Sarasota’s Homeless May Soon Enjoy The Opera Season

Posted: November 20, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Compassion, Discrimination, Government, Homelessness, Morality, Politics, Stupidity

In 1697, Poet/Playwright William Congreve wrote the tragic-drama, The Mourning Bride.

That work produced a number of, now well known, quotes. Among them:

"Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak."

It’s probably not likely that Kelly Kirschner, a city commissioner in Sarasota, Florida, had that quote in mind when he recently made a suggestion for "shooing" the homeless out of one of the city’s parks.

An article in the South Florida Herald-Times said that Commissioner Kirschner had suggested the "… piping opera or classical music" as a potential solution for deterring the homeless from "congregating" at the Five Points park.  

Apparently Commissioner Kirschner believes that opera and/or classical music is too sophisticated and "high brow" for homeless persons to enjoy and thus, it would cause them to just up and leave – and perhaps never return.

Well, as Gomer Pyle used to say: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

As it turns out, a number of the homeless who "hang out" at Five Points Park said that opera or classical music would probably not cause them to leave the park.

According to the article, even local opera lovers doubt that "… the music they love will accomplish what four city ordinances and a decade-long push by the police have not."

In addition, members of the Sarasota Opera aren’t all too keen on "… the idea of opera music being used as some kind of repellent for the homeless."

As laughable as Commissioner Kirschner’s suggestion is, it is nonetheless quite indicative of the type mindset which politicians and bureaucrats have with regards to dealing with homelessness in their communities.

For some reason, which is unfathomable to me, local governments are under a delusional belief that they can legislate homelessness into non-existence.

They imagine that adopting and enacting ordinances which prohibit loitering, panhandling or "urban camping" will rid the community of homelessness. Yet – and in spite of these laws – homelessness doesn’t go away. On the contrary, it continues to increase.

These types of ordinances may reduce the "visibility" of homelessness. But, the "success" is purely cosmetic and does nothing to reduce human suffrage, nor empower the homeless in such a way that they can attain housing.

Furthermore, the reason these types of laws do not actually succeed at reducing homelessness is because homelessness isn’t a "legal" matter. Homelessness is a socio-economic condition.

People aren’t homeless because they’re criminals. They are homeless because they cannot afford housing.

Nevertheless, politicians and bureaucrats seem unable to fully grasp that reality. This is why all of their attempts of eliminating homelessness in their communities end in failure.

It seems rather ridiculous that local governments continue wasting time, energy and tax-dollars crafting laws which penalize the homeless for performing life sustaining activities in public as the preferred method for "dealing with homelessness."

You would think that they would have learned by now that this approach is completely ineffective.

On the other hand, if they were to expend that same amount of zeal toward implementing programs and services with which to help the homeless achieve self-sufficiency, I’m willing to wager that there would be a drastic reduction in the numbers of people living on the streets of our cities.

As for Commissioner Kirschner’s suggestion of setting up speakers and playing opera music at Five Points, the article mentioned that some of the homeless who "hang out" at the park are trying to come up with and idea some sort of "counterattack."

One suggestion made was the distribution of T-shirts to the homeless which say: "Opera Rocks!"

I can see it in my mind’s eye now: a number of Sarasota’s homeless sitting in Five Points Park enjoying the sunshine and humming along with Act II of Il trovatore.

It seems to me that if Sarasota’s City Commissioners want to end homelessness in their city, they need to learn to sing a new tune because the old song of criminalizing homelessness is most definitely outdated.

  1. Dear Michael: I liked your above comments; in fact, I had thought of writing a letter to the editor afte reading the article yesterday. I see there is an editorial about it in today’s paper. I’m always in touch with Ron Hall, co-author of “Same Kind of Different Like Me,” a book about his becoming best friends with a homeless man named Denver Moore–the two of them now travel the country giving talks about how to help the homeless. I’m trying to get them to come and speak in Sarasota.

    I notice, however, that you referred to “human suffrage.” As a feminist, I’ve been much involved with that–it’s the right to vote, but I don’t think that’s what you intended.

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