Sunday, June 10, 2012

Criminalizing The Homeless

This is sad. Please read the article below about potential laws emerging towards criminalizing homeless people.  If it is not bad enough to be homeless! Imagine having no where to go. Imagine people stereotyping before you open up your mouth and say one word. Imagine shelters being full when you seek refuge only to be regrettably turned away. Imagine as you huddle against a bush for warmth in a park only to be arrested FOR BEING HOMELESS. Where are these people to go? They already have no where to go! There are not enough shelters and not enough resources currently out there to deal with this issue. Most cities are struggling mightily with their budgets--more so than usual. And what about burdening the criminal system people so love to quip about losing their nickels on? The homeless are certainly precious in God's eyes, but with people they are often viewed with contempt! I would hate to see people arrested simply because they have no where to go--it just shouldn't be!  The climate towards this poor group is becoming increasingly hostile.  Sad indeed.

Cities' homeless crackdown: Could it be compassion fatigue?

By Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY

A growing number of cities across the United States are making it harder to be homeless.

Philadelphia recently banned outdoor feeding of people in city parks. Denver has begun enforcing a ban on eating and sleeping on property without permission. And this month, lawmakers in Ashland, Ore., will consider strengthening the town's ban on camping and making noise in public.

And the list goes on: Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, Miami, Oklahoma City and more than 50 other cities have previously adopted some kind of anti-camping or anti-food-sharing laws, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.

The ordinances are pitting city officials against homeless advocates. City leaders say they want to improve the lives of homeless people and ensure public safety, while supporters of the homeless argue that such regulations criminalize homelessness and make it harder to live on the nation's streets.

"We're seeing these types of laws being proposed and passed all over the country," said Heather Johnson, a civil rights attorney at the homeless and poverty law center, which opposes many of the measures. "We think that criminalization measures such as these are counterproductive. Rather than address the root cause of homelessness, they perpetuate homelessness."

A number of organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia this month in response to its feeding ban.

Mark McDonald, press secretary for the city's mayor, Michael Nutter, said the measures are about expanding the services offered to the homeless, adding dignity to their lives and about ensuring good public hygiene and safety.

"This is about an activity on city park land that the mayor thinks is better suited elsewhere," he said. "We think it's a much more dignified place to be in an indoor sit-down restaurant. … The overarching policy goal of the mayor is based on a belief that hungry people deserve something more than getting a ham sandwich out on the side of the street."

If people come inside for feeding programs, they can be connected with other social service programs and possibly speak with officials such as substance abuse counselors and mental health professionals, McDonald said.

Critics argue that bans on feeding and camping often leave people with no where to eat or sleep because many cities lack emergency food services and shelters. Meanwhile, citing people who violate such ordinances costs cities money when officials try to follow up on such cases and hurts people's ability to get jobs and housing, because many develop criminal records.

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