Businesses in the Jefferson Westside neighborhood discuss the community’s homeless and drug issues.
Employees of different neighborhood businesses discuss the homeless and drug problem within the community and how these issues affect their workdays. The businesses recognize the drug and homeless problem as a social issue. At the same time many employees of these local businesses know that in order to run a successful business they need to provide for their paying customers.
Kyle Ryan has worked at Laughing Planet for one year. Many homeless people come into Ryan’s workplace hoping to score a free meal. Ryan explains he tries not to give out free food saying, “I don’t want to encourage them.” Because Ryan and the rest of the Laughing Planet employees need to run a business it is hard to just hand out food and disregard the paying customers. The company still needs to make money.
However, Ryan sympathizes saying, “If it was a moral thing I’d just give them food but it’s my job and my responsibility is to make sure homeless people are not harassing customers.” Ryan also mentions, “Sometimes we leave extra burritos on a trash can.” Since Ryan has worked at Laughing Planet he still has not seen an improvement in the homeless community. He even notes that the alleyway next to Laughing Planet is were many homeless people gather. Ryan explains, “It’s like their [homeless peoples’] highway…”
Next store to Laughing Planet is a Mexican food restaurant called El Jarro Azul. Edith Rivera has worked at El Jarro Azul for eleven years. When asked if any homeless people or drug users come into her place of work, Rivera answers, “Yes more homeless people come in and ask for food and money and it bothers customers.” Though this might be a distraction to paying customers it does not stop Rivera from helping those in need. Rivera mentions, “Usually I give them a taco or burrito or rice and beans.” However she explains, “… once we give them the food we make them go eat somewhere else.” Rivera would like to see a change for the homeless community saying, “Hopefully there will be more help for them- help from church.” She also mentioned another local business, Sweet Life that has had several break-ins.
Though the bakery makes sugary treats it seems that the homeless and drug issues within the community leave many employees with a sour taste. Brooke Borcherding is a new employee at Sweet Life. Borcherding explains, “When I take out the trash in the bathroom I was trained never to squeeze the bag because there are dirty needles in there sometimes.” Even walking around the neighborhood Borcherding says, “I see a lot of people in the park, I assume they are doing drugs…so I choose not to walk over there.”
Members of the community acknowledge that there is a homeless and drug issue in the Jefferson Westside neighborhood. Community members hope that help will be provided to address this issue and the community can go forth and strive.