News is pouring out of the USA about the diabolical decision by the Governors of Columbia, South Carolina to criminalise homelessness and to force those unfortunate enough to be homeless into PoW style camps.
The city’s “Emergency Homeless Response Report” Claims that the vast numbers of homeless people living in the area is having a negative impact upon businesses and that business owners are increasingly becoming frustrated. Heaven forbid!
“we are now experiencing an environment where
our staff members and our guests no longer feel
safe even within the confines of our building. This
nexus of perception and reality makes it virtually
impossible for us, or anybody, to create a
sustainable business model…. I urge you to move
quickly to garner results”
– Fred Martin, President, Mast General Store
Ignorant comments such as this are the reason Governors began looking into the “problem”. However, as always, rather than tackle the problem(s) causing homelessness they would much rather look at ways to pop those pesky homeless people somewhere out of sight and out of mind. Just why people such as Fred Martin and his staff feel UNSAFE because there is a person or persons outside his premises unfortunate enough not to have a roof over their head is perplexing. Being homeless does not make you dangerous! It isn’t contagious! So what is he afraid of? If people are afraid that maybe a homeless person may resort to something already criminalised in order to eat or drink then that is something that can be dealt with without the need to criminalise and encamp the homeless so surely that can’t be it? They can’t tar all homeless people with the same brush and assume that they will commit a crime at some point surely?
“I am very concerned that Columbia’s downtown
has become a magnet for homeless people…[the
environment is] not only making our employees,
tenants and residents feel uncomfortable, but also
hindering our ability to attract new residents and
businesses to downtown…I would like to see both
City Council and the people of the Midlands put
all differences aside and do what is best for the
greater good of the community. ”
– Ben D. Arnold, President, Arnold Family Companies
We then have Mr Arnold, his residents, tenants and his employees who “feel uncomfortable”… Awww bless them. Perhaps they should consider how uncomfortable it is to live on the streets and be looked down upon as vermin by they own kind!
“A prosperous, vibrant city needs a prosperous,
vibrant downtown area that is perceived as having an
environment that is safe for all; families, women and
children…The problems are increasing and becoming
more volatile…A serious incident could occur at any
time with tragic repercussions.”
– Rev. Fr. Michael Platanis, Protopresbyter, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church
A very vague generalisation from the charitable Rev Platanis there. What “Serious incident” is her referring too?
These are all quotes used within the report on which the Governors of Columbia based their decision to criminalise homeslessness.
So Columbia found themselves facing what the consider two major problems to be addressed;-
1. The need for a long term, sustainable response
to an ongoing problem so that the City of
Columbia never finds itself in this predicament
2. An acute emergency in the heart of the city
that is having a highly detrimental impact upon
the commerce community, downtown
neighborhoods and the perception of safety and
quality of life in the capital city
So the solution they came up with was to stick everybody in a camp. Not tackle the negative and incorrect perception of safety and quality of life amongst the residents and business owners or to build a support system to help the homeless get back on their feet, find employment and provide a roof over their heads. No. The best solution of course is to stick them in a camp, refuse to allow them to leave and stick an armed guard on the road leading to it (a prison then) at a cost of $1.7million when the budget you have is only $500,000.
The report refers to the homeless prisoners as “clients” and will not allow them to walk to the facility but instead will provide vans to round them up and transport them into the facility. They will provide a dedicated number for the public to call when they identify “a person in need” [of imprisoning] and a patrol of officers around the perimeter and guards on roads leading to it. All charity groups who currently feed the homeless with soup kitchens etc will now be banned from doing so unless it is taking place within the grounds of the new facility. Yet this is a kind and charitable method of “aid” for “the needy”. And if you were thinking it is NOT like a prison, they are also going to use this facility to house ex-prisoners too!
So what if a homeless person refuses to go, as is his right??? They will be arrested!
The Governors (of Columbia and now their own prison) state this is only a short term solution and describe the issue using words such as “plagued”. So what happens at the end of the “short term”? Nobody knows yet. I would bet that it is extended not only in Columbia but across states and the rest of the USA.
Tampa Bay in Florida have already given Police the power to arrest those found sleeping in the streets. This act has been protested due to the punishment for both the homesless person and the taxpayer as it cost on average $50 a night to lock them up with one county incurring a cost of over $6million in one year!
Homelessness is not a crime. It is not a lifestyle choice. These unfortunate men and women did not wake up one morning and think “Screw this, I don’t want a house and a job, I am off to live in an alleyway next to the Seven Eleven”. We see Soldiers living on the street, Police Officers, graduate and other people who have had at one point or another, successful careers, a family, a home and some pride but for whatever reason they are now forced to live rough on the streets. This is NOT something which should be punished and criminalised.
All this report and the action taken by Columbia shows is that their society, their community spirit, their humanness is broken beyond repair. So long as they can get on with their happy lives and those who need help are out of sight and out of mind then life can go on and they won’t have to consider their own consciences.