Guest View: Whose homeless problem? |

Guest View: Whose homeless problem?

I do not have to tell anyone about the homeless situation in South Lake Tahoe – it is becoming evident on every corner, especially in the warmer summer months. We all assume it migrates in the winter; it doesn’t. The homeless are just less visible, trying to keep warm.

We all know of someone who is having troubles, with depression, substance abuse or both. It doesn’t matter if you are from Park Place or a park bench – none of us is immune to this disease, yes disease, and it is becoming epidemic. To add insult to injury, you never know when you will be down on your luck with the nationwide unemployment rate reaching 10 percent. Supporting yourself on minimum wages can be challenging. I am all for helping students from foreign countries with housing and jobs. However, it is time to look at our problem here at home. My son, who grew up here, couldn’t get a job because some of the ski resorts and casinos were contracted to employ the Polish and Australian kids. This business about our community members “not wanting to work for minimum wage” is absurd. I saw a nice young man at one of the casinos looking for work. Very clean cut, dressed nicely, and they flat out said, “Sorry we have to hire the Polish.” I could tell by the look on his face he had been everywhere. He even offered to wash dishes. This kid had a degree, and it is insane! Every day I see someone in need. It is hard to turn a blind eye.

When I hear talk of this “annoyance,” this annoys me. 

In addition, “how uncomfortable the situation is becoming.” I ask, uncomfortable for whom? The visitor who comes from the inner city to get away from it all, the local resident or homeowner who finds its negative effect on our tourist dollars, or the poor soul and families who are out there struggling day-to-day. They are trying to keep their dignity and some glimpse of hope, and trust that their luck will change and their prayers will be answered, if they just keep the faith.

I saw a handsome young man out in front of a local grocery store, trying to get enough money to get home after being laid off. I gave him what I could and he started to cry. “No one cares,” he said. My heart sank. He was my son’s age. I thought of how I would feel if it were my son out there in the elements, frightened, alone and confused. Then I started to cry.

Something needs to be done in our community to help our neighbors and friends. We need to come together as a whole, to find a solution for a shelter supported by this community. The system in government is failing. Perhaps a Community Thrift Store raising non-profit funding to launch such a project. We have the resources. I plead that we have enough compassion to work together as an embracing community to find a resourceful solution. Any great idea starts with a strong foundation. As a 21-year resident, I believe we have that here among us.

I have met some of these people. I have heard their stories, and they are not so different from you and me. These are our children, extended family, friends and neighbors. Would they turn their back on you? If you could only take a second look, to see the pain in their eyes that comes from their hearts. Turning a blind eye is not so easy; it is not the answer.

If you wish to share thoughts on a solution, please call me at (530) 543-0154.

– Karen Jaime has been a South Lake Tahoe resident for 21 years.

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