A column with something to offend everyone? Not quite, I hope.

Mulling over events, experiences of the last three weeks in preparation for this column, it was difficult to focus on a single subject, so I decided to just let a few thoughts fly.

Yet another scandal brewing in the Craig administration seems so ho-hum these days.

A survey that finds parents and students are generally satisfied with Harford schools didn't give rise to any great revelations, except maybe the part about teenagers, who generally have an aversion to cleanliness in their own rooms at home, think their schools could be cleaner. I was surprised, however, this question was missing from the survey: My teacher or my child's teacher is or is not adequately paid? We could have had some fun with that one.

Another death connected with the Harford County Detention Center prompts a response from the sheriff that is eerily almost word-for-word what he said about the last jail death seven weeks earlier. So, is 17 deaths in 20-plus years a bad track record? Would it be in a hospital operating room, or an industrial plant? Just how far goes the responsibility of the jailer to keep the people under his care alive?

Another crackdown is made on lewd activity in adult bookstores in the glory hole capital of central Maryland. The question I always ask at times like this hasn't changed: How come we have so many of these places in Harford County compared to our neighbors?

Another local murder ostensibly committed by a teenager does perhaps cry out for cogent commentary; however, irrespective of motive and circumstances, let's at least credit the authorities in our county for not hesitating to lodge adult charges for adult crimes. Whatever the outcome, at least the public will have an opportunity to get some understanding of what transpired and why.

The death of the two homeless people who were living in a tent in Aberdeen last week is an unnecessary tragedy, something that really should concern all of us. This is not to say the plight of the homeless in Harford County has lacked attention or compassion; in fact, I think as a community, a lot has been done to try to help and to reach out.

Unfortunately, as one caller to our office, who certainly seemed like she knew a lot about the subject, put it: Not everyone who is homeless wants help or will accept it. She also pointed out that most homeless people have been beaten down to the point where most suffer from low self-esteem, which makes them easy targets for insensitive jerks like me (my words, not hers) to grouse about the handout class in our country.

Sometimes in situations like this, it's tempting to borrow from my cab driving experiences in Baltimore, where I spent so many nights on the streets, I probably got to know every homeless person in the city, at least to see them and occasionally have conversations.

Once, watching the two or three who walked up and down Light Street in Federal Hill at all hours of the night, I thought the difference between me and them right now is I have a key to this car I'm sitting in and when this night is over, I will drive back to my home in the suburbs. Then, tomorrow night, I'll be back here again sitting in my car, and that homeless man or woman will come walking down the street past me, just like he or she did last night and the night before and the night before.

I can't tell you what it's like to be homeless, but I can tell you what it's like to be in the company of someone (many times, actually) who has arrived at what they thought would be a place they thought they could stay, only to be told to "get out" and not have anyplace else to go. If I felt helpless standing next to them, and believe me I did, can you imagine how they felt? It was beyond my comprehension.

This morning, I found myself cutting across our old parking lot and looking at our former building, standing vacant all these months on Hays Street.

Actually, when we left — and suspecting it would a long time before the building could be sold because of the parent company's convoluted bankruptcy, I figured it wouldn't be long before someone broke in and began living there.

Doesn't appear to have happened yet, but what about those unfortunate people in Aberdeen and others like them who are living out in the woods in Harford County? Here sits a large, vacant building in the middle of Bel Air, nothing being done with it. Even without heat, it would offer better shelter on a cold, windy, snowy night than a pup tent.

That's an awfully simplified view of a very complicated problem, true enough. But it also speaks to the hard reality that no one should have to be without a roof over his or her head. Certainly, there are ample alternatives that could be made available by us who don't otherwise have to be concerned about such trivialities.

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