Today I’d like to share an article by Pat LaMarche that touches on aspects of the homeless problem that we have not yet examined in depth.
In her recent column on Common Dreams, None of the Poor Children Matter, LaMarche comments on an increasingly common trend in US cities – the banishing from view of those in our society’s broken segments from the common view. This NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) mentality is one that we are seeing with increasing frequency, and its “out of sight, out of mind,” stance can only make an already intolerable situation worse.
Officials in Clearwater, Fla., are working diligently to put the hungry in their place. In this case that place is eight miles out of town at a facility near the county jail. The St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen is — according to the well fed elitists running the town — ‘enabling’ the handout taking behavior of those just looking for a meal.
This practice of the ‘haves banishing the have-nots’ to the hinterland is just a part of a trend that is sweeping the country. Clearwater isn’t alone in Florida and the practice is spreading to other regions. Philadelphia, Pa., has been in the news recently for their cutting-edge political philosophy that feeding people not only enables them but downright insults them if done in the presence of those who don’t need assistance.
To shuffle off the homeless to a site eight miles out of town in this fashion is reprehensible, to say the least. This is especially true when you factor in the number of children counted among the homeless.
It is appalling to shunt aside starving kids like this. I think we can all agree that children are innocent and not responsible for their circumstances. Privation during formative years like this is a recipe for a lifetime of ills, both social and physical.
The point that LaMarche makes with poigniant personal narrative is that not all of these children are young. The developmentally disabled are effectively children all their lives, and are often thrust onto the streets when their parents or guardians pass away.
Many of the single women I worked with were permanently and equivalently 10, 11 or 12 years of age. Bonita — none of the names I’ll use here are real — told me when she showed up homeless at our once majestic hotel-turned-shelter, that she’d always wanted to live in a great big house with high ceilings and long stairways, but she didn’t know it would have so many homeless people in it.
You laugh or you cry in that line of work. Some days you do both.
I strongly advise reading this article, particularly for the story of the woman referred to simply as “Joan.” Trust me, it is a story that you need to read.
Drew Harwell of The Tampa Bay Times notes the ongoing battle between the city of Tampa and its homeless population: battle that involves the homeless being pushed further and further out of sight, despite their overwhelming numbers.
With more than 15,000 homeless people, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area has the highest rate of homelessness among metropolitan areas in the country, according to a 2012 report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
But Clearwater’s offerings for the homeless have shrunk as officials have pushed for consolidating services in places like Safe Harbor or a nearby tent city named Pinellas Hope — a practice critics deride as ‘warehousing.’ The Clearwater Homeless Intervention Project, a shelter and day center next to the soup kitchen that offered a number of services, closed last year after the city withdrew a $100,000 grant.
Are they deliberately trying to create new criminals? Think about it: if all of your options were suddenly gone and you had to resort to crime to put food in your children’s mouths wouldn’t you do it? Be honest.
By relocating food assistance eight miles out of town, the city is placing unnecessary hardship on people who already have a mountain of woes. The solution is to find a way to reintegrate them with day to day life, not to push them away in a fashion reminiscent of the way feudal lords in the Middle Ages treated their peasantry.
This trend of warehousing is one we intend to watch closely, as it is antithetical to every reputable finding on the subject of homelessness.
LaMarche is host of Maine’s The Pulse Morning Show (available online at zoneradio.com) and is also the author of Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States. Ms. LaMarche was the Green Party’s vice-presidential candidate in the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
If you are interested in learning more about the homeless issue in the US, you might wish to check out downTown U.S.A.: A Personal Journey with The Homeless, the first in our trilogy of books about modern-day social ills.