Wednesday, September 6, 2006
It has been a long time since the brief 1980s’ era of national concern over the problem of homelessness. Today, many cities are simply trying to shove homeless persons out of sight, as they once were. Some of these efforts are censurable, of course –- especially those that simply push the homeless to neighboring jurisdictions. But some of the new homeless rules hold some grains of sense. In a new essay, for example, homeless advocate Tulin Ozdeger chastises ordinances recently passed in cities such as Las Vegas and Orlando as being heartless “don’t feed the homeless” laws. But the rules are subtler than that. The Las Vegas ordinance, for example, bans the feeding of 25 or more “indigent” people in public parks. This was passed not simply out of scorn for the homeless, but to avoid the location of private “mobile soup kitchens” in public parks. While government and private groups should do much more to help the poor, I believe it should not be at the expense of taking over the limited and unique spaces of our public parks.