By way of griping about the hoodlums and rampant vandalism after Sunday night's World Series victory, Chuck Nevius returned to one of his favorite subjects of recent years, Larry the Shoe Shine Guy at New Montgomery and Market. He devoted his seventh or eighth column to the man in the last three years because one of his shoeshine chairs got damaged in the fracas. And what happened? Tons of donations have poured in for Larry, he got handed $600 in cash the next day while shoeshining, a new chair got donated, and somebody set up this indiegogo campaign for him which raised $10,000 in a day. This is all great for Larry, and we're sincerely glad that people stepped up to help. But we'd like to repeat that Nevius needs to use his power as a newpaper columnist to do more for homeless people besides just Larry. The trouble is he doesn't much care for most homeless people and their loitering, panhandling habits.
Nevius has influence, you guys. He writes a column, and because there's so little worth reading in the Chronicle some days (and we'll admit, Nevius is eminently readable), his shit gets read. Money similarly poured in the last couple times Nevius shined a light on Larry's plight, like when Larry needed to pay for a permit to keep shining shoes, and when he needed back surgery and was potentially not going to be able to work anymore. Granted none of this has made Larry a rich man, and he's a worthy beneficiary of peoples' charity, but so are a legion of other people with similarly or more tragic stories, down on their luck, and who may not fit the compelling profile of the well-dressed, hardworking chap that has made Larry such terrific fodder for Nevius.
Nevius has become our de facto quality-of-life op-ed columnist in the last decade, railing against everything from NIMBYs, to pesky tree-preservationists, to Haight sit-liers, to nudists. And in 2007, he was instrumental in getting homeless encampments cleared out of Golden Gate Park, after one of his investigative columns led to some outrage from then Mayor Gavin Newsom. He similarly wrote about the schism between S.F.'s more business-minded liberals and homeless-coddling progressives, and has advocated time and again for quality of life, and crackdowns on ne'er-do-wells and panhandlers, over other sorts of homeless advocacy.
You see what we're getting at here? Nevius likes Larry. He can tell a good story about Larry. He was forced to admit earlier this year that Larry isn't an angel and had gotten back into a pain-pill addiction. "Larry is an example of why treating homelessness and poverty is so difficult," Nevius wrote. "It isn't as if Larry wasn't trying. He was. He still is. But he didn't end up on the street by accident. As he admits, he's got issues." Also, Larry isn't quite homeless -- he's been housed, either in an apartment or SRO, for the better part of the last couple of years since Nevius "adopted" him.
There are a lot of people doing a lot of great work around homelessness in this city, and Nevius could do them a lot of good by shining a light and telling people where to donate. Or he could find a new homeless person to write about each month, since he has so many columns to fill anyway, and find the compelling angles of their stories. But, alas, he doesn't seem too interested in that. He's far more pissed off about people who defecate in doorways and drink the pain away, and would prefer to ignore them while sharing the tale of a guy who puts on a tie and works every day like the rest of us, because he fits better into the narrow Nevius framework of the world.
End of rant. And we're glad Larry got a brand new chair.