Humanizing the Homeless

The irrational fear of homeless people, hobophobia, is the root of counterproductive methods to deal with the national homeless problem.

As the cartoon suggests, campers temporarily become homeless for a short time, and enjoy it!  Come to think of it, homelessness is just an extended camping trip.

Some people sleep in tents and some in campers, just as homeless people sleep in their cars and in tents in the woods.  The difference is the homeless do this out of necessity, and it’s long term.  Many things become tedious after you do it too long, and homelessness is no exception.

Unlike the willing campers, the homeless are often harassed by authorities and looked down on by people outside their circle.  The right to use public places, such as benches in a park during normal hours, is treated like a crime.

Such a case exists at the Veterans Memorial outside the public library in Levittown, PA.  A security guard who works for Bucks County PA, who is stationed at the nearby municipal building, periodically goes to the memorial and, even though the homeless are not breaking any rules, he tries to get them to leave, reaching in his bag of tricks to find ways to clear the homeless from the memorial, which, by the way, stands for freedom for all Americans.

As some homeless people have remarked,  it seems to be a crime to be homeless.

Nuisance ordinances, often too broad and arbitrarily enforced, are fueled by the false perceptions people have about the homeless.

In an online publication of NYU’s Review of Law and Social Change, Joanna Laine wrote that legal and social discrimination against the homeless that treats them like criminals can be combated by “both innovative legal advocacy and the correction of misconceptions about homeless people.”

From Criminalization to Humanization: Ending Discrimination Against the Homeless

Advocates have had some success challenging anti-homeless ordinances.  For example, an ordinance banning sleeping in vehicles in Los Angeles California was shot down on constitutional grounds.  The court held that the ordinance was “unconstitutionally vague on its face because it provides insufficient notice of the conduct it penalizes and promotes arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.”

This ruling could be applied to the situation at the Veterans Memorial in Levittown, PA.  Here, there is no notice of conduct it penalizes about sitting for a period of time on the benches at the memorial.  The guard arbitrarily tells the homeless who hang out there that they have a fifteen minute limit.  I believe he is egged on by people who just don’t like the homeless there.  He once told them that some people feel uncomfortable coming to the memorial with them there.  He doesn’t give other people this limit.  On more than one occasion, the guard told homeless people they need to stay away from the memorial because the Bucks County Commissioners are coming, and they don’t want to see stuff all over the place.

On one occasion when the guard warned the commissioners are coming, the commissioners are coming, I quoted “When the government fears the people, this is liberty.  When the people fear the government, this is tyranny.”

There is a double standard in the nearby Levittown library as well.  The homeless are told they have to keep the noise down when they speak a few sentences barely above a whisper; people bring kids into the library who scream whine, and carry on, and this is tolerated.  Just yesterday, the head librarian passed by an area in the library where people were on the computers and reading while a child was screeching very loudly.  Both on the way past and on the way back, the kid was screaming, yet she just ignored it.

In Bucks County, like the rest of the country, we need to correct misconceptions about homeless people.  This is one thing I’ve been doing.

I was greatly dismayed when an organization that claims to help the homeless, Advocates for the Homeless and Those in Need (AHTN) promoted a video filmed in part at the Veteran’s Memorial that, instead of correcting misconceptions, stereotypes about the homeless, it actually fostered the irrational view people have of them.  Holy, et tu Brute?, Batman!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Et_tu,_Brute%3F

Instead of trying to push the homeless away by harassing them, it would be more productive to work with them.  In a library in California which many homeless frequent, the homeless help with landscaping.  Communities could also help the homeless with their fundamental problem by providing shelter on vacant property, even putting the homeless to work on the project.

In Bucks County, PA, Gimmee Shelter for the Homeless is trying to raise funds to acquire such lands and put the homeless to work on their own shelter, modeled after the Homestead Act of 1862.

http://www.timespub.com/2015/04/30/working-for-a-place-to-stay/

 

When the Government Fears the People

“When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” –Origin uncertain

Today the security guard from the municipal building in the government building complex in Levittown, PA unknowingly let something out of the bag when he stopped by the Veteran’s Memorial by the library to talk with some homeless people.

There had been some problems there, but everyone then was respecting the place and not causing problems. The guard, however, told the regular visitors that they shouldn’t hang out there all day, and that there was the possibility of just ripping out the benches if problems continued.

Part of the guard’s reasoning for telling the homeless to not hang out at the memorial too long during business hours was that the Bucks County Commissioners may stop by. I reminded him that the memorial doesn’t belong to the commissioners but to we the people, and that any authority (there’s some question about who can call the shots) is just entrusted to keep order at the memorial, and not be fuss budgets and not create arbitrary rules, as if it’s their own property. The role of the authorities, I told the guy, would come into play if people threw garbage or scattered their goods all over the memorial or other such abuses occurred.

One homeless guy was rousted out of the memorial by homeless regulars because he wouldn’t clean up his mess.

If you pierce the veil it’s apparent that the commissioners just don’t want to see homeless people. The head librarian at the Levittown branch of the Bucks County library system certainly knows who the homeless are, and has been harassing them at the library, and tacitly works in concert with the county to try to keep the homeless out.

Another thing that the security guard let loose is the idea that the head librarian, Jihad Jane, is reaching outside of her jurisdiction to the memorial. The guard said that anyone who gets banned from the library automatically gets banned from the memorial.

The memorial the homeless visit is dedicated to those who sacrificed for our freedom and to equality for all in America, including the homeless.

The civil rights battle was won, for blacks. Now it’s time for the homeless to have their civil rights restored as citizens of the United States.

The homeless, in places such as Bucks County, PA, in 2015, are discriminated against just as blacks were in the south before civil rights.  Homeless, Levittown, PA, 2015.  Blacks, Selma Alabama, 1949.

We should be not concerned about offending people such as the Bucks County Commissioners if they see homeless people peaceably assembling at the Veteran’s Memorial, and respecting it. It’s about time the government in Bucks County fears offending the people, such as myself, with their rancid prejudice against the homeless.

We shall overcome!

What is Wrong with the Homeless?

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There are different reasons people become homeless, but the fact is the one common denominator they have is, to quote Henry “Frogman” Thomas, they “ain’t got no home.”

What’s more important than the why, is how it can be remedied.  Let’s play doctor.

No matter what the reason someone becomes homeless, like a patient, after diagnosing the problem, the right steps need to be taken.  As is the case with cancer patients, a patient’s mental attitude is very important to getting well.

Like cancer patients, the homeless need to have hope, and faith.  They need to take one day, one step at a time, and have faith that someone cares.  In 12 Step Programs, there is a belief to hold on to by faith that there is a power greater than ourselves.

Like cancer patients, homeless folks need to take actions that will help them.  A friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy.  The doctor recommends drinking lots of Gatorade. Likewise, the homeless need to improve their skills, further educate themselves, find jobs and do other constructive things.  As I wrote in a recent blog, idle hands are the devil’s workshop.

The homeless need to have a mission in life, and not loiter in The Land of the Lotus Eaters.

Just as cancer patients are not helping their condition by smoking, homeless people are not helping themselves by escaping through alcohol  and drugs.  A married homeless couple got drunk and were hit by a car.  They survived the physical harm, but their cynical, nihilistic attitude and nasty demeanor continues to plague them.  People around them consider them  personae non grata.

People without a home are like the rest of the population — they face various issues, such as drugs and alcohol.  There are various degrees of problems in the homeless community, as there is in the general population.  Some can function in society better than others.

When you get down to it, human nature is human nature, and we all have the potential to get involved in  anti-social behavior.  It’s just a matter of degree.  Carl Gustav Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist,  once visited a nuthouse with someone he called “an intelligent layman”.  This layperson remarked that the people he saw in the funny farm were just like everyday people, but with their problems greatly magnified.

The homeless are just like the rest of us, except they have the added burden of not having a home. In their circumstances, it is easy for the homeless to give up on life.  They sometimes feel that society has written them off.  And some members of society have.  That’s their (the ones who have written them off) problem.

Some of the homeless have become alienated from their families.  This past season there was a Christmas party in the public library in Levittown, PA and a Christmas dinner at a local warehouse, fixed up for the occasion.  The volunteers who help the homeless and other homeless people are their family.

I have been connected with the homeless in Bucks County, PA for about a year.  Still I wonder, as in the Bob Dylan song:

How does it feel?

How does it feel?

To be on your own

No direction home

A complete unknown

Like a Rolling Stone…

With a little help from their friends,  and with a power greater than us, the homeless, like Lassie, can find their way home.