‘Homelessophobia’ takes over Menifee

Bill Freeman

Special to Valley News

A few years ago I went to get my driver’s license renewed. It was my day off, so I might have looked kind of grubby or like a homeless person, because the woman behind the counter asked me questions I’d never been asked before when getting my license renewed.

“Do you have hallucinations? Do you hear voices?” she said.

I chuckled and said, “No. But I do see visions. But I think I’m supposed to because I’m a minister.”

She laughed and said to the woman next to her, “This one says he sees visions, but it’s OK because he’s a minister.”

She laughed too. They did renew my license.

I really do see visions, though. I see a vision for the city of Menifee where there are no homeless people. Instead they’re in low-cost housing with a case worker getting them job training, mental health help or drug addiction assistance. In my vision, the city of Menifee pays for all this help, because, as Willie Sutton said when he was asked why he robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”

I thought city council members saw the same vision when they set up a Homeless Task Force about a year ago and their mantra was, “Housing First.” In other words, they would fund housing for the homeless first, then get them help.

But next the council passed an ordinance prohibiting “aggressive panhandling,” which wasn’t “Housing First,” but was “Punishment First.” It’s understandable though, because they don’t want a homeless person asking for money from people at the ATM.

Next, the council hired two park rangers who roused homeless people out of parks, parking lots, etc., sending them on their way to someplace else. This action was still not “Housing First;” it’s more like, “Shuffle-them-off-to-Buffalo First.” Again, it’s understandable, because homeless people are not wanted in parks, parking lots, etc.

By this point, I was willing to accept that we weren’t going to have “Housing First,” we were going to have “Housing Last.”

But at a recent Homeless Task Force meeting, I was told by a city council member that there was not going to be any city funds to pay for a case worker or for housing for homeless people. So, now it’s not “Housing First” or even, “Housing Last,” but it’s “Housing Never.”

Again, I suppose it’s understandable. From what I’ve seen in more than three years of living in Menifee, people don’t want the homeless here. And the city council must believe no one wants their hard-earned tax dollars to pay for helping and housing homeless people. So where are the homeless supposed to go? To the next town? But the next town will just send their homeless people back to Menifee.

I’ve come to realize that just as there is homophobia or a fear of gay people, there is “homelessophobia” or a fear of homeless people. But as the Bible said in I John 4:8, “Perfect love casts out fear.” So what the city of Menifee needs is perfect love to cast out the fear of homeless people.

The Rev. Bill Freeman is the senior minister at Menifee United Church of Christ, which meets 11 a.m. Sundays at 26701 McCall Blvd. in Menifee.

7 Responses to "‘Homelessophobia’ takes over Menifee"

  1. Michael   November 11, 2017 at 7:05 pm

    Why do you have the racist sign “Black lives matter” on the side of your church?

    Reply
  2. Bill Freeman   November 12, 2017 at 5:04 am

    Because the “Black Lives Matter” sign is not racist, it’s a recognition that unarmed blacks are frequently shot and killed by police as if black lives don’t matter. Surely you’ve seen the video of a cop in South Carolina shooting and killing an unarmed black man as he ran away from him and then the cop planted his taser next to the man’s dead body and claimed the black man stole his taser. And there are many other videos of unarmed blacks being shot and killed by police. If unarmed whites were being shot and killed by police, we would put up a “White Lives Matter” sign.

    Reply
  3. David   November 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Bill,

    Many of us pay 1.9%, 2.1%, or possibly more in property tax to live in Menifee. We also voted for a one cent public safety sales tax increase. I like Menifee, but I pay more in taxes than many people I know in other cities that generally have higher house prices. I would prefer to live in these cities, but they are frankly out of my financial reach. So, do I want my tax dollars being spent on some of the things you mentioned? No – absolutely not. Why? It’s not because of your “homelessophobia” buzzword. You may or may not know it, but many of these people want to be on the street (for various reasons). If you do not believe me, go on a ride-along with the sheriff’s department and speak with the homeless you encounter. Are many of them drug addicts or have mental issues? Yes, but short of locking them up, they will not want housing with strict rules (which would be needed). I suggest your church fund any housing project you desire.

    Again, I am not your Menifee resident suffering from a deranged “homelessophobia” because I do not have your utopian outlook. I would love to see women and children suffering from homelessness due to domestic violence or other circumstances get housing. I would like to see veterans suffering from conditions caused by their service to our country getting help. However, I am not going to pay tax dollars for a flop house.

    And for the Menifee residents doubting me, look at cities with shelters. Some of them had to make a rule that it was women and children only due to problems. Maximum capacity was also a reason. Like a sinking ship, it was women and children only. Did these cities also have so many homeless that they just could not house them all? Not necessarily. Other police departments have been known to drop off homeless at shelters in other cities. Problem solved for one city and problem caused for another. How about people being released from prison and getting a bus ticket to a homeless shelter. Not a halfway house – a by the night shelter. Think crime goes up in these cities?

    Here are some final words of wisdom for you, Bill. People don’t like to be labeled en masse. This has been a favorite of people in tasteless politics, but you sir are supposed to be a man of god? You have just labeled yourself with that move. I will let the people of Menifee decide what label is appropriate for you.

    Reply
  4. David   November 12, 2017 at 10:32 am

    Wow, Bill. You follow-up your terrible article with a much worse reply about police shootings. I cannot imagine people following you for spiritual guidance. I cannot wait for your views to spread, and we’ll make sure they do. I don’t think the “homelessophobia” people of Menifee will care too much for your views.

    Reply
  5. Man of Universe   November 13, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Hey Bill you’ve got a good vision…. Unfortunately the only two people who decided to comment on your article are disgruntled white tax payers who are ill-informed about police injustice…
    People are really afraid of homeless, Bill.
    Quite frankly they are just loathed. They are seen as a vermin.

    Reply
  6. Dorothy   November 13, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    I imagine those taking the issue from the homeless issue unto the pastor himself is a great example of those trying to work at and address the problem being scrutinized. I also assume those attacking the pastor must be fully involved themselves with attending city council meetings and working towards a solution. Otherwise, I’m not sure what help any of this? Attack someone trying to solve a problem that you are not addressing. But, then I guess that’s our society those who try and find solutions are stacked on other issues by those doing nothing. Great work here in the comments, you’ve successfully changed the issue at hand into something completely different and once again were no closer to a solution. Oh and never mind the city of Menifee making promise they completely broke. That’s irrelevant because pastor Bill has a sign on his church.

    Reply

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