To my classmates,
Spring Break is right around the corner and it is on all of our minds. Will you join your peers and flock to warmer climates and sandy beaches? We all deserve some time off to relax and turn off our brains. But while I’m still studying away, I’ve been thinking about how my decisions as a consumer impact the town I’m visiting and the people who live there. I’m willing to drop a cool $100 for a view of the beach, but at what human cost?
Are drinks by the pool and tickets to concerts the only cost of spring break?
Many vacation and spring break destinations compete for our business. For them, reputation is everything, and unfortunately being nice to homeless people isn’t exactly a trait we tourists are often looking for. For that reason, cities introduce ordinances to keep the streets clean of all visible reminders that poverty exists. They don’t want us to share food with the homeless people near our hotels, beaches and restaurants. They don’t want us to see a man sleeping on the park bench or a mother and her child asking for money on the public transportation system. Public lands near our vacation hot spots are no longer a place of rest for the homeless. New laws passed by cities throughout the country ban sleeping outside, asking for money and prohibit private citizens from sharing food with the homeless. These ordinances make criminals out of people who are homeless.
The most outrageous thing is that they are even punishing the people who are trying to help the homeless! Fort Lauderdale is one mean city that continuously threatens people with massive fines and jail-time for feeding others in public spaces. The city wants them to move indoors and out of sight, not considering how difficult it is for the homeless people to get around the city to all the many places they must go to try to get help.
Do you really want to go to a beach that only allows people who can afford a $14 daiquiri to enjoy the view? I don’t – and I know what I am going to do about it. I won’t give them my business! I will not condone a city starving its most vulnerable residents for my sake. I will not visit Fort Lauderdale until they repeal the cruel food-sharing ban. Instead, I pledge to support cities that work to end homelessness by creating affordable housing, job training programs, access to affordable health care and an increase in the availability in public assistance.
Be a Student Promoting Fairness! Pledge #SPF15 this spring break and make your week mean something! Don’t let cities profit from discrimination and criminalization of the homeless!