The criminalization of homelessness
Poverty is the worst form of violence. Mahatma Gandhi
This particular Baltimore Sun commentary goes hand in hand with Paul Krugman’s commentary on making life more difficult for the <less than 138% FPL using Medicaid. The motive of the Trumpians. Trump, and Republicans is to punish people for things impacting them through no fault of their own. Trumps plays to a crowd who believe others less fortunate are getting something for nothing. It is an old ploy to establish a class lower than the next level so they believe they have a her level of existence.
Imagine if sleeping were to get you thrown in jail. Or sitting and lying down in public. Or camping. Or snoozing in your car.
In cities across the country, that is exactly what is happening to homeless people who engage in these activities. In an effort to clean up their cities and make residents and visitors more comfortable, lawmakers have taken an inhumane approach to homelessness and made all these actions illegal.
Civil liberties advocates have challenged these laws arguing, arguing they violate the 8th Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. This month, they were handed a victory from the Supreme Court, which declined to review a lower court ruling that allowed people to sleep in public when shelters are full. The justices made their decision with no comment or dissent in the case, which stemmed from a lawsuit filed by homeless people in Boise, Idaho, who were ticketed for sleeping outside.
We hope the high court’s decision will make other cities think twice about adopting such laws, which punishes people for their predicament. A study released last week by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty found the number of cities with such regulations is growing rapidly. In 2019, 83% of 187 cities had at least one law that restricted begging in public. Fifty-five percent of these cities have one or more laws prohibiting sitting or lying down in public and 51% had at least one law restricting sleeping in public. Currently, 72% of the cities have at least one law restricting camping in public. There are even laws that prohibit people from sleeping in their cars.
In Baltimore, laws exist that prohibit sitting and lying and public, loitering and loafing, begging in public and sharing food, according to the national law center data. Many of the laws are not enforced, and homeless people are often seen asking for money at some of the city’s busiest intersections.
We see the need for some restrictions to protect the homeless — but without a criminal or monetary penalty. It’s just not safe for people to sleep on the streets with cars whizzing by. Especially in the dark of night. Just last month, a 78-year-old homeless man died after being run over by an MTA Mobility bus while lying on top of a manhole cover in the 100 block of E. Saratoga Street. The bus driver told police they never even knew anyone was hit, and police believe the steam and man’s dark clothing hid him from view. We should have sympathy for someone who becomes so desperate they take the risk of lying across a manhole with warm steam seeping out on a freezing cold night.
Widespread sleeping and loitering bans are cruel when homeless people have no choice but to sleep outside. If cities don’t have enough shelters they can’t get mad when people find whatever patch of grass or sidewalk that is available. Otherwise, where exactly are people supposed to sleep? Should the 2,500 people in Baltimore who may have no place to lay their head from night to night doze in the waters of the Inner Harbor? Or perhaps floating in midair or in a tree? Or maybe they should never sleep at all? We didn’t think so.
These laws that criminalize the homeless only mask the problem — and do nothing to help people. They are more about making an uncomfortable problem invisible to those who don’t want to admit it exists. On top of that, in many cities it just overburdens the jails and courts to have to process people for such trivial indiscretions. Law enforcement resources should be spent on other priorities, such as carjackings, burglaries and solving homicides.
Some city officials have argued that shelters are dangerous and overcrowded. Hopefully, the Supreme Court’s decision will force cities into finally increasing their affordable housing stock — whether it is through tiny house programs or affordable apartment buildings.
Let’s put people in real homes and not jail houses.
Baltimore Sun Editorial Board, Baltimore Sun, December 23, 2019
Just an offshoot of the “welfare queens driving Cadillacs” meme.
It’s just that it is so much worse.
New decade today and a time to be introspect(?) and begin to understand what we have done or allowed bein acquiescent to a few. As the old guys, we still have time and the power to change this. It is another interesting commentary on what is happening amongst us.
I wished I shared your optimism Run. I just can’t. Living in AZ for the last 16 years has convinced me that these people will not change. Doesn’t matter what evidence is presented, theri views are etched in stone(IE climate change).
The only bright light(if you can call it that) is that eventually all of the old white working class will die, and their spawn will be outnumbered.
Unfortunately for you and me, we will go along with them.
I live amongst the ignorant (Trumpians driving there pickme-ups at a fast pace) who wish to talk down to the old guy on the block. It does not work. Talking healthcare to them is a real eye opener for them.
I see similar here in Michigan amongst them. Except even the engineers amongst can not quite grasp the fact they are being used to promote the welfare of the greater than 1% amongst us. My wife and I as people extremely diverse (there thoughts) from them are hoping we could find an enclave in AZ or at least escape the weather and gain the sun. They in turn believe they are really, really gaining from Trump being in office. We will gain another 2008 of correction if not careful.
Oh, you can find an enclave. Just takes a lot of patience and a lot of weeding(and I am not talking actual weeds).
We were looking at the new stuff down near San Tan 1600 to 1800 square feet sitting on 7-8000 square feet. Biggest problem are my tools. With them, I can fix things. Without them, I am hiring people. Large garage would work as there are no basements (as you know).
It is hard to act stupid and accepting.
Almost all of those kind of houses out here(all newer construction have at least a two car garage.
OTOH, keeping your car outside in AZ is not a good idea.
I will give you one warning that is going to sound strange. The heat out here takes a terrible toll on batteries. Unlike my experience back east with batteries losing power where you tell things weren’t quite right and still start. Out here when a battery goes there is no warning at all. And a lot of the time they won’t even work with a starter cable jump.
Frequent trips to a auto store for a battery check(free) if your battery is more than 18 months old is a great idea.
I learned to buy an expensive battery with a 3 year warranty knowing that when I checked it in two years it would not be charging correctly. You get a new battery for free. Unfortunately the free battery does not have the same warranty.
Car batteries were always susceptible to heat and having them in the engine compartments is not a good idea. My Saturn had one under the rear seat. An Audi had it in the trunk. I swapped out the Saturn battery at 6 years. Your advice makes sense. It also makes sense to spend a bit more on insulation.
I am kind of like an engineer, economist, logistics, mechanical fixit guy and I wore a lot of different hats. Some people get a little aggravated when you know a thing or two.
Well, despite our being alike in many ways, in terms of handyman, engineer, construction talents we are polar opposites. I learned at an early age that I could not even hammer a nail.
In 7th grade the shop classes started. Wood the first semester, metal the second. I took one look at a band saw and refused to get near it. My teacher said I would fail. I told him OK by me. Same thing happened in metals.
My other grades were good enough that those F’s never stopped me fron graduating. The problem jumped up in high school.. By that time I was one of the best athletes in my class, starting in all three sports(they only had three in my day).
So my football coach comes up to me the first day in class and asks me how I am going to do in shop. I told him I was going to fail. He said you could not play sports with any F’s, and I said I just couldn’t do it.
He found a solution thought. He put me in the home economics class. While I struggled with sewing, I was fine with cooking. I took a lot of ribbing my my teammates the first couple of weeks of school. But that changed pretty quickly.
They noticed I was always eating lunch with five or six girls.
Next year, 5 or 6 guys took Home Ec. By my senior year, half of all three teams were in Home Ec. They actually had to hire two more Home Ec teachers.
A good example of adapting, overcoming, and improvising by going in a different direction. I did the opposite. My dad was a tuckpointer, bricklayer with less than a grade school education. I pretty much learned his trade. He would rig rope scaffolds on buildings like the Wrigley, Tribune Tower, Prudential, Union Carbide, etc. I was a laborer and worked for him and the other men. I still know how to tie the knots and splice rope.
As you roam Chicago, you will come across a high school by the name of Lane Technical H.S. which was an all boys magnet type of high school. It was equipped with all types of shops such as auto, wood working, house framing, electric, etc. I did not do the auto shop; but, I did the rest along with a two year Architectural program. I still have my drafting implements. I am a dinosaur from the fifties and sixties. They eliminated all of the shops which would have been of great use today I believe. Lane is still a magnet school but of a different nature and it still has a reputation of having more of its graduates going on to secure Doctorates.
By the way, it you get downtown on Michigan Ave. and in front of the Wrigley, make sure you descend the steps to the Billy Goat bar (Saturday Night Live fame) and enjoy a cheese burger with chips (no fry). The men off the scaffolds would drink their boilermakers and return to working the Wrigley 10-20 stories up on the rope scaffolds.
Not just the shops, but the vocational schools.
In my high school, those not interested in college spent the mornings or afternoons at the high school. The other half of the day they spent at the vo tech school.
Sounds just like Lane, though not as specialized. Seems to me that the votech buddies I had did at least as well in life as the college prep guys, if not better.
Short sighted nonsense decisions.
I played basketball, average 12 points a game, did not carry the ball like they do today, and was a master at thunking the ball on the rim just short of stuffing the ball. Became a master of fade-aways and dipping the left shoulder to glide past them.
Lots of attitude running around with the physical labor group. It can be interesting when they figure out I know pretty much what they know and I answer their comments. It is hard to treat them in a kind manner at times. Some figure it out and a lot come in displaying the attitude.
Down at Loyola they are an enclave on to themselves. Even though I go there and talk to students, they keep me at arms length. They guard their boundaries and keep it exclusive. Listen to this 16 minutes of a podcast and watch as the good Prof, glides past the elephant in the room. https://youtu.be/VxzIp2FMys0
“Generation WTF?! What is the Future for a $1.5 Trillion Indebted Student Generation & What It Means for Society”
I had a tough time not answering . . .
Personally I am in favor of a QE for all student loans.
Have the FED buy up all of them; lower the interest rate to near zero and extend the terms.
Then work to make tuition way, way more affordable.
I was on athletic scholarship my first two years before my body went bad. The rest of my school years I could work a minimum wage job for 500 hours a year and pay my tuition.
I have a grand nephew going to the same school now. He would have to work 2800 hours a year at minimum wage to pay his tuition.
That math don’t work.
Fixed. We did the scholarship and loan thing with Staffords, Parent loans. The bunch of us joined together and paid them off quickly after they were out. I am of low interest (< than 2%) 10 years, and done. They can be more productive in their thirties and forties then. The increased productivity gained from being student loan debt free will be paid back in greater productivity, consumption, and taxes.
NYC went through this with the homeless decades ago. They were ordered by a court to provide housing if they wanted to kick people off of the streets. It gets in NYC in the winter and people die sleeping outdoors; people die curled up in steam pipes trying to get warm. The city built shelters and halfway housing and did what it could. This hasn’t solved the homelessness crisis, but it put it on a sounder legal basis.
NYC has always had a problem with the homeless. The solutions have varied. O’Henry had one character trying to get arrested to get shelter in a jail cell for the winter. My grandmother remembered people sleeping in the hallways of her tenement, some of them garment workers who curled up next to their sewing machines. When I was a kid, the Bowery was famous for its flophouses and drunks in the street. It’s not a soluble problem, but it is a tractable one.
One principle of law is that it cannot require the impossible. People don’t cease to exist just because they can’t make rent. Throwing them in jail is the high cost solution.
What might solve the homelessness problem is a Universal Basic Income. Seriously. People come to the cities to survive (or find drugs) even though they can’t afford the rent. Give them some money and they will go where they can afford to live.
It is not just a lack of income that is the problem. Much of the homeless already have employment.
IIRC HUD, the Department of Housing has as making less than eighty thousand dollars qualifies one for housing aid. Since a decent one bedroom apartment can easily cost twenty-five hundred dollars a month, that is not a surprise.
Of course, there is no aid available really. The waiting lists can be years long.