The problem of dealing with the homeless in our communities has been with us for many years, and we're no closer to a solution now than were when it first arose.
The reason we're not closer is that little, if anything, has changed -- including society's attitude toward the homeless.
The street-dwellers keep up their daily routine totally oblivious to the studies, efforts and grants used to make their lot better. Personal effects -- some say debris -- attached to baby strollers, their daily fashions consisting of varying degrees of dishevelment and their legendary lack of hygiene all add to the frustration and remind us of our failed efforts to deal with the homeless problem.
There are, however, certain facts about the homeless that remain unchanged, regardless of where they are found:
1. Homeless people are different than we are and will remain so,
2. Any efforts to make them like us are useless and tend to annoy the homeless,
3. They are and will remain fiercely independent in spite of our efforts,
4. They will not follow rules; if they did, they probably wouldn't be homeless, and
5. (I'm going out on a limb on this one) they have a lot of personal pride even though they show it in a way that is inconsistent with what we generally accept as demonstrations of pride.
If society attempts to set aside or designate certain areas where they are to camp, they may not agree with that choice and choose to live elsewhere (see Nos. 3 and 4 above).
They would rather live in a locale of their own choosing than to have someone direct them to an area they may find unacceptable. In this regard, the homeless may come close to being like the rest of us.
Society should extend some accommodations such as chemical toilets, medical care and police protection as needed. By doing so, we yield some of our pent-up animosity toward the homeless. It is important that we never lose our charitable instincts just because the homeless may exceed our tolerances for acceptable human activity.
On the other hand, they are by no means exempt from the rules of society and their status as homeless does not give them privileges not accorded to anyone else.
If they trespass, steal or are engaging in practices that are detrimental to an orderly society, they should be held to account. In other words, regarding all of the above, they should be treated like any other citizen.
They differ from the rest of us because they take their lifestyle to an extreme with which we are not comfortable. Like water, homelessness will seek its own level; and like water, it will either evaporate or replenish itself from whatever source, This is a natural occurrence and we can't do anything about it.
Bultena, a retired Merced County deputy district attorney, is a former visiting editor. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.