I was at Fisher's Bike store in Sugarhouse today to get Garrett and Dalton new bikes. I had been dealing with a nice sales guy, talking about Salt Lake and the shopping areas. He was really involved in his neighborhood of Gateway and was lamenting City Creek and how they'd poached many of Gateway's best stores.
I was agreeing with him and found him to be a nice and knowledgeable guy. Then a bike cop came in. I asked the bike cop if the Road Home (state homeless shelter) was part of his area. He rolled his eyes and answered in the affirmative, which told me everything I needed to know about his feelings toward the homeless.
At that point the sales guy chirps in and voices his opinion of the Road Home. He tells us that we can't be PC about it and that the city needs to scrap that place and move the homeless shelter to a new location. I am trying to stay positive as I am pretty shocked at his comments. I tell him that the shelter has been there for over twenty years, when there was nothing in that area but railroad tracks and that it's the Gateway's development that has displaced the homeless shelter.
The sales guy goes on to say that we can't think that way. That there are tons of criminals, and crazies that are living off the system and are not being empowered by it, and that the Road Home does nothing to actually help the homeless people. He tells me that 5% of the clients there actually move on but the rest come back. I tell him that I know the woman who works in rapid rehousing to help the families get in to apartments or homes, and that the success rates are much higher than that.
I respond that I volunteer with the children that live there every week and that I see that place do a lot of good. If it weren't for that shelter, these families would be living in their cars or out on the streets. He hesitantly agrees with this statement and says that the families could stay there but that the men need to go.
He says that he can't believe that The Road Home turned down the offer from the LDS church when they said that they would double the amount of beds at the shelter, if they would sell their property and move to welfare square, that is located about four blocks south and eight blocks west. I told him that that made sense to me, as that would prevent all the people from having access to food and medical needs if they were that far west and that far away from public transportation. He just shrugged and said that it's what L.A. and all the big cities did- moved their homeless away from the cities.
The cop looks at him and can tell that this is an argument that is going no where, so he says his goodbyes and leaves the shop. I tell the salesman that many of the men that are living at the shelter are there because they have mental illnesses that they have no medication for, and so they self medicate with drugs and alcohol as they are unable to call up their primary care doc and order in a quick Rx for Aderall or Prozac like the rest of the anxiety and depression filled state of Utah.
He tells me that there are a lot of crazies there but that he has a Masters in Political Science and he knows that it's all about politics. It is at this point that I am repulsed. It's been building up in me during the entire conversation, but at this point I can stand it no longer. So he's at the cash register, he's rung up my purchase of $170 for a new bike for Garrett, and is waiting for my credit card, when I tell him that I am going to wait.
Garrett and Dalton are shocked. Dalton's already picked out his free stickers. The salesman is pretty shocked as well. If I had a real backbone I would have told his manager that I can not support a store that has such judgement against the most desperate and needy people in the state. While I have no idea what the store owners feelings are about homelessness in this state, I am disgusted enough by this employee that I can not do business with him.
There's a new bike shop that is right by my house in the 15th and 15th area. I have no idea what this owner's views are on the homeless, but until he shows me that he doesn't deserve my business, I am going to be doing business with him.