If we are ever going to get one step closer to solving our societal problems we must acknowledge the complicated nature of reality. Let me tell you this week's story…
A young woman from out of town ended up in our house that tries to help the most challenging homeless people.
She said that she had been kicked out of the battered women's shelter and Haven of Rest. She said that she would not come back regularly to these shelters. So they kicked her out.
Some young sex workers like to barter for sex. They will give a person sexual favors in exchange for drugs. This seems logical in a place where cash is rare but drugs are plentiful.
This is a recipe for disaster. These young women start to get passed around from guy to guy. The more high they get the less descerning they become. It all descends into a really dark, terrible place.
That's where I enter the picture. Late last week this woman, who I had never met before, came to me and said she was being sex trafficked. My entire existence for being in the homeless community is to reduce pain and suffering. I am not here to get you off of drugs. I am not here to shame you for being a worthless piece of shit. I am a harm reduction guy.
So my first response to her was to call the police. You might as well ask a six year old to eat liver and onions with a side of brussel sprouts. It's not going to happen. It's against "the code of the street" and if the person doesn't get arrested the blow back can be deadly.
No one would call the police. So I notified a police officer friend of mine of the situation. Again, I will not stand for people to be hurt and abused on my property under my watch. I do this work under one basic philosophy: DO THE RIGHT THING.
Telling my police officer friend about this was the right thing.
But then the situation got complicated. The woman started changing her story slowly but surely. Maybe it wasn't trafficking. Maybe the guy didn't give her the drugs she thought he should. On and on.
POLICE CAN DO NOTHING IN THIS SITUATION.
If a victim won't call and won't testify then there is nothing a court of law can do. It's like the crime didn't happen.
Some of my conservative friends believe the answer is more police. It's not.
Some of my progressive friends believe the answer is abolishing the police. It's not.
Yes. We must hold police leadership accountable for bad cops. That's the only way policing is going to get better. But I'm here to tell you: a void gets filled. If there are no police someone will take that place. And it's going to be way worse.
But police can only do so much. They are just the tip of the spear of a complicated echo system of laws, judges and over-crowded jails and prisons.
We must stop looking around for someone else to solve our problems. We must start looking at ourselves for the help we truly need.
I was stuck in a bad spot with this woman. I couldn't get the men involved out of the situation because they have not been formally accused of a crime.
I can't go to war with these guys because I don't run a mob. I'd be killed.
So, I did the only thing I could think to do. I drove this woman away from my place into an apartment… with another man.
What a fucking mess.
This woman burned so many bridges with shelters in this town and others. Every idea I suggested to her was met with a reason that wasn't going to work.
She needs to stop trading sex for drugs. It's a basic mistake that all beginning business owners make. Don't trade and barter. Just work for money. Doing it any other way is asking for all kinds of unforeseen problems.
Every shelter I can think of has some sort of wall. You either have to pray to God, quit drugs, show up on time… some shelters require all those things.
Why can't a woman in serious trouble just go someplace safe? I'd love to be that. But I don't have the money or resources to be that person. And my focus ultimately is more on changing the system, not protecting a few homeless people. Maybe that's wrong.
The Underground Railroad was made up of volunteers who protected slaves on the run. Maybe we need something like that. But I'll tell you right now… I'm not sure I'd be that person. The woman will want drugs and the next thing you know: her abusers are going to be at your house.
I have zero answers.
But I know some things for sure: more cops is not the answer, less cops is not the answer. It has nothing to do with cops. Unless we are going to just start locking people up that we think are criminals without due process then police are not the answer one way or the other.
We have to move beyond the simplistic talking points of activists. We have to get in the dirt ourselves and start digging around.
This whole more cops/less cops debate is just another political ball that keeps us amused and lets leadership avoid having to deal with the actual problems.
And for the record: we also can't just throw our hands up in the air and give up. I believe these complicated issues are an important piece of the puzzle for the progress of humanity. I believe these issues are here for a reason: to help us grow as a society. To be better. That's the only reason I can see for us being here on this inconsequential rock in the outer leg of an inconsequential galaxy. It has to be for something. And I believe the reason is to be better.