If you’re a regular reader of Bee reporter George Hostetter on the Fresno Bee’s news blog, you know he brings a distinct perspective to his coverage of Fresno issues. In a lengthy post that is at times tender and scolding, George gives us an unblinking account of a childhood friend of his, Mike, who has ended up homeless on the streets of Fresno. From the post:
For a considerable part of his adult life, Mike has been a curse to Fresno. There’s no other way to put it. He harmed the public order with his terrible (and voluntary) behavior.
The streets and camps of Fresno are full of people exactly like this Mike, the bad Mike. As a group these homeless people, capable of productive lives but choosing a different path, have caused immense harm to Fresno’s public order. They aren’t victims. They are bums. And, I strongly suspect, they are pawns for political opportunists.
I know this is an accurate description of the bad Mike because I know that’s exactly how the good Mike would’ve described anyone who, in the summer of 1969 in northeast Lindsay, had dared to set up a homeless camp in the shadow of the house that he and his wife and their baby daughter called home. The Mike was this era was brutally honest. And he would’ve been right.
I don’t always agree with George — which is one reason I like reading him — and I know there are some who will take exception to his conclusions about city government and the forced abatement of homeless encampments. But George always brings an interesting perspective. As our celebrated “walking reporter” — I’m sure you’ve seen him in his hat pounding the pavement — he gives a street’s-eye-view of an issue. (At one point, looking for his friend, he wandered into various homeless shelters and encampments looking for his friend, which is something that a lot of reporters might balk at.) In George’s account of his friend, I got a complex portrayal of Mike, and it gave me a lot to think about. You can’t ask for more than that.