Compared to homelessness, an RV was a godsend

Kurt Daims was in for it - he was bringing homeless people into a residential neighborhood. We all talk a great community line until it comes time to act like one.

Spoon Agave, a former member of the Selectboard and Development Review Board in Brattleboro, serves as a Representative Town Meeting member for District 8.

Having known Kurt Daims and his organization Brattleboro Common Sense for many years, I have followed with interest the brouhaha he created when he bought, at his own expense, a couple of old RVs and parked them in his driveway to shelter a few of the homeless population.

I did see these vehicles and, though they were hardly luxurious or well-equipped, it was quite apparent what a huge relief it would have been to a person who was trying to exist in a tent under a bridge or down by the river.

I was reminded what a great feeling of luxury it was when our Army unit would rotate back to base camp and could sleep on a cot with a thin mattress in a screened-in barracks-like hooch. No bathrooms, but it was dry and clean.

Foxholes weren't my first choice for accommodations. The first flush toilet I enjoyed that year was in Bangkok on R&R. Not much different an experience than that of half a million other guys. We got used to it. Stayed clean. Actually, I don't recall any sanitation problems.

I figured Mr. Daims was in for it. He was bringing homeless people into a residential neighborhood. It was frightening some people the way proximity to the poor always frightens the better off. We tuck away subsidized housing out by the highway, down in the floodplain, far back on a hillside ... anywhere the land is cheap and out of sight.

I remember, when I was serving on the Development Review Board, some of the Upper Dummerston residents anxiously pleading to not let one of their neighbors bring in a trailer to house his mother-in-law. It would depreciate property values, you know.

* * *

There isn't any legitimate reason to have homeless in our country. But the highest ethic in a capitalist culture is the right to unlimited accumulation of wealth.

Since there is only a certain amount at any given time if a few people take the vast majority of our wealth, there will have to be large numbers without any. We are also a culture that exempts the wealthiest of all from social responsibilities and places the economic burden on the middle class - many of whom are just a paycheck or illness or some disaster away from ending up on welfare rolls themselves.

We allow our corporate boards and moguls to send our manufacturing abroad to the foreign poor who must work for 50 cents an hour or not at all.

We send millions of our own home emptyhanded when automation eliminates the need for their labor. We do so with the kindly encouragement that "you can find another job." But there are no other jobs, because the next plant automated as well.

But wait! McDonald's has a sign for an opening.

* * *

The mean streets. The poverty, the discouragement, the anger, the escape into depression, drugs, and crime, if need be. Soon, that promising, beaming young couple in the picture wearing wedding attire is mired in misery. And they look it. Believe me, just look at them.

These are our homeless. These are our neighbors who we discarded. They started out as babies just like your own. They went to schools with your own children.

Elon Musk argues that $59 billion is appropriate pay for what he does in a year. But we cannot afford to create living-wage jobs and housing for the homeless.

Kurt Daims doesn't have $59 billion but did spring for a good few hundred for a couple RVs to get a few homeless people out of the rain. They used the bathroom in his house, and he rented a port-a-potty as well. It was wet, dirty, and dangerous in the woods.

An RV was a godsend. The town sent them back to the camps. For their own good, you know.

What Mr. Daims did was not cheap, it was not easy, it was not convenient or fun. I can't think of any one who has won a community award who has sacrificed as much. We all talk a great community line until it comes time to act like one.

If there is a legislator in this area who doesn't support the two tiny wealth taxes currently proposed, they will answer for it.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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