A Lack Of Fair Play

Posted: February 2, 2009 in Civil Rights, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Morality, Politics

Well… it’s official.

The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. They are the Super Bowl XLIII champs. It is their 6th Super Bowl Championship. So I guess some form of congratulations are in order – although I must admit that I found myself dozing on and off throughout the entire game. Oh well.  

Actually, there was another game that had been played which took some of the excitement out of it for me. It was a game which the city of Tampa had played. It was similar to a game which the city of Denver played last August and Washington D.C. played in January of this year.

The game: Hide the Homeless.

Last August, Denver hosted the Democratic National Convention and went through some "interesting" maneuvers to hide their homeless.

And then, of course, Washington D.C. played the same game for President Obama’s inauguration.

So, Tampa Bay, not wanting to be outdone, pulled out their play book and did their best to sweep the homeless out of sight.

The truth is that most municipalities play some version of the game.

The way it’s played is this:

Big event comes to town. City leaders want to impress everyone, but know that the presence of homeless might give their town a black eye. City leaders do whatever is necessary to further displace the homeless.

When the news media picks up on the story, some fool of a spokesperson usually comes out and claims that the city isn’t targeting the homeless. They just want to make sure that the homeless have a "safe haven" during the event. Also, they have worked with local area shelters to figure out ways of accommodating the homeless because they don’t want them to feel overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of tourists who will be coming to the area. The homeless shelter(s) will remain open throughout the day and night. They are going to make it a fun time for the homeless.

Yeah, right!

Once you wade through all of the political double talk, it translates to:

"This is a big event. We expect it to generate a lot of money for the area. There will be lots of media and press coverage. The eyes of the world will be upon us. We can’t afford to have them see just how incompetent we’ve been in addressing the issue of homelessness in our community. So, we’ve decided that we have to figure how to hide them – at least until everything is back to normal."

When are politicians going to finally wake up and realize that this type of game has no winners?

I’m sure that someone is going to chide me for my point of view. They may even go so far as to tell me that I’m being too simple minded. But, it seems to me that if local leaders actually funded programs which helped the homeless in their communities, they wouldn’t have to go through all of the machinations of hiding the homeless.

Yes, I know that nation is going through economic rough times. However – even when times are prosperous most municipalities still refuse to adequately allocate funding to help the homeless.

There is something else I question about this game of Hide The Homeless.

While I may not be a legal eagle, it seems to me that this game may violate certain human rights.

Let me quote directly from the United Nations website:

"On 10 December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…"

The U.N. General Assembly is comprised of "member states" (i.e. – countries which have agreed to be bound by U.N. policies).

The United States, is not only a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but was highly influential in its concept and content.

Article 13, Section 1, proclaims:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state."

Again – as I said – I’m not a legal eagle, but when I read news articles where some city or town is pushing the homeless from one area of town to another, it seems to me that is a violation of a person’s "… right to freedom of movement."

When I read about some town or city passing an ordinance prohibiting people from sleeping in public (despite not having enough shelter beds to accommodate their local homeless population) it seems to me a violation of Article 25, Section 1, which states:

"Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

More than that however, it violates a higher declaration: that of human decency.

I find it a gross paradox that political leaders can always seem to find reasons to justify playing Hide The Homeless, but cannot bring themselves to justify ways of helping the homeless.

One this is certain: the game of Hide The Homeless shows a definite lack of fair play.

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