I’ve been keeping my eyes open for news regarding the dismantling of Sacramento’s "tent city."
Slated to "officially" be shutdown on April 15, according to the report, Tent city pulls up stakes as last of homeless scatter, in the Sacramento Bee, the encampment finally came down this past Friday.
After the last of its "residents" had moved on, construction crews came in and began putting up a fence around the perimeter of the property. The article also mentioned that a number of homeless advocacy groups were planning to stage an organized protest on the steps of the State Capital Building, "… calling for a legal campground for the homeless."
According to another news report from KCRA-TV 3, homeless advocates had planned to hold a "civil disobedience demonstration" at the tent city itself while it was being taken down. However, as the article puts it, "… Calls for civil disobedience failed to materialize."
What caught my eye about the KCRA report were these two paragraphs:
"Greg Bunker, another advocate for the homeless, said most residents of the tent city have dispersed into the nearby woods or elsewhere along the river.
‘They’re out of sight and in smaller groups now, which seems to be the unstated policy of our local government,’ Bunker added."
The notion that keeping the homeless out of sight, and therefore out of mind, struck me as a sad commentary on society’s view of homelessness.
One thing I’ve also noticed in all of the news reporting regarding this story is that they mention homeless advocacy groups and what they want for the homeless. They also mention local government and what it wants for the homeless.
Suspiciously missing has been the asking of the homeless themselves what they want and, more importantly, what they need.
While all of the "high and mighty" going through the motions of making plans and agreements about them, the homeless seem to be left on the sidelines waiting for others to determine their fate. It’s almost as though they’re being treated as wards of the state.
This type of scenario plays itself out time and time again throughout the nation.
Local government decides they have to "deal" with homelessness. Local homeless advocacy groups rally and put their two cents in. Local citizens make their objections. In the end, some form of agreement is reached and everyone expects the homeless to just fall in line.
Yet, no one seems to exhibit enough wisdom to ask the homeless for their input.
Look… it’s simple.
If you find yourself needing medical attention, you don’t send someone else to the doctor in your place. You go yourself. That’s the only way the doctor will be able to diagnose your situation – and, it’s the only way you can be provided with a remedy.
Who better knows what types of assistance they require to regain a foothold back into society than the homeless themselves?
Not only is it presumptive of both local governments and local homeless advocacy groups to think they are the ones who know what’s best for the homeless – it’s also arrogant.
If the homeless are going to be treated like wards of the state (which I’m pretty sure would violate their constitutional rights), then local governments and advocacy groups need to stop flapping their lips, get off their butts and build enough facilities to accommodate every last homeless person in the nation.
On the other hand, if we as a society are serious about ending homelessness, then local governments and advocacy groups need to stop flapping their lips, get off their butts and begin implementing the types of programs which actually help the homeless instead of just hiding them.
And while they’re at it, perhaps they ought to pause long enough to include the homeless in their committees and councils and listen to their ideas.
Everyone might just learn something which can help provide genuine solutions for reducing – and perhaps finally ending – homelessness in our communities.