Keep Our Campus Free From Hate

When I read Spencer Grimes’ opinion piece in last week’s paper, titled “Keep Our Campus Free of the Homeless,” I couldn’t help but be slightly horrified at the level of ignorance purveyed in my fellow English major’s words.

I respect his opinion and his right to a safe, comfortable college experience, but to lament the mere existence of homeless people on our campus seems indicative of an Orange-Curtained oversensitivity to the even moderately abnormal.

As a native of the Bay Area, I’ve encountered my share of the homeless. I was born in San Francisco and though I did not live in the city, I did grow up in one of the surrounding suburbs and frequent the city when I’m back home. Though Grimes seems to have been bothered by “at least two homeless people on campus” over the span of a month and an apparent 30-second interaction with a man who “doesn’t have all of the lights on upstairs,” I’ve been chased by a drunk, yelling man down King Street late at night. During my time going to San Jose State University, I’ve had some of these “mentally unstable homeless” try to steal my iPod or cellphone right out of my hand.

Yet, despite having been harassed by the homeless numerous times throughout my life, I still have an immense respect for these people. Because that’s what they are: people. Just like this writer, Grimes or anyone else. A mental disorder doesn’t embezzle oneself of humanity. By the same standard, anyone born with Down syndrome, autism, or any of the other plethora of mental disorders would be considered a second-class citizen.

According to a report on the non-profit informational schizophrenia.com, approximately one third of the homeless population are schizophrenic or manic-depressive; and that statistic is only restricted to these disorders. This does not include those homeless afflicted with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, war veterans whose post-war suffering have prevented them from integrating into what Grimes may consider proper society.

I realize it isn’t the most relevant to keep bringing up San Francisco, but at the heart of Beat culture in the North Beach neighborhood lays the down-and-out bohemia that led to many of the homelessness in the area. Even in high school, my AP English teacher stressed the importance of respecting the homeless. Not all of them have mental conditions, but those who do are likely there because an exclusionary society like the one Grimes seems to advocate pushed them into it from the fringes of life. Some of them are drug addicts, true, but it is exactly this shutting out that leads many of them to drug use.

Even disregarding all of the above, Grimes’ opinions seem in particular poor taste because of the recent murder of Kelly Thomas at the hands of police officers in Fullerton. Thomas, a 37-year-old schizophrenic homeless man at the time of his death, was mortally beaten by said officers (two of whom were convicted; one for second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter, and the other for involuntary manslaughter and excessive force) on July 5 of this year and died five days later at the UC Irvine Medical Center.

Having published this article essentially on the coattails of this blatant disregard for human rights paints a much more severe picture of Grimes’ opinion than it might have otherwise; nevertheless, it is hard not to walk away from Grimes’ article without a bad taste in one’s mouth.

It seems apparent to some readers that Grimes’ article was satire, but if it was, I’m afraid that any satirical tone was lost in what seemed more like an all too sheltered attitude toward the homeless. Even if it was satire, it lacks any of the scathing scorn or caricature that satire usually provides.

I’d like to reiterate that I wholeheartedly respect Grimes’ right to live his life the way he feels, but to vocalize an opinion so ludicrously harsh without any real experience helping or having a real, dangerous encounter with a homeless person comes off as ignorant and sheltered. Though I admit I am not the model of homeless rights advocacy, I at least respect the homeless; if Grimes is bothered by a disheveled man in Langson, it might help him to really think and empathize what it must be like to be in his “thin-soled shoes.”

Michael Chin is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at chinm@uci.edu.