well....no. they're not. we do indeed have a problem and it's a major one in my opinion. local governments are a problem at the present with all the ordinances that effect the homeless. but on the other side, homeless advocates are just as much responsible and just as big a part of the problem as the city governments. they are blindly taking the side of the homeless without really thinking about the problem or why the cities have reacted in such a seemingly harsh manner. until they step back and look at the bigger picture and consider the city's concerns and what caused the reactions, there will be no good solution to the problem they may delay the inevitable with publicity and an outcry, but sooner or later the ordinances will come back, enforcement will get tougher and everyone will lose.
in my former life i've been at a few of the meetings and planning sessions where the homeless were the topic and the question of what to do has been at the center of debate. yes, there has been the extreme answers come up on both sides of the spectrum. in reality for a city to actually criminalize, target and persecute the homeless it would require such a total collaboration of people from different points of view and such a complete, implicit plan that i truly think it would be impossible. if any city did manage to compile such a coalition, it would be the coup of the century. it would take a majority of the city council to heartlessly pass such ordinances while stipulating penalties so harsh that the homeless could not escape them. it would take a mayor willing to go along with those ordinances and penalties and sign the law. it would take a law enforcement agency so cruel and lacking any other priorities as to almost constantly be vigilant of the homeless and violations of those ordinances. then it would take a judge willing to go along with those violations and impose the subsequent penalties without any compassion or understanding or realization that the laws were unfair. outside official agencies you would have to have the quiet cooperation of homeless agencies and advocacies churches, philanthropies, charities and even newspapers so the issue didn't become a moral cause and creae such an uproar that the entire concept would have to be scrapped. then there's social media. it would take a complete and total blackout...we all know that's not going to happen.
in reality, the problem is a two sided one. i'm not going to address the obvious and say that any true attempt to criminalize the homeless is a direct violation of not only human rights but the bill of rights in itself. the homeless do not need a bill of rights, they already have one and are fully protected under it. they have the same legal rights and responsibilities as any other citizen. any direct infringement on those rights can and should be dealt with as any other citizen would be. i think a key thing to remember here also is the fact that the homeless nave responsibilities. they do not escape those responsibilities as citizens just because they are homeless. just as they should not be persecuted or targeted because they are homeless they should also not be relieved of their basic obligations and responsibilities as good citizens. so all the advocates looking for a headline or the next big homeless cause should quickly back off that concept and stop trying to further isolate the homeless. the homeless need to be fully integrated into society, not treated as a separate group.
when a city passes ordinances that seem to target and directly effect the homeless, it is usually after a problem has come to a boiling point. public feedings seem to be a hot topic at the moment when it comes to criminalizing the homeless, so i'm going to say some things about that. pubic feedings are a very kind and generous gesture. feeding the hungry goes right to the core of kindness, charity and the spirit of human giving. but when you see headlines about a city outlawing feeding the homeless, they are not truly outlawing feeding the homeless. they are not trying to starve the homeless. even the most supportive of advocates should know that's not the case and if they'd stop for a moment and look at the entire situation and consider all the details, they would know that. public feedings can be a problem, and often are. often the logistics are horrible and the control factor is nonexistent. feeding the homeless, especially in an outdoor environment is not like having a family picnic in the park. it can be tedious at best and can very quickly turn into chaos. i've seen it.....alot. when the lunch or whatever it is that's being served is over, often there is a conglomeration of trash left. i'm not saying this is the case in every situation, but it does happen too often. and for some reason, advocates seem to choose the most inconvenient place to hold these feedings. a street corner in one of the busiest business areas of town, a public park on a saturday afternoon or a parking lot of a business that is closed for the weekend that has no idea this is being done. to complicate matters even more, at times, in the locations i just mentioned, violence will break out. it happens...whether or not advocates and people who support these feedings want to admit it. it's a fact and in reality odds are it's going to happen at some point. the city reacts when people complain often enough. they don't just take it upon themselves to say....we don't like the homeless so let's pass some laws to get rid of them. and to complicate this whole situation even more, quite often the people who bemoan the fact the the city is attempting to criminalize the homeless are some of the very people who complained the loudest and longest about the homeless problem. these same people pass homeless individuals every morning on the way to work and never look at them or try to think of ways to help. remember...when you read that a city has criminalized the feeding of the homeless....they haven't. they have only passed an ordinance that says you can't have a spontaneous, unplanned, uncontrolled feeding. they are not closing the missions or charity dining rooms where the homeless can eat....three times a day.
now sleeping, camping and sitting is another issue. but there again, usually before a city passes ordinances that seem to target the homeless when it comes to these things, it is only after a problem has come to a boiling point. it is only after the city council, the mayor's office and the police have been deluged with complaints, many of them legitimate. take a moment to look at the pictures below. just slow down and browse thru them. there's only 12 of them so it won't take long. but really look at them and think about them for a minute. these are not made up pictures. these are not exaggerated. these are real and realistic. this is what happens when you have the homeless camping or sleeping in an area. unfortunately it is a stark reality that cities have to take into consideration and deal with. i'm not saying every homeless person or every homeless camp is like this. but i have to be honest, any time a homeless person or group of homeless people move into an area and are there for any extended period of time, this is usually the outcome.
a city is responsible for the homeless. they should be treated like any other citizen. they have rights. they are protected under the law. also a city should treat the homeless with compassion and do the best job within their means and financial capability to serve and assist the homeless. but the city also has a responsibility to the other 99% of the population and it's concerns, rights and protection. the homeless also have responsibilities, which are often not lived up to. no, they shouldn't be homeless. yes...they should have housing and be afforded every opportunity to acquire food, shelter, clothing and employment. but no...it can't be unconditional without consideration of the other citizens of the community.
look at those pictures one more time. would you tolerate this in your business district where you work every day. would you tolerate this on the street you live on and your children play on? would you allow this in the yard next to your home? would you want a homeless public feeding in front of your house? would you allow a homeless camp in your neighborhood? until you can answer yes to all these questions, don't be so quick to judge a city and its attempt to deal with the homeless. i am not taking a stance against the homeless. i am taking a stance against all the articles and news reports that fail to see that unless we as advocates recognize there are two sides to these issues and that the homeless and the advocates have a responsibility to attempt to see the other side and not be so militantly against any city's effort to deal with these issues that the homeless will ultimately be the losers. until we step back and try to find common ground and deal with the city reasonably and find a solution, there will be no solution.
see you around town