Unseen

Frank Gerjevic

Within shouting distance of Goose Lake earlier this summer were the signs of a homeless camp, its tent recently struck. Flattened ground, a few containers. No liquor bottles. Good green cover screened the site. You'd have to know it was there or stumble upon it like I did with the dog.

Was it a once and future homeless camp? I don't know. Maybe it was just a place to bed down for some young traveler doing Alaska on $5 a day. Maybe I assumed this place had sheltered one of Anchorage's street people because they've been in the news this summer, dying.

What do we do about that? Are we going to prevent some people from drinking the kind of hard life that makes you 60 before you're 40 and then kills you? Involuntary commitment, honor farms, wet houses, dry camps?

Some or all of the above might help. But I was struck by what Betty Jensen said in Lisa Demer's Sunday story "What's killing the homeless in Anchorage?"

"There's a lot of beatings, rapes and robberies, out in plain view. Pretty much I see people looking at it as, that's a homeless drunk person, and just drive by or watch it or not even help."

Former Anchorage police chief Duane Udland once told of always stopping to check on people who looked like they might be in trouble on the street, whether draped out cold over a curb or stumbling down a bike path. If you don't want to check yourself, he said, call 911.

Let's face it, we're not going to call every time we see someone in rough shape. But if someone looks like they might be in danger, better to check or call, even if it's just for the umpteenth CSP pickup. We can care at least that much.


By Frank Gerjevic