I have a friend named Kook. She’s a clown. Literally, that’s her profession. A few days ago, she came up to the coffee shop with two children, one of whom was having a birthday. She didn’t have on her clown outfit, but had all the props with her. So, they ordered drinks, then sat down at one of the tables outside to feast on birthday cake.
Meanwhile, there were a group of bums congregating at the trolley stop in front of the coffee shop. Without fail, they show up about 4:30 every day, begging for money either at the trolley stop or at the Walgreens across the street. When they get enough change, they head around the corner to the liquor store. Then they get drunk and repeat the beg/buy liquor/get drunk process.
Well, the bums were quite drunk by the time the birthday group showed up. Right in front of the children – ages 7 and 5 I would estimate – one of the male bums screamed “dick-eating whore” and other obscenities at one of the female bums. This continued for 10 or 15 minutes. They absolutely could not care less that there were small children within earshot. And this kind of thing happens every day.
Today I watched a different bum, who was sitting up by the government offices on the Main Street Mall. There are planters full of pretty flowers outside, and I watched as he picked several flowers. He then staggered down the street, looking for couples. He’d offer the woman a flower, then stand there and expect a tip from the man. As soon as he got his money, he headed for – you guessed it – the liquor store. Then he went back down to the planter to pick some more flowers.
There’s a Thai restaurant a couple of blocks from where I live. I go there semi-regularly and have gotten to know some of the people who work there. One of the servers there used to live in 99 Tower Place downtown, but a few months ago she moved out east. The reason why, she explained, is that the bums wouldn’t leave her alone. Every time she’d come out the front door to walk to work, they’d make obscene comments about her body and what they’d like to do to her. No wonder she moved. No wonder so many of my female friends who live in Midtown and out east won’t consider living downtown.
I am fed up with these people. I do not believe their right of free expression gives them the right to make other people feel uncomfortable, and our flower-man certainly does not have the right to destroy public property in support of his liquor habit. It’s a quality-of-life issue. The bums have had free reign over the streets of downtown ever since I’ve been down here.
Fortunately, the cops may be listening, finally. This week there have been an increased number of arrests downtown, especially by undercover units. It shouldn’t be too hard to lock them up – public intoxication, disorderly conduct, public urination are a few charges they could press. And many of them will be holding drugs or weapons, or will have warrants, leading to additional time in Hotel 201. I e-mailed the downtown precinct at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know when and where the bums are causing the most trouble. If you’re a downtowner and are bothered by these people, please consider doing the same. The police have got to be made to understand what a problem these people have become.
Let me make it clear that I have nothing against homeless people; it’s the bums I’m tired of. There’s a difference. There’s a really sweet homeless woman who hangs out downtown. She never bothers anybody, and I’ll often see her on Beale dancing to the street bands. The few times she has asked me for anything, it has been food. “Hey mister, I see you got a sandwich there. The next time you buy one, I sure would appreciate you getting me one.” Got no problem with that. The other day was her birthday, and I bought her a liter Sprite. She was so happy – stopped everyone who passed by for about 10 minutes and told them what a gentleman I was. The bums tried to talk her into selling the Sprite and using the money to buy whisky, but she wouldn’t do it. .The Homeless Guy suggests making a care package of toiletries, candy bars, maybe a rain poncho and other supplies to hand out to the homeless. I’ll try to make packages for her and some of the other genuinely good homeless people I know.
The bums, however, are a different breed. In fact, many of them are not homeless; they have places to live, often supported by government checks. Coming downtown to get drunk, panhandle, and bother people is just their hobby. Well, their hobby has gotten out of hand and it’s time to put a stop to it.