And, In The News…

Posted: October 16, 2007 in Civil Rights, Discrimination, Homelessness, Misconceptions

At the beginning of June, I published a post called: "Isn’t It Funny…"

About one-third down the post I mentioned that there are quite a number of people in this country who are adamant that the rights of convicted death row inmates shouldn’t be violated but don’t think that homeless people should be afforded the same rights.

This is why yesterday morning, while reading the "Letters To The Editor" section of the LA Times, one of the letters really caught my attention.  

It was in response to an article titled: "LA/Homeless Advocates Reach Deal On Sidewalk Sleeping," that ran on 11 October of this year.

The article spoke about how the City of Los Angeles and a number of homeless advocate agencies, including the ACLU, had come to an agreement about allowing that city’s homeless to sleep on public sidewalks without being harassed, ticketed or arrested by the police department.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in April 2006, ruled that arresting the homeless for sleeping on the city’s sidewalks was cruel and unusual punishment since Los Angeles is "…woefully short of overnight shelter space" for the homeless.

The letter to the editor was given the caption: "Lost Civilization" and was brimming with the type of sarcasm that I thoroughly enjoy. The sender said:

"Boy, we can really be proud of ourselves. We are allowing homeless people to sleep on the sidewalks. We and other states are discussing the most humane way to execute a criminal. I marvel at how civilized and compassionate our society is becoming."

While it bought a smile to my face, at the same time it brought a heaviness to my heart because of the underlying truth: as a nation, we seem to have lost perspective.

To be sure, there are a lot of homeless people who are content with being homeless. They don’t really want anything else. They’ve made themselves right at home living on the streets of our nations’ cities.

On the other hand, there are also quite a lot of homeless people who would love the opportunity to find a way back into a place of their own. They want nothing more than to be able to work, pay rent and put food on the table.

Where we as a nation continue to undermine ourselves when it comes to the homeless, is that we forget that there are indeed different types of homeless, just as there are different types of non-homeless. Unfortunately, most of the time, it’s the "bad" homeless who make the headlines.

I have found a few news articles here and there that show the "positive" and human side of homelessness. I’ve even written about them and have added links to those articles. But most of the time when a homeless person is mentioned in the news, it’s about something seedy or unsavory.

People being people, seldom remember the old adage: "No news is good news."

Just because the headlines may be filled with some of the less desirable actions of some of the "bad" homeless doesn’t mean that all homeless are "bad seeds" anymore than going to a McDonald’s makes someone a Big Mac.

I believe that once we begin to look at the homeless as individuals and not a "social class" we’ll have a better chance at making headway at finding an effective remedy to homeless in our country.


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