Homeless in Paradise

I continued down Main Street and turned to see the woman push her cart out of the alleyway and in my direction. Compared to what I had seen while I lived in Los Angeles, homeless people are a rarity in Sarasota. Though many of them come here for the same reasons that the retirees do, they are not greeted with the same red carpet and open arms. That’s not to say that they don’t exist here. The weather is usually quite accommodating for sleeping outdoors, however, due to rather stringent rules about where one can sleep outdoors, the homeless tend to do a good job of staying hidden in fear of having to sleep indoors at the county jail.

A few years ago, a law was passed making it illegal to sleep in public. It did wonders in keeping downtown stoops clear of loiterers, but resulted in well over 100 arrests a year for the lowly and downtrodden who can find no more strength to keep moving or shelter to accommodate them. The law was passed under the administration of Mayor Richard Martin, who considered the idea of `tough love’ a good one at the time. However, considering that it costs taxpayers about $925 every time one is arrested, he has since denounced the practice and is now serving as the executive director of the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness.

The situation wasn’t helped when Sarasota was named `meanest city in the country’ by the National Coalition for Homelessness. Still, that did not keep them from coming, and as I stopped at the crosswalk at US 41, I turned to see that the woman was still approaching behind me.

I waited the obligatory five minutes to cross before the light changed, and the woman assumed a position behind me, humming a melody to herself as she waited. I believe it was `Me and Bobby McGee.’ The light finally changed, and the woman slowly pushed her cart behind me as we walked into Island Park.

I had no true destination as I followed the winding path along the shoreline of Sarasota Bay. I let my mind float along the lapping waves as they kissed the rocks and receded. I felt as if I were somewhere between them, trapped between the flow of the water and the rigidity of the stones. My mind was engaged with both the extraterrestrial meeting with beings from another planet and the grounded conversation of good business practice. I wondered how I had stumbled upon either of them. 

This is an excerpt from How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. Come back weekly for the next part or order your copy in ebook or paperback today!

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