, I knew you could.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 'Bach. Still obsessing over Amherst I see.

The Ponziville Karma Show said...

Oh, I'm not "Bach" but I do feel very badly about what that hot lizard L.S. did to him.


Anyway, you wouldn't understand...





Dr. Ed said...

I think if there is a drunk downtown during any family event it should be an instant trip the lock up no excuses or group hug interventions. (emphasis added)

I make a distinction between someone who is intoxicated and someone who is actually doing something to violate the rights of others, including the right to be left the h*ll alone.

I make the same distinction when people want to ban children from resturaunts, movie theaters and assorted gatherings of adults -- no, I argue, not if they are reasonably well behaved.

I make a big distinction between the well-behaved 5-year-old and the one running wildly through the room, kicking random adults in the leg (although they don't kick me more than once....). I think most parents would make that distinction, and probably can name one or two such children, whom they would prefer not to have their own kids associate with.

So too with someone who is drunk, and I argue this for three reasons.

First, he may not be drunk. Head injuries, learning disabilities, speech defects, early Parkinson's disease, there are all kinds of things that adversely affect neurological abilities, alcohol is only one and the people dealing with the other stuff have enough problems as it is without you adding to them.

Second, the person may be "self-medicating" -- using alcohol as a psych med. On the one hand, using the appropriate psych meds under medical supervision would probably be better, but on the other hand some of the psych care I have seen coming out of the VA is shockingly poor -- and the reality is that alcohol well may be better than the wrong psych meds.

Furthermore, and notwithstanding Big Pharma's quite successful advertising, some of these psych meds have some scary side effects with risks both to the individual and the public -- and in that context alcohol starts looking like medical marijuana.

Third, we want to reward positive behavior -- and extinguish bad behavior. So don't arrest them for being drunk (which is actually unConstitutional) but for being obnoxious -- if they actually are.

I am neither a "bleeding heart Liberal" nor into "group hugs" (or hugs of any sort) but if they can behave themselves, leave the drunks alone.

Dr. Ed said...

The Amherst Housing Authority essentially has an all-female staff -- only the bookkeeper and maintenance workers are male, all of the people whom clients interact with are female.

This is largely true of the human services profession in general -- and let us not forget that we are spending an incredible amount of money on human services -- when one adds up all the various programs, and there are an awful lot of them, one must conclude that our society is spending quite a bit of money on human services.

Maybe we aren't spending enough, maybe we are spending too much, maybe we aren't spending it wisely -- notwithstanding these debates, the simple fact is that we are spending a h*ll of a lot more than we did a century ago.

So why are these men, and they are almost all men, falling through the cracks?

If it was the other way around, if the program staffs were almost entirely male and we had large numbers of homeless women, we would have people screaming "sexism" from the rooftops.

Hence I ask for consideration -- has our social service network become so female-friendly that it has become biased against me to the point where a significant number of men are falling through the cracks?

If not, then why is this problematic population almost entirely male?

Dr. Ed said...

And who owns the land that shack is on?

When do you start holding property owners responsible for their properties and what occurs on them?

Anonymous said...

Doctah Ed, You got a job?

Anonymous said...

Who would hire Ed?

Anonymous said...

It would be much cheaper than a shelter to just buy them plane tickets for Tampa or Miami.

Heidi V. said...

So what would be your solution to the homelessness problem, if you don't think the "wet" ones should use the shelter? Scoop them up and shove them in the already crowded prisons and not address any possible addictions or disabilities they might have? Everyone deserves at least some opportunity to get back on their feet. Inaction won't necessarily solve drinking problems. Not everyone has the mental will to address their problems and go cold-turkey (at least not without a little help). You wouldn't tell someone with severe depression to "just cheer up" or a person with a broken limb to "just walk it off" (or maybe you are a jerk like that and you would, I don't know).

Anonymous said...

Heidi, you are being naive. These people are not getting back on their feet. Witness today's news in the Gazette:

NORTHAMPTON - A local man is being held on $200 bail after pleading not guilty to charges he robbed a couple at knifepoint for alcohol money.

Aljava Y. Johnson, 37, whose address is listed as the streets of Northampton, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of attempt to commit a crime, assault with a dangerous weapon (knife), and assault and battery in Northampton District Court.

According to Northampton police, Johnson approached a male and female couple about 9 p.m. Sept. 12 on Pleasant Street and asked for money.

While the woman attempted to get some money out of her wallet, Johnson allegedly grabbed $10 from her hand and threatened to stab her if she tried to call for help or call police.

Anonymous said...

Let's send them all to Heidi's house. I'm sure they will get all the sympathy and care she thinks they deserve. If you become an enabler, addicts never clean up. Dry shelter or nothing.

Anonymous said...

Anon. September 18, 2012 8:38 AM hit the nail on the head...Enablers. It's another name for Amherst.

Heidi V said...

As a matter of fact, I am helping a homeless man who drinks get back on his feet. He is doing much better than he would on the street, if I do say so myself.

Helping people and giving them options isn't "enabling." Ignoring the problem, or sweeping it under the rug (i.e. the overcrowded prison system) without addressing their problems, is however, enabling since they will continue to do the same shit over and over again, because they will never know anything better.

Or are we in Victorian England? I kind of forget sometimes with all the people here who forget to check their privilege...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but that is completely besides the point. The issue is not people that are being helped by you or anyone else. The issue is that we have a drunk, obnoxious group of homeless people living on our streets and they are both a danger to our community and also damage our quality of life. Do you want children walking home from school to be dealing with this lot? We have policies that are only making this group larger and it's only a matter of time until someone gets assaulted. If that person is a child, all the pollyanaish nonsense will go out the window.

Anonymous said...

If we build it, they will come.

Anonymous said...

you people here want point fingers at the homeless regardless if they drink or not so doesb't 75% of UMASS student mayde on the days thet arenot in class they can all attend AA or NA themselves. Seriously to shame someone situation is pathetic. And post pictures in town hall of the sex offenders of that reside in the shelter which i'm sure there are many more faces that need to be added up there that are not of the homeless. and why should springfield have to support this areas homeless problem it is this towns obligation to deal with their own cities issues. and a yr round shelter should be reported and the staff at the shelter should support the people and offer them guidance in their situations i am homeless and if you post me up here foolishy without my knwoledeg i will sue you what the homeless in the area need isnt a place off the street a structured shelter with indidual service plans to help people not have this as a habitual thing always continously homeless and furth more we dont all drink and to make mocracy of those that do is wrong what about the for rapist that did that to the girl in the UMASS student put them on blast. stop down grading people help them

Anonymous said...

Okay,many of the "Drunks" you see on the street are not Homeless people. I volunteered there for a season two nights per week and they do not "flock" here per your migratory geese sentiment. Most of them had some type of family,other tie to this area.They are not all "Bums" They are simply not "townies" like many of the hate filled posters on this thread. Have they ever done anything to you personally? I would guess not. Many of the so called "Bums" that you refer to do not stay at the homeless shelter. There were two individuals that stayed there who volunteered at every single church meal function that they could find as well as cleaning,washing dishes,unloading trucks full of donations at the Amherst Survival center. One older gentleman actually helped out two of the college student volunteers there with some Mathematics that they were having a hard time with. Because,guess what,he was a High School Math Teacher in the 1970's and 1980's. Many of the "Angry Drunks" that one poster referred to could have easily been an Amherst Local or just someone passing through drinking with someone else. Did he have a sign on his back stating to you that he was homeless? What would you do if you were travelling in the Western United States and your car broke down in the middle of a dirt road in western Wyoming. No cell phone signal,no one around for 60 miles. 10 degrees below zero. You would have to walk all night with the cold burning your face and hands. At that moment,you are temporarily homeless. Without shelter or resources. Tell me,what would you do?.People are not coming to Amherst because it is a "Wet" shelter. At the moment they have no other place to go. Well,hell,this is certainly a "Wet" town. A lot of taverns,bars,liquor stores. There are a lot of "Wet" people here,not just some of the homeless. I say some because,believe it or not,there are lot of homeless people who do not drink or use drugs.There are a lot of homeless people who go to AA meetings on a regular basis trying their best to stay away from the firewater and or narcotics. Okay, as far as Violence and homeless people. They are far far far far more likely to be the victims of violence than the other way around. Homeless people commiting acts of violence against housed individuals is exceedingly rare. Homeless,especially those who sleep outside have been attacked,beaten severely,robbed. Homeless women have been sexually assaulted and beaten. Young Psychopaths the world over have found it entertaning to attack the homeless with objects,fists,feet,tire irons,baseball bats. Douse them with gasoline or lighter fluid and set them on fire. Some of this sociopathy has been posted on you tube. So, I guess that the shelter is wet,however,it is a safe place out of the cold. There is also a section for Women,thank god,because things are certainly not safe for them on the street alone. Sure,there are a couple of bad eggs. Repeat after me. People are homeless because they do not have a place to live. Most of them will again. They are,above all,human beings with dignity,love in their hearts for those they care about,they have feelings,they have compassion,they have fear. They are just as human and deserving of dignity as anyone else. Maybe some of you hate my posts,well,guess what,freedom of speech and opinion.

Anonymous said...

To the last poster. You also have a drunken,obnoxious bunch of college students who are living on your streets and leaving their vomit,broken bottles,urine,broken windows,umpteen assault and dui arrests. Hold on, they bring money to your fair town. Ahhh,money,the vasoline salve of all that ills. Just make sure that you step over the dried vomit and broken beer bottles on your way to Starbucks to spend your precious"money"