For what it’s worth, here’s my reply to Stuart Kahn’s heartfelt letter [March 22]:
I was homeless for five months last year, learning in the process that our society has no safety net, except perhaps prison. I squeaked by telling a different person each night that my roommate had a girl over and wanted privacy. True homeless people are in a bad state of permanent shock–their lives have been shattered by one thing or another. These are the first victims of the cryptocriminal masquerading as homeless, or using homelessness as an excuse for bad behavior. A good example of this happened outside of the Rainbo Club recently.
A decent man sold StreetWise outside the Rainbo for several weeks. Once the word got out, things started to go badly. I saw with my own eyes a thug drive this decent man away with threats and proceeded to do his “homeless” shtick to the bourgeois patrons of the Rainbo. It was downhill from there as a series of creatures, each slightly more grotesque and frightening than the next, steadily increased the level of harassment. Now there is no one in front of the Rainbo, and as for the decent man–who knows? It is this sort of character I refuse to be victimized by, the sort who clearly relished making commuters’ lives miserable by lengthy haranguing speeches and threats–often by the same people day after day–until the CTA finally put a stop to it in 1996.
To be foulmouthed about it, a shitbag is a shitbag. Being poor and black is no excuse. If these people were rich and white they would exercise their skulduggery in a corporate office instead of the street. Plus, as I’ve said, their primary victims are those worse off than themselves–the rest of society is gravy.