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The New Homeless: Rodger Jacobs and a Tale of Two Cities

September 1st, 2010 by Celeste Fremon

Today, LA Weekly’s J. Patrick Coolican writes
about the startlingly divergent reactions to LA writer Rodger Jacobs’ account of his slide toward homeless.

Coolican rightly notes that it is probably simplistic and unfair to draw any kind of conclusion about the differences between Los Angeles and Las Vegas based on the fact that one set of reactions seems to cleave to LV, the other in LA. Then again, says Coolican….

Here’s how the post opens:

Sunday the Las Vegas Sun published a first-person essay by Rodger Jacobs, a longtime L.A.-based journalist, playwright and documentary film producer, who moved to Las Vegas to care for an ailing mother, who has since died. The simple yet powerful headline: “I am frightened.” He describes how through poor health, the Great Recession, a horrible run of luck (not the gambling kind) and a few bad decisions, he and his girlfriend Lela were on the verge of homelessness, with eviction coming Tuesday. His opening exhortation seemed simple enough: Citing the classics, he asks the reader to walk a mile in his shoes. And so the people of Las Vegas did. And they basically spat on him.

Here’s a small sampling of the venom, which careens from finger wagging to beating him over the head with their conservative politics to outright hostility:

For someone who can write in a very moving way, Rodger sure has made some poor choices.

In many parts of the world this man would be rich.

I think there must be more to this story.

The guy has to stop buying cigarettes for starters….its time for a career change.

What a sob story. His girlfriend needs to get her butt out to McDonald’s and find a job.

Come on. Bad choices were made all along that got you to this point.

And a personal favorite, for its religious meaning: After reading the essay and then attending church, the commenter writes: Then I went to church, but thought about Rodger’s situation some more…The sympathy I felt after reading this story the first time has drained away, and I have read it twice more since.

No doubt, they made a bad decision or two, and sure, the nicotine addiction is a bit off-putting, but for the love of God, they’re about to be homeless.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if these commenters are in Las Vegas, but they are among the first of the hundreds of comments and were likely regular local readers of the Sun and so probably many, if not most of them. are local.

The drubbing got so bad that the paper’s editor had to jump into the comments and defend the guy. Jacobs tried to defend himself as well.

Then something happened this week — in L.A…..

Read the rest here.

WitnessLA coverage of Rodger Jacobs’ story may be found here and here.

PS: It also might be tempting to pass off the opposing reactions to conservative versus liberal. But having just spent nearly a month in the conservative-leaning Flathead County of Montana, where I retreat for part of most summers, I cannot possibly imagine most of my Montana neighbors reacting in any way but with kindness.

(Okay, yeah, knowing Montanans, they likely would have trotted out a few pithy personal opinions as they helped, but they would have helped, no question—and no strings.)

Posted in Homelessness, writers and writing | 1 Comment »

One Response

  1. Rodger Jacobs Says:

    As of 6:00 PM Tuesday we have landed in our Extended Stay hotel, Celeste; as for why we chose this over a “$400-500 apartment” refer to my comment to Kelly in your previous post.

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