Now recycling is the problem

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By Tim Redmond

The latest installment in the San Francisco Chronicle's war on the homeless is pretty insane. According to C.W. Nevius, the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council's recycling station is part of the problem and perhaps ought to be shut down.

Think about this for a second: Homeless people have had their general assistance and SSI benefits cut repeatedly. G.A., thanks to Care not Cash, is down to almost nothing. So how are these folks supposed to eat (much less ever find a place to live)?

Some of them do a bit of real work: They go around town and collect bottles and cans, some of which would otherwise be unsightly garbage. Some of the cans and bottles also came out of people's blue bins, and would otherwise by recycled (for money) by the private garbage company, which is quite profitable anyway; I'm not going to cry about that sort of "theft."

So these folks haul the bottles to the recycling center and get a few bucks, which, as the Chron even admits, often goes immediately for (imagine this!) food. I bet some of the remaining money sometimes goes for booze or drugs. (Some of my remaiming money every week goes for booze, too, and I know a few highly upstanding citizens who spend some of their disposable cash on the ol' Evil Weed. I don't think this signals the imminent decline of society.)

Here's my question: What would the opponents of the HANC recycling center do -- deny the can-collectors their money? Because here's what would happen: More aggressive panhandling. More petty theft. Car windows broken and stereos stolen. Bicycles stolen. That sort of thing.

As long as we can't provide people with a decent place to live in this rich city, some will sleep outdoors, including in the park. And they're going to find a way to get some cash every day. I think the current situation is a lot better than many of the available alternatives.