Who will take initiative to help street people?

I can certainly empathize with Mr. Dwayne Egelund’s sentiments about the behavior of some people on Avenida Central which were published in his letter of Aug. 25. No one likes to be exposed to public urination, beggars, drug users, or apparent schizophrenics raising a commotion in public places. He makes a compelling argument that there should be some intervention.

But what? Mr. Egelund suggests that the police should intervene, but what exactly is it that they should do?

Neither the police nor any other public agency are running effective mental health or substance abuse programs, so just what should the police do once they have intervened? What is the next step?

Likewise, until there are adequate restroom facilities available to all the public in the downtown areas, what is one to do once one’s bladder is full? What is the practical alternative, especially for the homeless? And what should the police actually do about it?

And while Costa Ricans generally live a comfortable lifestyle, especially as compared to our nearby neighbors, we know that there is still a significant population of chronically and desperately poor citizens. Absent jobs for which they have the skills and physical capacity, what’s a person to do but beg? Slowly starve? Or should the police now be charged with feeding the hungry?

Taken together, these folks are not a pretty sight, and Mr. Egelund is right to be offended by their behavior. The question for us all is just what are we willing to give up to remedy the problems he cites? Neither he nor I are prepared to take the smelly lady home for a bath, so who will clean her up? Neither he nor I are devoting much time to feeding those beggars, so with whom does that responsibility rest?

The only ready answer to this dilemma is to jail all the offenders. We do feed our prisoners, there are toilet facilities, and we do afford them opportunities to bathe. That would go a long way toward resolving the problems but at what cost? Are we prepared to fund jail facilities for all these people? The jails and prisons now are overflowing, and elsewhere people decry the pre-trial release of apprehended subjects. How many more penal facilities are we prepared to construct and run?

If the public, in the person of the police, should take on these responsibilities, then the question becomes how much more in taxes are we anxious to pay to give the police something definitive to do once they have intervened?
David C. Murray
Grecia, Alajuela

This entry was posted in Reader Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.