Behind this sign is a story. It’s not the story you expect.

And I do mean quite literally behind.

This sign overlooks a small piece of (apparently) public property with evergreen trees as you can see in the photo.


Below: yellow is the sign, red are the trees. I walk along the sidewalk south of those trees every day at work.

What you can’t see from either of these images are the tents pitched among the trees. They started popping up in the fall, at first very well-hidden by the trees, to the point where I smelled them before I noticed they were there.

The fact that this is a better situation than their neighbors a half block away who live under a leaky bridge is small comfort. This country can do better, but that’s not why I’m writing this.


Wednesday as I walked along that sidewalk I heard the loud sounds of birds.

I noticed this in particular because often as I’ve walked that very sidewalk over last year I’ve contemplated how few birds there are in the area, despite the vegetation. Yes, it’s near the heart of a city, but birds are in trouble. We’re all in trouble.


That, too, is not why I’m writing this.

I had a sinking feeling as I walked and listen to the bird cries that they were not, in fact, birds. I confirmed this after stopping to look up at the billboard.


Because the property where the trees and the tents and few birds reside is public, the police can’t chase the tent-dwellers away for trespassing.

Instead, someone has decided to make their lives even more miserable by putting speakers behind the sign and playing a recording, loudly, of birds. All day and as far as I can tell all night. Certainly at 5:30 Thursday morning I heard them.


That they chose this particular sign as an instrument of harassment of desperate, hungry people, is why I write this.


I wish I had a solution. I just hope that isn’t me in my old age. I’ve given up hope that no one would have to live that way.

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