Monday, February 27, 2006

The HSU-Endeavor: a blessing for Conservatives

Something very strange has been going on with the Arcata Endeavor for several years, ever since it was taken over by HSU academics. They simply don’t care about their negative impact on the larger community.

In her January 24 Arcata Eye column, Kathy Marshall refers to the Endeavor management’s “we-know-better-than-you” and “we-care-more-than-you” postures at public meetings, and their basic attitude of “closed-mindedness to community concern”. That is an accurate characterization.

The ultimate source of this unaccountable attitude has to be those who are the ultimate authorities at the Endeavor – the Board of Directors. City Council members are secondary as political supporters of this irresponsibility because it originates with the Board and their academic consultants.

Way back in 1998, before the Arcata Endeavor even existed in its present location, Eureka’s Multiple Assistance Center (MAC) wrote a draft of operational guidelines. The very first sentence in the guidelines was this:

“NEIGHBORHOOD WELL-BEING is of primary concern.”

That’s exactly how it was written, “NEIGHBORHOOD WELL-BEING” emphasized in capital letters. The need for this priority was very obvious to all clear-thinking people in Eureka then, and still is. It is perfectly obvious to all clear-thinking people in Arcata too.

Unfortunately, that leaves out the Endeavor Board, their academic consultants and City Council supporters. Unwilling to think clearly and honestly on this issue, the need to make neighborhood well-being a priority has never been obvious to them. Unwilling to admit their responsibility for the social problems they’ve created, the Board and subordinate staff resort to pompous and self-righteous evasions at public meetings.

The “we-care-more-than-you” ploy is quite a brazen hypocrisy. The obvious truth is this: they don’t care at all. Not about Arcata. They care about homeless people, but not about the Endeavor’s negative effect on Arcata. They don’t care about the very community which helps them, the tolerant, generous community which makes the Arcata Endeavor possible in the first place. Board members don’t even care about their own abused staff at the Endeavor.

Neighborhood well-being is not of primary concern to the Board, because the Endeavor is not in their neighborhood. Their neighborhood is the HSU campus – credentials for their “we-know-better-than-you” ploy.

The Arcata Endeavor is a virtual extension of the HSU Department of Sociology. For several years, all the Endeavor management at all levels, including their academic consultants, have been directly connected with HSU or strongly influenced by it.

As of this writing, the neglected Endeavor website lists only the 2004 Board of Directors, but is revealing nevertheless. That Board included two HSU Professors of Social Work, a retired HSU professor, an HSU student in social work, an “Educator” who was a former HSU student, and an accountant who remains the Endeavor treasurer, the only Board member who is not an academic.

After years of scandal the two HSU Professors of Social Work appear to have run for cover, leaving the current Endeavor Board of Directors composed of the retired HSU professor, the Educator who is now an HSU graduate student in social work, an HSU sociology graduate student, a psychotherapist, and the treasurer. The Endeavor Executive Director, subordinate to the Board, is a graduate-student intern, working on her Master’s degree in social work at HSU.

As the highest visible authority at the Endeavor, the Board of Directors must be held accountable as the authors of the Endeavor’s irresponsible policy of indiscriminate service, and its perennial failure to adequately enforce its own rules of conduct for its homeless clients. This pathology-enabling policy is one of co-dependency between HSU academics and that minority of homeless people who are parasitical sociopaths, those who cause all the problems and attract all the negative attention. The sociopaths get free food and services, and the academics make careers out of serving and studying them. But from a safe distance.

Ever since HSU academics took over the Endeavor, most of the Board members have rarely bothered to visit it, spending very little time there when they do. They know very well that their indulgent policy ignores the security needs and well-being of the hardworking staff and volunteers. The Endeavor is a miserably chaotic, stressful place to work, with a frequently miserable atmosphere for the cooperative majority of homeless people too, including children.

If the ivory-tower academics actually had to work and live with the results of their own policy, they would change it very quickly.

And if the policy were changed there would be no need to relocate the Endeavor, at least as a day-use facility. As it is, since they indiscriminately offer free food and services to abusive sociopaths, psychopaths and even psychotics, the Endeavor Board is therefore responsible for attracting them to this town – many more than would come if the Endeavor did not feed and serve them. Unconditional service attracts ungrateful sociopaths like flies to honey, and encourages them to remain parasitical.

Merely relocating an expanded Arcata Service Center to any place within walking distance of town, however, will not solve the problem. Not as long as indiscriminate, unconditional service to abusive and demented people is continued. With the ASC on west Samoa Blvd. or South G there is nothing to prevent these walking chaos vortexes from wandering to the Plaza and all over town every day, continuing the conditions that exist now.

Those who are violently psychopathic, drug-possessed and psychotic need to be institutionalized. It is not fair for the Endeavor to inflict them on this small town. The streets of Arcata cannot serve the needs of psychotics. (Except on Friday and Saturday nights, of course, but that’s another issue.)

Since all big cities are massive insane asylums anyway, and almost all the dementoids are spawned by such fine municipalities, renowned loony bins like Los Angeles and San Francisco (not to mention New York and Washington D.C.) should take back and treat their own nutcases, not send them forth like viruses to plague tolerant little towns like Arcata.

In the meantime, the only real solution is for the Endeavor to have a firmly enforced policy which reforms or repels pathological parasites, discouraging them from coming here in the first place.

Overnight shelters enforce very strict rules of behavior because they have to in order to survive. There is absolutely no reason why similarly strict rules of behavior should not have been enforced by the Endeavor from the beginning. It would have spared Arcata years of trouble.

The continued existence of the Endeavor/ASC should be accepted only on the condition that they end their indulgence of abusive behavior and their policy of indiscriminate, unconditional service. They must replace it with a policy that is responsible to the community.

The academics need to pull their heads out of their textbooks and face reality. Board members and their consultants are too up-in-their-heads, too conceptualized, confused and cloned by Academia to admit this simple, obvious, social responsibility.

Two simple principles are the antidote to Endeavoritis:

1. Stop tolerating abusive behavior.
2. Stop feeding and serving abusers.

These can be translated into brand new, never-before-tried Endeavor policies like these:

1. A strict policy of zero tolerance for unprovoked abusive behavior, with the muscular ability to enforce that policy by immediately ejecting abusers from the premises (catapult optional).

This requires hiring someone who is physically able to provide security for staff and volunteers. This is absolutely essential, a top priority. It has repercussions for the whole town.

No doubt the Board academics will whine about how to define “abusive behavior”. Beyond a few simple, common-sense guidelines that are easy to define, let the operations manager, security person and front-desk people make the final determination in each case. They’re the ones who have to suffer the abuse, and they have a right to do something about it.

The Endeavor staff have never had a security person, as such, and therefore have never been able to adequately deal with violently abusive people. In the worst cases they call the police, but they don’t want to do that too often since it would create more records and statistics which reveal what a major source of chaos the Endeavor is for Arcata. As a result, Endeavor staff don’t always call the police when they should, and therefore have to endure screaming, threatening, abusive people while trying to “reason” with them.

This is correctly interpreted by the more determined abusers as a sign of weakness. It encourages them to continue abusing people and makes the Endeavor a miserably stressful place for everybody. The abusers are thereby encouraged to go out and molest the rest of Arcata too.

And of course the Board does not care about that. They care only about denying their responsibility for it.

2. The second essential policy is one of refusing all food and services not only to such abusers, but ideally to all physically able people who refuse to give help back to the community which helps them.

Of course those with babies and little children should be exempted since the children need to be with their parents or caregivers, if those adults are loving and responsible.

Those who are mentally unable to give help back need to be in therapeutic institutions, not on the streets. Therefore they should not be attracted to this town by a limited day-use facility. All other able-bodied parasites would benefit from their vices not being aided and abetted.

It’s very interesting that in spite of the Endeavor Board’s encouragement of parasitism, there are always plenty of decent homeless volunteers willing, indeed proud, to work at the Endeavor and do public service work around town in return for the services they are given. This shows that a great many of the homeless are good quality people. They truly deserve the Endeavor’s kind services.

Because of abuse by pathological types, however, common sense makes it clear that work-in-return needs to be mandatory, not voluntary. Such a policy would repel the most belligerent parasites, and reform the others.

This means creating a public-service work program with supervisors to organize work crews. It would also need community cooperation and participation, but where there’s a will, there’s a way. It would be free labor for the community, and there have always been plenty of decent homeless people who are happy to work in return for the help of a kind community like Arcata. Such work could translate into permanent jobs for some homeless people. It would enable them to make contact with the community in positive ways, creating friendships and a lot of good PR for the Endeavor and the decent majority of homeless people.

As for the others: reform or repel. This is the only strategy that will liberate Arcata from the minority who are ungrateful, abusive parasites and mentally ill. And it will stop feeding the careers of irresponsible, co-dependent academics who see them as adult children to be coddled and indulged. Or as lab rats to be studied and reported in theses, professorial publications and grant applications, while they exploit the hapless town as their open-air laboratory.

If the HSU-Endeavor Board can’t find it within their hearts to stop inflicting psychopaths on Arcata, there is one thing that will motivate them very rapidly:

Put the new Arcata Service Center on the HSU campus.

Seriously. Since the Board members “care” so much about homeless people, they should welcome this idea with open arms, and tears of... joy.

Imagine the thrilling educational opportunity it would be for everyone. Students, faculty, administration and homeless people would all intermingle day after day, year after year, enriching each other’s lives with the Diversity sociologists champion so zealously. And it certainly would be more efficient for research.

Such a bold experiment might even attract national attention, and with it, The Money so desperately coveted by the HSU administration. With any luck at all they could surround the entire campus with a Big White Santa-Barbara-Style Wall, $350,000 Gateways at every entrance. Maybe a few more white towers too.

Meanwhile, playing host to the creeps and screaming lunatics who would daily populate the campus (the homeless ones, that is), all the students, faculty and administration would learn firsthand how the derelict policy of the Endeavor Board makes life hell for everyone, homeless and housed alike.

There would be a lot of homeless canine visitors to the campus too, and their human companions would inform their fellow campusinos that the dogs are not merely pets. Homeless people are far more vulnerable to criminals and nutcases on the street than people who are sheltered in houses and apartments. Dogs provide protection in a fearfully insecure existence. When a homeless person is sleeping outside at night, even a puppy will sound the alarm for approaching strangers in the darkness.

Here is a recent quote (Feb. 8, 2006) from a homeless man who has lived in this area for years:
“I’m not being paranoid when I say it’s definitely not safe for the homeless on the streets in Arcata at night. Too many drugged-out crazies. I’ve been here a long time and this is the worst I’ve seen.”

He said he has actually preferred for years to sleep outside, but now for the first time he’s hoping there will be a shelter so he can sleep safely. He says a lot of the drug takers are using heroin.

Heroin addicts are always a major source of burglaries in any community since they are always in desperate need of cash to pay for their addiction. These are the types of people the Endeavor Board is attracting to Arcata.

Dogs provide some protection from criminals and crazies, but simple companionship is perhaps the most important reason dogs are so commonly seen with homeless people. Homelessness can be an unbearably lonely hell on Earth, and a dog might be the truest friend you’ll ever have.

And if the ivory-tower academics responsible for the Endeavor’s delinquent policy were as sensible, honest and genuinely caring as the average dog, Arcata wouldn’t have a perennial problem with so many traveling psychopaths and drug addicts who make life hell for everyone, homeless and housed alike.

This endless Endeavor problem is causing very serious political damage, and liberals who do nothing to stop it are sabotaging their own causes. (For brevity I’ll use the generic terms “liberal”, “moderate” and “conservative”, although Arcata has many people with eclectic views that defy simplistic categorizations.)

Just as the recent Fox News-Attack on Arcata, along with the ignorant hate-email attack, have created a circle-the-wagons effect among many Arcatans who love their town, strengthening the resolve of Arcata’s progressives and liberals, so the problems caused by the Endeavor have long had a politically empowering effect on local conservatives. Similarly, the McKinley statue is a permanent irritant and affront to those with a social conscience, stimulating and thereby strengthening progressive liberals. And the Endeavor provides conservatives with a steadily growing supply of political ammo to fire at those liberals.

If the problem is not solved by liberals and moderates in a humane way, by forcing a change in Endeavor policy, it will help conservatives to solve it their way: getting rid of the Endeavor altogether. This is absolutely essential to continue the process of “gentrification” in Arcata.

Worst-case scenario: Arcata mutates into a North Coast Santa Barbara or Carmel-by-the-Sea, a bourgeois asylum where property values are the highest values, and the high cost of living is out of reach for most people who live here now. All the scary poor people have been shooed away to other towns, and many are newly homeless, unable to afford rising rents in Arcata.

The farmland is gone too, its once-open spaces choked with private golf courses and gated housing developments all the way to the beach. The beautiful mist-draped forest on Fickle Hill is just a memory, cut down and crowded out by hundreds of big expensive houses, condos and HSU buildings looking down on the town, and a gentrified, ossified Arcata-by-the-Bay plays host to affluent herds of bovine tourists in starched shorts and sterile expressions, languidly strolling the soulless streets.

Today Arcata-in-the-Rain is a relatively democratic, freethinking, creative little town, a human town. That is possible only because Big Money and over-development have been kept out, so far. But capital-craving conservatives will never stop trying to shackle Arcata more firmly to inhuman corporate interests, and the endless trouble caused, and rage aroused, by Endeavor policy strengthens these conservatives.

That fact reveals a connection between the new $350,000 HSU gateways and the Endeavor’s irresponsible policy. The money-squandering gateway, though symbolic, is still a blatant encroachment of mercenary gentrification, a warning of things to come. And the strangely unaccountable HSU-Endeavor policy has very effectively and conveniently created a huge social problem for several years which politically strengthens conservatives, encouraging gentrification as a solution.

So if the Endeavor Board insists on welcoming abusive parasites and psychotics to Arcata, it’s only fair that the people of Arcata welcome the new Arcata Service Center to the HSU campus.

Something tells me though, that Academia-on-the-Hill would soon muster all its credentialed brilliance, working overtime to devise clever ways of repelling pathological people from Arcata.

Penniless ones, at least.