Bum's rush

As downtown's upscale residents find themselves surrounded by an army of street people, many wish these 'dopers and crackheads' would move on -- or at least find a toilet

Homeless advocates such as Clora Hogan, editor of the homeless-sold newspaper Endless Choices, contend that the sweeps are increasing. And she is probably right, given that there are more residents around to make complaints and prompt sweeps.

If arrested for outstanding misdemeanor warrants, the homeless are jailed, released for time served, and returned to the streets, Tabbert says.

Beyond that, he says, cops have better things to do than watch street-feedings and wait for some poor vagrant to drop a piece of litter. "It's a tightrope to walk. You start messing with these churches' charitable mission, and you become the devil incarnate. 'How dare you. We are doing God's work.' So they pass out food and run back home. They don't have to deal with the aftermath. This thing is a sacred cow."

That's why the police don't issue many tickets for church vans parking on the sidewalk.

Then there's the criminal side of the street population, he says. "What a lot of these guys do is absorb the free services, the food and medical and clothing, and then go out and burglarize cars and buildings or steal metal to feed their habits. A lot of 'em are scrappers. We've had a fire escape, a huge metal one, torn off the side of a building for scrap."

And the street population has grown, Tabbert says. "For some reason, more street people have come here. It's known as a good place to be." Politically, he says, the city has been quite tolerant of the homeless. "We don't have a strong enforcement policy.

"This is happening at the same time that people are investing more and more money, putting in their time and effort to renovate. They're beginning to form crime watches and organize and start demanding some solutions. We're creating a monster of a problem. It's getting bigger and bigger the longer we don't address it."

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