Letters

Squat's Up
I totally disagree with Tempe's proposed ordinance to prevent homeless kids from sitting on sidewalks ("Crusty Crackdown," David Holthouse, October 22). I think it is wrong and should not be accepted. I am an upper-class white male, and feel sorry for the bums on the street. They have nowhere else to go. If the people who thought of this law had any brains, they would not take the time to pass this law; rather, they would take the time to think of a nice place to build a homeless shelter to house these people. Why spend your time just trying to move the problem to another location when you could help the problem right where it is? If this ordinance is approved, I am sure you will have more problems afterward: bums breaking into stores; sleeping in the basements; sleeping in people's houses, alleyways, Dumpsters; and the list goes on and on.

Think once more before you take this any farther, Tempe.
Chris Kukulski
Phoenix

Before I criticize, I would like to say that I really commend your paper for addressing some important issues and taking radical and honest up-front stands. I am an extremely busy college student and mother and I am inspired to take the time to write in the face of the disgusting injustice of Tempe's "sidewalk squatting laws." The picture painted by David Holthouse of the "squatter kids" shows his obvious prejudices (which I know are shared by many) and ignorance. He stated that some survey suggested at least half of them do drugs. Who did the "informal survey"? What was the sample size? There are a million problems with surveying nomadic groups. (Yes, I'm sure some of them do drugs, but what percentage of the American public in general do?)

I have an alternative picture to present. As a student of anthropology, I became very interested in this seeming subculture years ago when I befriended a "squatter" girl who was in an anthropology class of mine. I was amazed that she was homeless and in school. I learned so much from her, including my own prejudices and ignorance. She never did drugs; she would gather food to feed other homeless. She was an incredibly kind person. I once asked her why she didn't just comb her hair and dress like normal people so that she wouldn't get hassled so much, and she said, "Wouldn't it be better if people learned to not judge me based on how I look?" I developed such respect for her--I care too much how people judge me and I still am not willing to be a martyr to teach them.

I befriended another "traveler" who also did not ever do drugs. She was a multitalented craftswoman traveling around and selling her arts, which I feel much better supporting than some huge corporation mass-producing and often enslaving Third World people.

These proposed laws are discriminatory and aimed at getting rid of "undesirables" (whom, ironically, the Tempe business owners used to value as adding character to downtown). I guarantee the police and security won't be giving "normal-looking" people a hard time.

The motivation for a lot of these kids and people to travel is that (as one informant in the article stated) they don't want to participate in most of the mainstream ways. I can hardly blame them. The squatters I have talked to are intelligent and aware--often more so than the average, mainstream young Americans I know.

I propose we get rid of the bars on Mill and make the buildings into safe rest stops with clean showers and food for these travelers. They would be cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing to us, and fewer bars would cut down on drinking and driving and alcohol-related crimes prevalent in our college town. But, of course, nobody would be making money.

Name withheld by request

Editor's note: David Holthouse conducted his own survey, which he described in his October 22 piece as "informal." Regarding his alleged "ignorance," earlier this year Holthouse wrote a major piece on the Tempe street culture ("Meet the Crusties," February 26). His reporting involved weeks of interviewing and observing the homeless of Tempe.

I think it's a joke to close down Mill Avenue. Sure, there's a lot of hanging out; but as long as they're not causing any trouble, leave them alone.

Scott Johnson
Phoenix

Jailhouse Crock
Perhaps you're being a bit too hard on Joke Arpaio (Flashes, October 22). Perhaps all these problems are "isolated incidents." Perhaps the only systemic problems in his jails are the "isolated incidents."

Chuck George
Glendale

Heat Rash
Gilbert Garcia's Soundcheck column about the liquor department and The Heat nightclub was excellent ("Hot Water," October 8). I'm glad to see that someone has the Arizona liquor department's number. And maybe someday, someone out there will do something about it.

When I told the Electric Ballroom's attorney (a former assistant attorney general for the liquor department who helped revoke more licenses than anyone else while in that position) that no matter how many polygraph tests I passed or witnesses I produced, nothing seemed to make a shred of difference toward what I thought was a pursuit of justice, he chuckled: "Justice? Who said anything about justice? Welcome to the world of Arizona liquor law!"

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