Compass: We need an effective way to help street drunks out of the cycle

By PAUL FUHSJuly 31, 2013 

The dog was barking like crazy. Not like "oh look, there is a dog walking down the sidewalk" but the serious kind like "get your wrist rocket and marbles Dad, a moose is eating our garden."

It was 3:30 in the morning and I hauled myself out of bed to see what was happening. I looked out the dining room window and jumped back as I saw a man climbing the wood pile and trying to come through the window to get inside. His drunken state kept him from getting very far.

He stepped back into the yard and pulled his pants down to relieve himself but with his pants down around his knees, couldn't keep his balance and fell down among the garden hoses, thrashing about as if doing battle with a giant tentacled monster.

Finally the alcohol took total control and he passed out, his pants still around his knees. I called the Anchorage Safety Patrol and two vans arrived in five minutes. I walked out into the yard to point the man out to them.

They aimed their flashlights into his eyes. "What's your name?" they asked him repeatedly. He finally managed "Johnny." As they pulled up his pants and led him away, the only other word I heard him say was "backpack." The ASP folks looked around but couldn't find anything.

The next morning my wife found it in the alley behind our home. I called ASP to see if I could connect him with his pack since it was probably all he had. The answer was: "We really don't do that. These guys lose their stuff all the time. I would suggest that you just pitch it."

Headed to the trash can, I thought I would take a look inside to get a glimpse into the life of the man in our yard. Inside was a bag with 6 bottles of prescription drugs, a pack of Marlboros, one clean pair of socks, a GCI bill for $4.13 (the essentially free government cell phone), letters from Ketchikan Public Assistance, a notice for a hearing on food stamp eligibility and a country western novel ironically called "Stand Proud."

Although he had invaded our personal space, I started to feel sympathy for this broken human being. I tried to find him on the Internet and did: sex offender list, sexual abuse of a minor, class 2. Sympathy? Not so much now. I started to think about the things he might have done to some innocent young boy or girl but my mind just didn't even want to go there. He was obviously out of his element here in Anchorage, but would his village ever take him back?

What if I weren't at home and he had entered the house and went after my wife or 6- year-old daughter? Would people complain or protest if they "stood their ground"?

One thing was clear: We are paying for all of this. Free food, free shelter, free medical, free phone, free welfare. I am sure the people providing this support system have the best of intentions. But the bottom line is that all of his welfare check or any other money can be put entirely into the bottle. Are we really doing Johnny a favor?

I am sure the next morning when he was let out of the dry tank, his first stop was Bean's Café and then on to the liquor store to start it all over again.

This is clearly an unacceptable situation for all involved and sets a horrible example for our children. In Fairview, we carry a disproportionate share of the burden from the system that enables the street drunks. The Fairview Business Association has been working to come up with solutions. We will share those in a subsequent article.

In the meantime, we thank the Anchorage Daily News for its announcement that it will give this issue attention until we can find something that will work for the benefit of all, including the homeless inebriate.

Paul Fuhs is the project manager for the Fairview Business Association.

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