Denver officials will decide today whether a solution to the problem of homeless people is to make it illegal.
The City Council is voting today on an ordinance that bans eating, sleeping and storing personal possessions on public or private property without permission. It includes using a blanket as shelter.
Says the Associated Press:
Denver's proposed ban reflects a national trend of crackdowns on homeless people and is more sweeping than most because it applies to all public and private land, 24 hours a day, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
"This is exactly not the way that cities and governments should be responding to homelessness," she said.
The Law Center estimates as many as 3.5 million people are homeless nationwide.
It costs less to get the homeless into housing than it does to jail them, Foscarinis said. And a ban in Denver could make it harder for people to escape homelessness because an arrest record can shut them out of jobs, she said.
Maybe they can go to St. Louis where this morning Rev. Larry Rice of the New Life Evangelistic Center announced plans for a two-acre tent city. It comes after the city shut down homeless encampments along the Mississippi.
So, it would be illegal to sit on a blanket and eat food in a public park, without permission? In other words, have a picnic? All in an effort to keep the homeless and Occupy people out of public spaces? Wow.
And I know that people in general don't like tent cities and homeless camps, but for many, it is the place they feel most safe. Some aren't allowed in shelters due to chemical dependency issues. A lot of the shelters are run by religious groups that frown on, or openly discriminate against, GLBT people. Especially Transgendered people. I see nothing wrong with allowing people to be homeless and live life the way they want. Of course we should help anyone who wants to get off the streets, but we should accept that not all homeless people are at a place at this time to move off the streets, for whatever reason.
A ban without options accomplishes nothing.
Colorado cities like Grand Junction are cracking down on the real problems: unsafe conditions, uncontrolled dogs, drugs, untreated medical conditions, while expanding shelter space, adding a teen shelter, building apartments for homeless vets, focusing a police unit on homeless outreach instead of arrests.
When business drives policy, Denver happens. When coalitions that include cops, business, schools, social justice & faith community, library, treatment agencies, health dept., etc. communities make progress.
Him: Honey! Kids! Come here! I have an announcement to make. Starting tomorrow we're leaving home and we're going to live on the streets.
Kids: Yaaa hoo! Camping every night!
Him: Yup, we're going to be homeless!
Her: But dear, didn't you hear? Homelessness is now against the law. We can't do that.
Him: Really? Well, I guess you are right. We don't want to break the law. Sorry kids, we're stayin' home.
Kids: Awwww. Phooey. That stupid law!
Him: No kids, it's a good law. Otherwise we'd needlessly take advantage of city resources, like sidewalks, that the rest of the people living here have payed for through their taxes. It wouldn't be fair for us to use more than our share by sleeping on them. This law is just making sure that city resources are shared by everyone equally.
Her: I'm so happy we have a government that treats people with respect!
I truly wonder what problem the city council it trying to solve and how they think making "urban camping" illegal will solve it.
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread." -Anatole France