John Hardin / @ 7:27 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Drug Treatment Doesn’t Solve the Housing Crisis


I know we need drug treatment options here in Humboldt County, and probably a corporate chain-store methadone clinic is better than nothing, but I can’t help but think that this new Aegis clinic is what they plan to give us instead of affordable housing. Not that long ago, Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell toured homeless encampments in Southern Humboldt with law enforcement. Afterwards, when she spoke to the press, she didn’t say, “Wow, look at all of these people living outside, I guess we really need more housing here in SoHum.” Instead, she said something like, “It sure seems like a lot of the people living outside in the rain and cold have drug problems, I guess we need more drug treatment.”

We got the same story from the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission. All year we asked the HRC to pressure the Board of Supervisors to declare a shelter emergency so that we could create some safe, affordable housing, and address the growing problem of vigilante violence against the poor and homeless here in SoHum. After more than a year of hounding willfully ignorant and purposefully dense politicians and political operatives about this, I finally got a call from HRC Commissioner Lance Morton to come talk about solutions.

So I made another special trip to town to meet with them, to talk about these alleged “solutions,” and the first words out of his mouth were “We’re going to have drug treatment on demand!”

None of us had asked for drug treatment on demand. We went to all of those stupid meetings to demand that something be done about housing. We asked for affordable housing. We asked for tiny house villages. We asked for low-cost campgrounds and we asked for shelters. We also asked for respect for our human rights, and equal protection under the law, but instead, they bring us a methadone clinic.

None of my friends have problems with hard drugs. None of my friends can afford hard drugs. All of the heroin and Oxycontin addicts I know live in houses, and most of them own land, or their family owns land. My friends don’t need drug treatment; we all need affordable housing. None of us have very good housing options, and a lot of us have simply learned to do without.

Again and again we take our grievance to the Board of Supervisors and County Government. We explain the situation until we are blue in the face, and they look at us like they live on Mars and have no idea what we are talking about. After a couple of years of this, they come back and say, “Oh, we see what you mean, but you must be high on drugs if you think we give a fuck about your housing situation. Here’s a corporate chain-store methadone clinic for you.”

For us, Aegis will be just another shitty job that doesn’t pay a living wage. For the drug-addicted gentry of Humboldt County, however, who managed to support their hard drug habit for years, by growing cannabis and selling it on the black market, they can now get methadone treatment, close to home, at the taxpayers expense, through MediCal. Aegis will be an out-patient treatment center, and the only people likely to benefit from out-patient treatment are people who have homes to go home to, after treatment. How convenient! Politicians provide treatment options for addicted dope yuppies, while they heap the stigma of addiction on the poor and homeless. It doesn’t get much sleazier than that.

I found it both disingenuous and insulting to hear HRC Commissioner Lance Morton promote this new treatment center as a solution to the housing crisis. I’m sick and tired of of having my time and energy wasted by willfully ignorant politicians and political operatives who refuse to care about the real needs of poor and working people within this community. I’m even more sick of the heartless greed, punitive hostility and outright violence from the segment of our population who put those assholes on the Board of Supervisors in the first place.

The ugliness on display when someone throws a Molotov cocktail at a man sleeping in the doorway of a church, is a thousand times worse than the pitiful image of a poor man sleeping out in the cold. A poor person sleeping in the doorway of a church says “a man needs help.” Poor people sleeping outside, everywhere, says something else. It means there’s been a disaster, an earthquake, fire, flood, or economic upheaval. We had an economic upheaval. We’re beyond that now.

Today we have people sleeping everywhere, and we pay highly trained and heavily armed warriors to harass and evict them from anywhere they try to hide. Besides that, a segment of our population is not satisfied with the level of violence that our law enforcement officers meet out against them, so they form vigilante gangs that beat crippled old men to death, and set people on fire while they sleep. This is something else entirely.

Today, in Humboldt County, we’re looking at something like Apartheid, or an occupation, or Jim Crow. We’re looking at something much uglier than a natural disaster, and a thousand times uglier than a poor man who needs help. Here, the fascist business class sends well financed, heavily armed warriors to beat-down and intimidate bedraggled, disorganized, traumatized and addicted human beings who have committed no crimes, but have nowhere to hide and lack the strength to fight. These poor souls have no idea how to respond to the situation they find themselves in, and their only weapons against this oppression are the garbage and feces they leave behind and their own appearance.

That’s all that’s left of humanity. That’s all that hasn’t been bought off or taken over by vicious, insatiable, fascistic greed. That’s what’s so ugly about what we see going on here in Humboldt County, and around the country, for that matter, and that’s why it’s so hard to look at it. Seeing desperate people on the streets reminds us of how much of our own humanity we’ve already sacrificed to participate in this whole exploitative system. This system kills us inside, but we can’t face what it’s doing to us, our planet and our children’s future, so we take our resentments out on anyone who can’t, or won’t, get with the program.

We’ve constructed a perfectly exploitative culture that consumes our lives and destroys the planet, but instead of resisting, and standing up to it ourselves, we help the fascists wage war against humanity, profit from that war, and jeer at. We beat down and fire-bomb our broken brothers and sisters while the fascist system grinds them to dust. That’s a special kind of ugly, and it is definitely the ugliest thing about Humboldt County. Nobody wants to see that, and nobody wants their kids to see that, but here in Humboldt County, we have no shame.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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