Monday, February 05, 2007

Homeless and Municipal Law

This article, from CBS News, concerns attempts in various locales to deal with more visible aspects of the homeless problem. As a softie with a background in "poverty law" it would be easy for me to take the predictable stance on this. Banning congrating, feeding, etc., seems to violate parts of the First Amendment (and may well violate human moral decency). At the same time, this softie has also lived in some scary parts of town(s) and seen the results of drugs and vandalism. Without sounding uncaring or NIMBY, I certainly wouldn't want a feeding area for transients right near my house.

The answers, if there are any, probably are far more holistic and inclusive. Pushing the homeless out of one area doesn't reduce their number. We're somewhat fortunate, locally, that we have few "street people." (Although a JPD officer once did tell a professional acquaintance that we only have one homeless person here, and he choses to live that way, so perhaps the issue is not fully understood in all sectors.) While we have people without permanent homes, the available resources seem sufficient so that we aren't turning people out onto the streets. That said, homelessness is prevalent in WNY and is something that needs to be considered in community planning and community policing strategies.


Anonymous Dee said...

I would question the claim that there is only one homeless person in this area. (Although I would guess that individual is perhaps the most obvious since he lives in an area that can be seen easily and he does talk to people about it being his "home.")
But the problem with homelessness is that it is invisible and I feel that there are many people (including youth and children) who are homeless from time to time. Yes, there are programs, and I think most do take advantage of them once they get the information needed or a program opening. But I also think there are those who are dealing with pride perhaps, that they really don't want to ask for help or feel they can handle it for a while by themselves.
For example, I met a woman who was living in her van with two dogs. She had found herself needing a new place to live and with two large dogs, including one dog who is a breed on Jamestown's dangeroud dog list, she found herself unable to find a place that would allow her dogs. Being unwilling to give them up, she chose to live in her van.
I also know a yong lady who was living with her father, under a custody order, who found her dad engaged in things she didn't want to be around. She did talk to her mom about moving in with her, but her mother was unwilling to allow this child to continue in her school which would mean the mom would have to provide transportation. So instead, this young person became homeless, although she is always quick to say that she always had homes--her many friends allowed her to stay for a day or two, until she would move on to the next one.
Obviously, there were resources available for this person, but it is understandable she did not wish to cause any trouble to her parents. I believe there would have been resources available for the lady with the dogs. But instead, they were homeless. It may be their own choice in a way, but there certainly were circumstances that made them feel they had to go the direction they did.

11:33 PM  

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