I have a big heart for homeless people and I am slowly developing this heart of mine to be as big for everyone on the planet as it is for the hobos. I have blips and blind spots, but I feel I am making progress.
I am sure most of you folks have seen the tragic video of the Los Angeles police struggling with and then killing a homeless man. As an ex-hobo I can tell you the relationship between police and homeless, over all, is antagonistic at best. My first hobo influenced response was, “f**cking cops were being way to aggressive right from the start.”
But as I said, I am trying to expand my heart, and on reflection I understand the police are trained to be aggressive in those type of situations.
What the police are not trained in is how to deal with people who have post traumatic stress disorder, both within their own ranks, and with those who suffer from it in there community.
I am guessing, after observation and being there myself, 90 percent of the skid row homeless people have PTSD. I imagine police also suffer a high rate of PTSD, and find themselves in fight or flight as much as many hobo’s do.
The basic antagonism between the police and homeless flow from the broader community. The police feel pressure from the business people to do something about the homeless. The business folks want them out of site and out of mind. As a result the police are constantly called to make a homeless person move somewhere else, which is generally a skid row area.
Many of the police I have talked to want to give the homeless a break if they are not committing crimes, but they are called to enforce all sorts of ordinances written to keep homeless people out of business districts.
However, homeless people have very little if any legal help. Some police take advantage of that and are far more aggressive than they need to be when dealing with your average homeless person, knowing there will be little repercussions. So many homeless people carry a deep mistrust of the police.
What may seem like routine procedure for a police officer can often trigger violent reactions from someone with PTSD. Lots of homeless folks were beaten, molested, raped and screamed at as children. So simply being frisked can trigger a very violent response. Training police on what to look for, in my mind, could potentially change many tragic outcomes.
Even if police just took more time simply getting to know homeless people in there districts there would be less fear on both sides.
Besides PTSD the police ironically share another characteristic with homeless people. They are often unknown, avoided and mistrusted in their communities.
If things are going to improve both police and homeless people are going to have to become known and understood in the communities in which they live. It is easier to be aggressive and justify aggression when you are dealing with someone you don’t know, than with someone who is a friend.
Isolation and separation build fear and mistrust and, in general will lead to violence. However in a strong community, where people, regardless of social standing and occupation, know and interact with each and other in a friendly way, peace and generosity flourish.
If we are going to stitch back together our humanity, and what other solution is there to this mess we have created, we must do it with kindness. Kindness blossoms when we take the time to know someone and understand what they have been through.
You all have homeless people and police in your community. Search them out, take the time to listen to their stories and find a way to make them your friend. Shared stories are what make a community.
Your heart will enjoy this and your community will reap the benefits.
Protest to Be Held in Fatal Skid Row Police Shooting As New Video Is Released
Outraged community members and residents were expected to take the streets Tuesday morning and protest the fatal police shooting of a homeless man in the Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles over the weekend that was captured on video. Eric Spillman reports from downtown L.A. for the KTLA 5 Morning News on March 3, 2015.
Sign up to get alerts from Joe!