By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
"The people that are here around The Bridge now are people who are looking for services to improve their lives," he said, "not to be destructive or sleep on the sidewalk. We really don't have that issue at all any more."
Millet is so grateful for the improvements brought about by The Bridge, in fact, that he paved and fenced some of his own land and now provides it to The Bridge for staff and guest parking.
"The guests of The Bridge at least twice a day come out with trash cans on rollers and various devices, and they pick up every article of trash including the trash that's around the dumpsters over by the school and over on the freeway in an area that has nothing to do with The Bridge, just being good neighbors."
He spoke with equal affection and respect for the people who run the place. "Whenever there is any kind of an issue I call them, and they instantly address it."
I asked him what he charges for the parking lot. He said he provides it to The Bridge for free, "because I love them."
After I hung up from talking to Mr. Millet, I sat at my desk and sank deeper and deeper into consternation. Here is a man who probably spent a great deal of money on lawyers and consultants to keep the homeless away from his part of town. And now he says he loves them?
Is it possible that the homeless, over time, are eroding our moral resolve? And if so, isn't that just another argument for getting rid of them? I don't know the answer. I am only asking.
I know this: The minute we start to talk seriously about offing them, people will toss out all kinds of caveats and complications, some of which will have to be taken seriously. For example, if it came down to one big day of getting rid of them, none of us would want to see "mistakes" made.
You might be surprised how easily it could happen. A friend of mine who has now passed on from this mortal coil was at City Hall for something three years ago. He wound up going across the street to the front of the Central Library where a lot of homeless people hang out. He went there to wait for a ride.
My friend, a political consultant, was suffering from serious health problems at the time. He was a person of somewhat advanced years. And he was not, perhaps, paying the best attention to his appearance.
Next thing he knows, a white police van with a flashing light on top pulls up to the curb, and a cop is leaning out the passenger-side window asking him a lot of questions. Initially it's about the weather, but then the cop wants to know the name of the president of the United States and what month this is.
My friend was irate. He said, "Are you mistaking me for a homeless guy?" The cop shrugged. I can't tell you how upset my friend was.
I sympathized but told him he needed to send his shirts to the laundry more often. We all need to be careful about maintaining our own identity, especially if certain measures are about to take place. And by the way, my friend was not the only City Hall political consultant who could have problems. Ask me for names if we run into each other privately.
Obviously a good deal of thought would have to be given to identifying the target individuals, and even at that, the homeless will have more tricks. The one that has the city in an uproar right now is perhaps the most insidious yet—disguising the homeless as not homeless by giving them homes.
This is what has North Oak Cliff and Lake Highlands in a wad. The city has been using The Bridge as a kind of training camp to teach the homeless how to pass for home people. Then the city finds them homes.
It's kind of like those suburban spies from Russia. Once they're out there in the backyard with their Hawaiian shirts and their grills, who's to know?
One of the awkward parts of a serious campaign would be identifying the undercover homeless. They'd have to be included. Otherwise, it wouldn't be fair. It's probably a matter of preparation and good police work.
I ask these questions not to be callow or provocative but because I believe the answers are of fundamental importance to the future of the community. Killing the homeless. Thumbs up? Thumbs down? Then we'd know how to proceed.