Wednesday, March 03, 2010

ballard's continuing war against the city's homeless

at first, we were told it was just about panhandlers. mayor ballard announced that he wanted "to get them out of Downtown so that citizens and visitors don't have to look at it." when criticized for this dehumanizing attitude toward the homeless, ballard scoffed and said panhandling was a "scam". (never mind the studies showing that most panhandlers are indeed homeless.) eventually, the mayor got what he wanted: a "pahandling bill" that made it illegal to stand near a street corner while holding a sign. how's that bill working out, anyway?

but the city's homeless came back into the news recently, as word spread of a homeless camp under the davidson street bridge downtown. the mayor sprung into action:

Mayor Greg Ballard took a look at the shantytown under a bridge on Davidson Street on Friday, and a decision followed.

Get them out and lock the place up.

ah, the return of the i-don't-want-to-look-at-them policy. homeless people are upsetting the neighbors? then get them outta there! problem solved.

of course, if the goal was to get those people help, then closing the camp was a clear failure:

Shiny metal fence posts have replaced dome-shaped tents at a former homeless encampment on the fringe of Downtown.

Now the question remains: Where have the homeless gone?

Agencies and social service teams asked by the city to reach out to the so-called "bridge people" who had taken up residence under the Davidson Street railroad bridge could not persuade the homeless to move into shelters.

"Not a single one of those individuals went into shelters Monday night," said Michael Hurst, program director for the Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention.

Hurst said all of them went to a "safe place," such as a viaduct on Pine Street, which is a few blocks from Davidson Street, or to other alleyways and doorways in the city.

"They all kind of scattered and went," Hurst said.

so we spent $10 grand on a fence, and in return all we get is a more-spread-out homeless population?

the ballard administration immediately disavowed all responsibility for their failure:

"If an individual makes a choice to sleep on the street despite all the help the city and homeless shelters and advocacy groups have offered to them, there's little the city can do," said Robert Vane, Ballard's chief of staff. "All we can do is offer."

well, that and bust up their camps so the streets are so inhospitable that they all hop a bus to cincinnati, that is.

but it could be worse. for one thing, the city could go with abdul's hare-brained idea to just throw the city's homeless into the nuthouse. i didn't think it was possible to top abdul's previous statement that "Someone whould get a giant broom and sweep them all away! [sic]" in terms of heartlessness or thoughtlessness (how are we going to pay for 3,000 new mental patients?), but there you go. it's funny how the people who talk most loudly about individual freedom and personal responsibility are often the ones who are most upset when the homeless decide that living on the streets is more comfortable than living in a shelter.

as the saying goes, the law forbids the poor and rich alike from sleeping under bridges.

1 comment:

Indy Student said...

Very good entry. I hope you consider doing more at-length blog posts such as this one in the future. I'm going to read that homeless study you linked to now.