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Thread: The Case of the Tent Village

  1. #1

    The Case of the Tent Village

    Hey everyone,

    So Iím back with another hopefully interesting discussion topic for the Engaged Center. Below is a real story and most of the circumstances that you might need to take into consideration to determine what action you would take.

    Your assignment (if you choose to play):
    Read the situation and comment as to what you would do and why. What comes up for you when you think about the situation and what factors play into how you would move forward.

    This is meant to be a fun intellectual conversation about how you would react and what action you would take.

    The Case:
    Recently you have had several tents move in along the fence of your construction site. There are people living in them who come and go. The people have not caused any disturbances and are not on the property you are working on.

    The owner of the construction project asked if there is any action you are going to take. You had replied no because they were not on the project site, and had not caused a disturbance, so there was nothing that needed to be done from your point of view.

    There is now concern that when the construction fence comes down, the tents will be move closer to the new buildings. Some are suggesting that when the construction fence comes down in a couple weeks, the authorities should be alerted and try to get the tents to move elsewhere.

    Additional Facts that weight in the decision making:
    Construction has been going on for over a year, and has not had any problems with security or people coming onto the jobsite and causing trouble.

    The jobsite does have a security guard who is onsite through the evening and weekends. And the tents have been set-up near the location where the security guard regularly takes up his post. Your assumption is they chose this location because there is security.

    The people living in the tents, as far as you know have not broken any laws.

    What action do you take?
    • Do you do nothing because as far as you know they have done nothing wrong?
    • Do you give in to the owner wanting them to be moved along and start calling the authorities now because itís going to happen anyways?
    • Do you give the people who are living in the tents a heads up that in a couple weeks the fence is coming down and they might want to find somewhere else before then?
    • Is there something else you would do?



    The same as before this is a real situation. Iím not looking for advice to what to do, but instead opening up the topic of what would you do and why. Also think about what comes up for you when you think through this situation and share those thoughts as well.

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  2. #2
    The tents need to be relocated unless they have purchased the land they occupy or gain title by the law of adverse possession.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    I would probably give the folks a heads up that the project would be ending soon and the boss may take steps to try to move them. I might then look to see if there are any local government resources available to send out rather than police.

    The tricky part here seems to be whether to follow instructions as an employee in this situation. I am biased as a business owner, because I am in a unique position of being responsible for safeguarding the health and success of the business, so sometimes have to be the ďbad guy.Ē I consider the emotional effects my decisions will have on my employees and when possible, compromise. But sometimes they do not completely understand my decisions and I know sentiment might run against me. Itís challenging and stressful to be the one who makes the call on when itís time to be benevolent and when itís time to make the business profitable and responsible, but I have made peace with the fact that these situations will fall back to the rest of the universe and its consequences if we cannot take them on, and I am not the only one that can bear the responsibility to help.

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    The tents need to be relocated unless they have purchased the land they occupy or gain title by the law of adverse possession.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    This depends. Are they camped on public land? If so then they are not breaking any laws. I am not sure about all states, but some states you folks have do allow folks to live on public lands.

    If they move onto private property, then yes they need to move on or be moved.

    We should never be in such a situation, this is the most important point. However, if someone choose to live this way we should allow them. This being said, they still need to have respect for the space they occupy (i.e. no garbage or human fluids, etc). Being a productive member of society will support your way of wanting to live your life.

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    The tents need to be relocated unless they have purchased the land they occupy or gain title by the law of adverse possession.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Jishin,

    So per the scenario they aren't on the land that you are working on. They are on a neighboring land, which you don't own.

    Do you make the assumption that the owner of that land hasn't given them the right to be there?

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    I would probably give the folks a heads up that the project would be ending soon and the boss may take steps to try to move them. I might then look to see if there are any local government resources available to send out rather than police.

    The tricky part here seems to be whether to follow instructions as an employee in this situation. I am biased as a business owner, because I am in a unique position of being responsible for safeguarding the health and success of the business, so sometimes have to be the ďbad guy.Ē
    Jakuden,

    I think this is a big part of what makes this scenario applicable to many different cases. Sometimes we are in the position to have to "follow the rules" or "do as we are directed" even if that direction might not be what we personally would have chosen to do.

    In this situation there is a bit of wiggle room where you would have to determine what your level of comfort is walking the fine line between doing what people would like you to do and doing what you think is right.

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    We should never be in such a situation, this is the most important point. However, if someone choose to live this way we should allow them. This being said, they still need to have respect for the space they occupy (i.e. no garbage or human fluids, etc). Being a productive member of society will support your way of wanting to live your life.
    Shingen,



    Sadly, in southern California this type of scenario is playing out all over. There are many tent cities, and homeless populations.

    My sister often has encounters with homeless people from all walks of life. There are ones who never cause trouble and are always welcome to use facilities and sit for a while. Then there are others who instantly cause problems and mean that the police have to be called regularly. She has even ended up getting pepper sprayed when one homeless person tried to "protect" her from another. It's a hard situation because as you said having respect for the area you are occupying and being a productive member of society make a big difference.

    It's a very sad situation and something that is often in the news area in my area.

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Shoka View Post
    Shingen,



    Sadly, in southern California this type of scenario is playing out all over. There are many tent cities, and homeless populations.

    My sister often has encounters with homeless people from all walks of life. There are ones who never cause trouble and are always welcome to use facilities and sit for a while. Then there are others who instantly cause problems and mean that the police have to be called regularly. She has even ended up getting pepper sprayed when one homeless person tried to "protect" her from another. It's a hard situation because as you said having respect for the area you are occupying and being a productive member of society make a big difference.

    It's a very sad situation and something that is often in the news area in my area.

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    Oh yes this is so true. I remember even our retreat we attended together in Oakland and the tent community we had right across the street. I do wish there was more we could do.

    I agree the fine line is very fine and some folks who have chosen to live this way do so because they just want to be left alone and not wanting others to interfer. Where I live we are starting to see tent cities arise, but they are going up out of the way of everyday activity and are on city property. The city has been quite good about it and has provided a port-a-potty for them to use and a dumpster for them to dispose of their trash. That being said, the city has made it very clear that these services are free and there to help them maintain they area they are occupying, but this items must be used or they will be removed from the area.

    To me I feel this is fair ... not the best solution, but a temp solution while a better one is being found. Having folks sleeping in a stairwells, doorways, and right on the streets doesn't help anyone. Giving someone something they can call their own is important and I feel helps in shaping personal and communal responsibility.

    For me the bottom line is, there are still human beings and we should treat them as such, with empathy, understanding, and respect. Whether a person is homeless or not, we should base our responses to them not on who they are, but on their actions. If you are going to act like a twit, then you are probably not going to get the best responses back ... if you are respectful, you will probably get a respectful and more accepting response.

    Gassho
    Shingen

    Sat/LAH
    RINDO SHINGEN
    倫道 真現

  9. #9
    It's one of those 'never in my backyard' situations. It's easy from my comfortable home with homeless shelters many blocks away to say let them stay if they are not causing any harm or damage, but when I imagine that situation in my backyard I have a bit of a problem with it. What if it expands? and yes, where are the bathroom facilities? Drugs? are there addiction issues? ETC...

    We have a large homeless population here in Albuquerque as well, and many agencies that assist so I guess I'd contact them to see what my options are.

    That is really not an answer, but I think each situation like this is so unique and thus needs to be handled as such.

    So sad the huge number of homeless, lost people. I just can't imagine.

    Gassho
    Anne

    ~st~

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Shoka View Post
    Jishin,

    So per the scenario they aren't on the land that you are working on. They are on a neighboring land, which you don't own.

    Do you make the assumption that the owner of that land hasn't given them the right to be there?

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    Yes. This is the assumption I am making. That they are there illegally. There are legal places for housing of unfortunate people that have to live in tents.

    Gassho, Jishin, ST

  11. #11
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Hi folks,

    I think I would let them know they might get evicted when the fence comes down. Then I will probably have a good cry because I don't know what else I can do to help them.

    Gassho,
    Hoseki
    Sattoday

  12. #12
    Member Geika's Avatar
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    I would probably do nothing as it would literally not be under my job description to handle such issues that were not on-site. I would not interfere to the degree of calling authorities or asking people to move if it literally had nothing to do with my well being, ethics, or employment. If my boss tried to manipulate me into talking to them or calling the cops when my job literally does not go beyond that fence, I am sure that if I am a construction worker, there is a union to call. I am just there to do my job-- not bully people because my boss tells me to.

    Also, I am not really a fan of hypothetical discussion outside of the realm of fun or fantasy. I honestly don't really know what I'd do in this situation unless I am someday actually in it. I know from experience that when under stress, I can sometimes approach problems a lot differently than I thought I would.

    What is the point of this? It was mentioned that this is a real life scenario, but at the end it was followed up with, "This is meant to be a fun intellectual conversation about how you would react and what action you would take." If this is a real situation for someone you know, I am sure it is not fun, and they are not presented with the option to brainstorm with a bunch of Buddhists. We can all talk about what we think we'd do, but these are EXTREMELY LIMITED viewpoints and a VERY SPECIFIC situation. I am never going to be a construction worker on a job site adjacent to a tent-city with a boss pressuring me to take matters into my own hands. Of course I can try to imagine myself in this scenario, but that is all I can do. Just illusion. Nothing real here. Just postulation. I will never know all the intricacies and day-to-day experiences that a worker in this situation might know that would direct their actions. And if this is based off of a real story from someone, I am more curious about what they actually did and the result, so I can learn from it directly.

    Other questions: Am I close to my boss? Am I the foreman? The supervisor? A carpenter? The electrician? Am I living paycheck to paycheck? What country am I in? What state? Do I have a family?

    These questions matter. I hope someone sees my point. These kinds of discussions feel like ego-boosting on our own supposed goodness or responsibility.

    Sat today, lah
    Last edited by Geika; 04-12-2019 at 04:26 AM.
    迎 Geika

  13. #13
    Member Geika's Avatar
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    I just thought of a follow up while discussing this with my husband: given my particular economic status and where I am living, I am closer to being the homeless person in this scenario than the construction employee. Given that particular viewpoint, living by the fence of a job site, I would probably just move when asked, on edge every day, desperate for a way out of the situation. Just because I hold down a job and am not addicted to drugs does not preclude me from being exempted this position. I live in San Diego County, where working class families are living in cars and the average median price of a house is $575,000-- monthly payment of $3000 and average rent is $1,960 a month for a two bedroom. You would have to be making $80,000 a year to hold that down. San Jose and LA are more. San Francisco is near double that. State law recommends that rent be 30% of your income. I honestly don't know how people are managing and I am not surprised by the amount of homeless at all. They are not all drug-addled people just looking to give up, and although I am not suggesting that anyone here feels that way, considering that we are discussing the issue from our homes connected to the internet, it feels pretty lame.

    I am extremely lucky to be able to live with family since my marriage, because my husband and I have not been able to find ANYWHERE to live on our own for over FOUR years since leaving our last place. Also, apparently when you are poor by California standards, you are not allowed the luxury of a dog... but for some reason, cats are okay. My dog is getting old, and I am devastated that I cannot get a puppy to socialize with him before he passes, because I need to no longer have pets to realistically move somewhere I can afford.

    This is not a game for many, many people.

    Sat today, lah
    Last edited by Geika; 04-12-2019 at 04:28 AM.
    迎 Geika

  14. #14
    Hi Geika,

    I agree with everything you have said.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  15. #15
    Hi Everyone!

    I had to take a day to think about this one before posting. It is a difficult situation and I feel that there is not really a "correct" or "incorrect" answer to it.

    A few years ago I was attending a MAP Seminar at the Vancouver Buddhist Temple. It is located down in what the locals call Old Japan Town. Across the street from the Temple building is a lovely little park, and in that park is a semi permanent tent village. What I found most interesting about this little tent village was that the majority of the people living in it had jobs, and cars! This came as such a surprise to me! I had the opportunity to talk with a number of people living there, both employed as well as unemployed. For most it was simply a case of housing being too expensive to afford. They had student loans, and perhaps a car payment so they couldn't afford the high rent of the city. Instead they bought a tent and lived out of it. In the mornings they would pack their belongings into their car drive to the local YMCA for a shower and then head to work! It was quite the shock for a small town prairie boy like me! I have a great deal of admiration for these individuals!

    Based on my experience there, and my own personal convictions I would likely give the people in the scenario a heads up about what was happening in the near future, but as they are not on work site property I don't have any reason to ask them to leave. They haven't been a problem in the past so I have no reason to expect any issues in the future. If I knew of any support organizations that could be of help to them I would offer to help them get in touch.

    Gassho,
    Junkyo
    SAT

  16. #16
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    I would probably do nothing as it would literally not be under my job description to handle such issues that were not on-site. I would not interfere to the degree of calling authorities or asking people to move if it literally had nothing to do with my well being, ethics, or employment. If my boss tried to manipulate me into talking to them or calling the cops when my job literally does not go beyond that fence, I am sure that if I am a construction worker, there is a union to call. I am just there to do my job-- not bully people because my boss tells me to.

    Also, I am not really a fan of hypothetical discussion outside of the realm of fun or fantasy. I honestly don't really know what I'd do in this situation unless I am someday actually in it. I know from experience that when under stress, I can sometimes approach problems a lot differently than I thought I would.

    What is the point of this? It was mentioned that this is a real life scenario, but at the end it was followed up with, "This is meant to be a fun intellectual conversation about how you would react and what action you would take." If this is a real situation for someone you know, I am sure it is not fun, and they are not presented with the option to brainstorm with a bunch of Buddhists. We can all talk about what we think we'd do, but these are EXTREMELY LIMITED viewpoints and a VERY SPECIFIC situation. I am never going to be a construction worker on a job site adjacent to a tent-city with a boss pressuring me to take matters into my own hands. Of course I can try to imagine myself in this scenario, but that is all I can do. Just illusion. Nothing real here. Just postulation. I will never know all the intricacies and day-to-day experiences that a worker in this situation might know that would direct their actions. And if this is based off of a real story from someone, I am more curious about what they actually did and the result, so I can learn from it directly.

    Other questions: Am I close to my boss? Am I the foreman? The supervisor? A carpenter? The electrician? Am I living paycheck to paycheck? What country am I in? What state? Do I have a family?

    These questions matter. I hope someone sees my point. These kinds of discussions feel like ego-boosting on our own supposed goodness or responsibility.

    Sat today, lah
    Hi Geika,

    While I understand what your saying. I think there is value in this kind of exercise. It can help nurture the seeds of compassion and help us find and develop our values. In a way its like building a ethical compass.

    Another way to look at it like practice for the real thing and how someone might tell you how to swim before you get into the water. When it comes time to try and swim putting the instructions into practice probably won't go smoothly at first but with time they can become foundational to ones swimming.

    I also think it can help us feel more emboldened to try and assist people in these kinds of situations. Especially when we see that other people feel this way too.

    I'm reminded of a quote by Hťlder C‚mara that I see sometimes that reads "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." I think some of his thinking comes from engaging with poor people and then looking into the conditions that create poverty. Which is one of the things I think is missing in our approach. How is it that we can have such prosperity (needed to build a new building) along side a tent city? Isn't there something wrong about that?

    Anywho, I'm also reminded of a Taoist (maybe) story about a man who's horse runs away. When his friends tell him how aweful it it he responds "is that so?" The next day his horse comes back but with a second horse. When his friends say that great he responds "is that so?" There's more but I can't remember right now. The point is sometimes useless things turn out to be very useful and vice versa.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Gassho
    Sattoday
    Hoseki




    pump priming

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    I would probably do nothing as it would literally not be under my job description to handle such issues that were not on-site. I would not interfere to the degree of calling authorities or asking people to move if it literally had nothing to do with my well being, ethics, or employment. If my boss tried to manipulate me into talking to them or calling the cops when my job literally does not go beyond that fence, I am sure that if I am a construction worker, there is a union to call. I am just there to do my job-- not bully people because my boss tells me to.

    Also, I am not really a fan of hypothetical discussion outside of the realm of fun or fantasy. I honestly don't really know what I'd do in this situation unless I am someday actually in it. I know from experience that when under stress, I can sometimes approach problems a lot differently than I thought I would.

    What is the point of this? It was mentioned that this is a real life scenario, but at the end it was followed up with, "This is meant to be a fun intellectual conversation about how you would react and what action you would take." If this is a real situation for someone you know, I am sure it is not fun, and they are not presented with the option to brainstorm with a bunch of Buddhists. We can all talk about what we think we'd do, but these are EXTREMELY LIMITED viewpoints and a VERY SPECIFIC situation. I am never going to be a construction worker on a job site adjacent to a tent-city with a boss pressuring me to take matters into my own hands. Of course I can try to imagine myself in this scenario, but that is all I can do. Just illusion. Nothing real here. Just postulation. I will never know all the intricacies and day-to-day experiences that a worker in this situation might know that would direct their actions. And if this is based off of a real story from someone, I am more curious about what they actually did and the result, so I can learn from it directly.

    Other questions: Am I close to my boss? Am I the foreman? The supervisor? A carpenter? The electrician? Am I living paycheck to paycheck? What country am I in? What state? Do I have a family?

    These questions matter. I hope someone sees my point. These kinds of discussions feel like ego-boosting on our own supposed goodness or responsibility.

    Sat today, lah
    Geika,

    I hear you concerns and Iíll try to address why I believe exercises like this can be helpful and important.

    Hoseki actually summed up many of the points very well. As he said, part of the point of thinking about these situations and determining how you would react and why is to a way to help us find and develop our values. By having thought about this situation ahead of when/ or if it actually occurs in your life then you have already prepared to response without needing to take the time to go and brainstorm as we are doing here.

    As you said, we often act differently in a stressful situation. For example, many people find speaking in public very stressful, so they will prepare ahead of time. They will rehearse their speech and ask friends to ask them follow-up questions so they can practice. This type of conversation is intended to do the same thing. You might never be in this situation, but if you have thought about it in advance when there isnít related stress; that can hopefully make it easier for you to react in a more informed or thought out way.

    Most people will never be in this exact scenario, but there are many people who will face something similar. My sister doesnít work in construction, she works in coffee. And often faces a very similar situation when a homeless person is perhaps sitting outside the coffeehouse minding their own business and customers are asking her to do something about it. Having talked through the situation beforehand she is armed with a standard response which is ready and rehearsed.

    Lastly, thank you for bringing my usage of the word ďfunĒ. That is probably not the best way to describe what the intention of the conversation is and I apologize for framing this conversation with that verbiage.

    Thank you for your candid response which hopefully makes many people stop and think about why we do or donít have conversations like this.

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  18. #18
    Member Geika's Avatar
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    Thank you, Shoka. Nothing against you, personally, at all, though I know it may have seemed so. I know that you are not passive about engaged work at all!

    I see the point of the exercise, and I can see how many people may need some forethought in this kind of situation.

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    迎 Geika

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Geika View Post
    Thank you, Shoka. Nothing against you, personally, at all, though I know it may have seemed so. I know that you are not passive about engaged work at all!

    I see the point of the exercise, and I can see how many people may need some forethought in this kind of situation.

    Gassho, sat today, lah
    Geika,

    I didn't take anything you said as personally against me. I know that when people step up and say "what is the point" it is with the purest of intentions. Honestly, I'm sure there are many other people who have read this and thought "what's the point of this conversation" and didn't say anything. So it's great to to stop and ask those questions.

    It also helps me learn to frame the conversation better, which is great as well!

    Gassho,

    Shoka
    sattoday
    香道 笑花
    Kodo Shoka

    Please don't take anything I say as anything more than just a normal person's thoughts on the topic. I'm just stumbling through life trying to be helpful, but really don't know much.

  20. #20
    Thanks for the perspective, Geika. This is why there are ethics classes in the curriculum for many professions nowadays, because it helps to have at least some familiarity with how to approach an ethical question in general and to consider a situation from multiple viewpoints. As Buddhists, we have the Precepts to guide us, but itís not always clear where they point, which is why we discuss them prior to Jukai. I took ethics in school, but it was astounding how much and how quickly attitudes towards topics we had discussed shifted over the years as I was out working! Being able to step back and objectively consider my values and vows allows me to rethink my own beliefs and actions on the fly when needed, instead of getting stuck in the automatic ďthis is my opinion on thisĒ that seems to be what I hear so often from others.

    Gassho
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  21. #21


    Thank you all.

    SatToday
    流道
    Ryū Dou

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