Minus An Hour

Posted: March 8, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Morality, Politics

It’s that season again. The days are becoming noticeably longer. Spring is officially just around the corner. And, we’re going to lose an hour of sleep because of the time change.

I can’t ever seem to remember if we have Daylight Savings Time in Spring or if it’s Standard Time. I don’t really know which of the two is actually the "right" time or "regular" time or whatever. I imagine that most folks don’t know the answer either. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most folks don’t really care which is which. All they know that come Spring they’re going to lose an hour of sleep.  

I’m pretty that "Standard Time" is "regular" time. That would explain the use of the word "standard." But to me, it’s all just a big mess. Call me simple, but the way I see it is that when we move from Standard Time (that’s if, of course, it is indeed "regular" time) we should just change our clocks by half an hour and then just it leave alone. To me that makes the most sense.

Unfortunately, since the whole time change thing is actually in the hands of the government, we really shouldn’t expect it to make sense. And, that’s a sad state of affairs.

One of the other things that doesn’t make sense to me about government is the way they "deal" with the issue of homelessness.

Most local municipalities address the issue is by creating and adopting ordinances and laws that actually penalize their local area homeless. These ordinances usually are designed to prohibit things like as loitering, panhandling, dumpster diving, "urban camping" and other such activities.

The thing is that these laws are written specifically affect only one segment of a community: the homeless. As such, they are laws based on discrimination. However, since it is against Federal law to pass or enact local laws that discriminate against only one segment of a local community, cities will "disguise" these ordinances by citing public safety or traffic laws.

For example –

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (and upholds) that panhandling is protected under the First Amendment: freedom of speech.

When local governments pass laws that prohibit panhandling – even if it the law prohibits panhandling at only certain times or locations – they are violating a persons Constitutional right to free speech. However, in order to disguise the fact that they are indeed violating Constitutional freedoms, they will cite something like public safety to justify the ordinance. After all, they don’t want the homeless person to get hurt while in the act of panhandling – or so they claim.

It’s the same thing with anti-loitering laws. The claim is that having homeless people just sitting around somewhere for extended periods of time creates a problem with the flow of "public traffic."

All of these types of laws are really nothing more than a bunch of bunk. They are written and adopted for only one reason: to make things hard on homeless people. It doesn’t matter how local governments attempt to disguise these laws, they are nothing more than the harassment of a specific group of a community: the homeless.

The underlying reasoning behind these laws are that if a city can make it hard enough on the homeless, the homeless will simply pack up their belongings and move somewhere else. But, that type of reasoning is flawed. The homeless do not leave. If anything, the numbers of homeless generally continue to increase over time. That’s just reality.

The thing that occurs to me is that it takes a lot of time and effort for local municipalities to find ways of writing these laws so that it doesn’t seem to be violating anyone’s Constitutional rights.

It would seem to me that it would be far more beneficial to everyone if, instead of expending all of that time and energy trying to "deal" with the issue of homelessness, local municipalities took the time to find ways of "alleviating" homelessness.

When local governments "deal" with homelessness, they do something akin to using a throw rug to hide a hole in the floor. It doesn’t fix the problem. If anything, it potentially creates a bigger problem. Sooner or later someone will inadvertently step on the rug in the wrong place, fall through the hole and get hurt.

However, if local governments began using their legislative abilities to create and maintain programs that could actually help the homeless become productive and self-sustaining members of the community that would go a long way in reducing the numbers of homeless.

President Abraham Lincoln said,

"The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend."

We’re actually doing the opposite. When we "deal" with homelessness by creating and enacting laws that penalize it, what we are really doing is treating those who are "houseless" like enemies. Subsequently everyone is at odds with one another.

If we were really smart; if we genuinely wanted to have a positive impact on reducing the numbers of homeless in our communities, we would strive to find a way for all of us – housed and non-housed – to work together as allies.

We have to stop trying to "deal" with homelessness. What we need to do instead, is start trying to find a way to "alleviate" homelessness. That’s the only real solution. And, until we’re able to distinguish the difference between the two, homelessness is going to continue to be a social enigma remains unresolved.

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