We are Still the Same

Here at the National Coalition for the Homeless, co-workers and I were discussing the laws against panhandling that have recently been passed in St. Petersburg, Florida and other cities across the country.  These laws against panhandling impose criminal penalties upon anyone who asks a fellow citizen for money.  This article further explains this attack on charity that is indirectly being launched:

http://www.tampabay.com/news/localgovernment/panhandlers-say-st-petersburg-street-solicitation-ban-will-make-things/1099981.

These panhandling laws are quite similar to the “no beggars allowed” notices that were posted around England in Oliver Twist’s world.  Charles Dickens, author of Oliver Twist, documented such a loathsome attitude towards the poor and homeless over 100 years ago.  There are claims that society’s ethical standards have evolved since then.  Have they?  An increase in homelessness has, now, in 21st century America, provoked the same response from government that poverty had provoked in 18th century England.  It’s rather disappointing that cities throughout the nation are required to represent the interests of minority groups but still decide to treat those who want to escape poverty the same way.

How unfair is this?  People can’t find a job after they look for one, and, now, they can’t even ask for money if they need it to survive.

This is as cruel as English warning-out laws that were imposed upon citizens in previous centuries, condemning anyone who could not provide for themselves to poverty.  Researchers explain this relationship between the cruelties of the past and present: http://0-find.galegroup.com.allecat3.allegheny.edu/ips/retrieve.do?contentSet=IAC-Documents&resultListType=RESULT_LIST&qrySerId=Locale%28en%2C%2C%29%3AFQE%3D%28ke%2CNone%2C32%29hate+crimes+against+the+homeless%24&sgHitCountType=None&inPS=true&sort=DateDescend&searchType=BasicSearchForm&tabID=T002&prodId=IPS&searchId=R1&currentPosition=1&userGroupName=alleg_main&docId=A138811123&docType=IAC&contentSet=IAC-Documents.

We should all think about the progress that has not happened.

By Anna Mackiewicz

by Michael Stoops, Director of Community Organizing

Each summer I notice how tourism and homelessness do not get along very well.

Rather than providing day and night shelter services during the summer months, tourist cites do their best to move out homeless out of visible downtown locations. Homeless people are seen as bad for both tourism and economic development.

I been struck recently by the number of anti-homeless laws being proposed/implemented.

In Citrus Heights, CA the City Council is expected to pass an anti-panhandling law this week.

Salt Lake City is also heading down the same path.

And in America’s oldest city, St. Augustine, FL is considering ordinances restricting panhandling in certain locations and against aggressive panhandling.

And on the East Coast, Virginia Beach has found its solution by installing Donation Meters as a way to discourage panhandling. The monies collected will go to the middle man—that being agencies serving the homeless. If you donate a $1,000, your individual or corporate name will be affixed to the Meter.

We have been documenting this trend for many years and have produced five criminalization of homelessness reports this past decade complete with a bi-annual ranking of the meanest cities. See Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities. July 2009 for our most recent findings.

These tried and failed ordinances have not stopped panhandllng or ended homelessness.