I had read about Whoville, but I hadn’t seen it until the Friday before Christmas, when I walked about 4 miles from the house to a bar to meet a friend.  I can walk a lot of places in Eugene in 4 miles, even in the rain, which it was doing.

Once across the river, I walked by a lot, devoid of buildings, and saw many tents pitched.  This didn’t look like the right type of tents or the right time of year to be displaying them, and there was a sign: Whoville #9.  There was a Mission Statement and Rules.  Only in Eugene would the homeless have a Mission Statement and Rules in plain view.  One might say it made the city uglier, but to me it made the city more real.  Every city has homeless; any city that doesn’t is either lying or hasn’t looked.  I walked to the bar a little bit more muted, thinking about what I had seen.

These places are not pleasant to see.  The poor aren’t.  Many are down on their luck.  Some are mentally ill.  Others are alcohol or drug dependent.  Many are people that once were like the rest of us, until they got ill and couldn’t pay the medical bills.  This is the single biggest cause of bankruptcy.  We see the jars and the places for the dollar coins to fight leukemia, cerebral palsy, or help a family whose daughter just had a bad car accident, or whose son is in a coma.  These coins and singles may make us feel better, but realistically, they do nothing.  The cost of treating each of these diseases overwhelms the ability of the average person to pay for it, or even the average church.  I practiced medicine years ago, when the bills for a brief stay in the ICU could not be paid by more than maybe 1% of the people.  Even having insurance, which many decry, isn’t a panacea.

Why are people homeless?

Medical bills


Domestic violence

Decline in public assistance

Lack of good jobs

Mental Illness

Addiction disorders

Look it up, if you don’t believe me.  Are all of these easily solved?  Nope.  But we could do something about medical bills with better insurance.  We could have and still could do something about foreclosures.  We are absolutely shoddy in our dealings with domestic violence.  Decline in public assistance can be reversed.   The last three are difficult, but so was getting to the Moon, and this country once did that, before a minority in Congress decided that we were going to stop any meaningful legislation, because big government was bad.

So was Lehman Brothers.  So was George Bush, when he took days to come to New Orleans after Katrina.  Big government includes Congress, so by deduction, those Congressmen have just stated they are bad.  Why don’t they resign, and let somebody who actually has a testable solution fill the seat?  I’d even move out of Eugene to a place where I could do that.  Even Texas, if I could have Ted Cruz’s seat. Here’s mine.  It doesn’t say “shut down the government”.

We can improve the situation to the homeless and end hunger.  I’m not talking food stamps here.  I’m talking about feeding the hungry who have virtually no place to take their groceries.  This thought doesn’t sit well with many, because we might be feeding a slacker for free, somebody who ought to get off his duff and find a job.  Sure.  Good luck in finding a job without connections.  I read the papers about how to interview, and somebody who doesn’t shower, has no experience, no recommendations, and had to drop out of school and out of sight, is not likely to land a great job.  Most of these people don’t have people skills.  I don’t either, which is one of the reasons I failed as a consultant, even when I paid a coach, who was no help at all. I was fortunate enough to have worked hard and had a career as a physician, otherwise I’d be in Whoville.

But a few might have people and other skills.  I would bet money on that, if one had a sign detailing a Mission Statement and Rules.  Given enough food, some of these people might start looking for work, looking for a way out of Whoville, a way to a better life.  If saving one child with leukemia is important, is not saving one homeless person from continued homelessness important?  Leukemia was once untreatable; much of it now is not only treatable but curable.  Some of the homeless are there because of medical costs.  Now, we are talking money, something we can print.  Sure, that is inflationary, but this is a lot easier than finding something better than vinblastine for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Lane County wants to eradicate hunger, and we can do this as a country.  Nobody in America should want from food.  Affordable housing is tough, because these people don’t have great skills in keeping homes clean, although I’ve seen plenty of neighborhoods that aren’t exactly stellar, either.

I hope the Whoville stays.  It changed how I thought about the homeless, and it puts a face on a lot of people that are faceless in America today.

Want to do something really radical?  Let’s take these people off the street and put them on the street, the highways and byways of America.  Let’s house them and teach them how to fix bridges, build roads, fix the deteriorating infrastructure of the country.  Let’s put them in the national parks, helping build trails and repair others.  Let’s put them with animals, in the humane societies of this country, because love of animals is a good thing for both the animal and the people.

Come to think of it, let’s require mandatory national service, so that everybody ought to serve the country that has given them so much.  I assume every flag waver does know what red, white, and blue stands for, but in case I am again wrong, which they love to say I am, the flag colors stand for courage, honor and justice.

Are some beyond saving?  Probably.  Are all beyond saving?  No, not at all.  It is a question of what America will become, and what we Americans decide.  At Market of Choice in Eugene there is a way to donate each time to eradicate hunger in one of the more than 3000 counties in the US.  It’s a small county in the 9th largest state.  To the City Council:  let’s keep the Whovilles, until we don’t need them, because we have found a solution.  Let’s show the nation that we are trying, because anything less is wrong.

To Rand, Ted, Rush, and the others.  That’s my testable solution.  I am waiting for yours, which would prove to me you have some courage, honor, and a sense of justice, rather than cowardly saying no, turning your back on millions of Americans, and as a lawyer, Mr. Cruz, a disturbing sense of what justice means.  Be sure to go to church next Sunday.


One Response to “WHOVILLE #9”

  1. denisehelmkay Says:

    Mandatory National Service Organization is an excellent idea. You have my vote and my time if I knew what to do. What little I’ve seen on-line equates it with Military service: I don’t think that is necessary.

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