Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Law Against Making Homelessness Illegal

Right now, almost all urban areas in the United States have some kind of anti-camping ordinance, a city ordinance that does not allow the homeless to sit or lie down on a public sidewalk or there are police policies to "clean up" the homeless a few times a year, especially during this season, Spring. The homeless are also targeted as being potential criminals for the police and so they are often asked for i.d., and sometimes harassed.

While the homeless are being told to leave or have their camps thrown away and having to pay hundreds-- sometimes thousands-- of dollars in fines, do something positive for them. Encourage your state legislators to make it illegal to make homelessness illegal.

It should be against state law to have local laws or policies that target people simply because they are without housing. This includes camping ordinances, sit/lie ordinances, dumping of camps and police targeting—whether moving the homeless on or specifically checking on someone because they “look homeless”. It should be done for the following reasons:

1. Our state should refuse to be a participant in the dehumanization of any people, but as long as these laws are allowed, then the process of dehumanization of the homeless will continue. See the following website for more information on this:

2. No government should make life more difficult for any people simply because they are among the economically weak. History will judge any government that targets the poor for being poor. On the other hand, history will acknowledge the justice of any government that recognizes any possible injustice of the past and works to eliminate it. And while helping the poor in a good way is justice to refuse to oppress the poor is a more foundational justice.

3. To target certain segments of the poor for continued punishment is to place additional economic hardship on them, making their economic recovery that much harder to accomplish. To have to move every day, to have to pay fines, or to spend time in court or jail is to cause one’s economic situation to deteriorate even more, preventing one from looking for work. As long as this economic segment is targeted, it makes a state economic recovery more difficult.

4. A segment of society that is legally targeted for economic reasons has a right to feel oppressed, and thus separated from “normal” citizens. Such a segment of society, because they are already judged, feels justified to do actions that would justify legal judgment. This society would also not listen to arguments of the community good, for they have already been legally discounted as a part of the community that is to obtain that “good”. This creates a rebellious segment of society that acts not in the interest of the community, thus the laws and policies in opposition of the homeless are a self-fulfilling prophecy.

5. To disallow such laws and policies opens up more public focus on solving the social problems rather than placing blame on those who suffer from it. To move the public discussion from eliminating homeless people to eliminating homelessness is a positive social step.

Please encourage state legislators to pass laws to prevent the targeting of the homeless as illegal group.


Sarah said...

The problem with the political discourse in the arena in poverty politics is it is decidedly one-sided. It refuses to view it as a complex problem with many actors, it is as though one simply choose to become a vagrant, and with a drop of a hat one can choose to quit being a vagrant at will.

I think (this is still on the book, I am not sure) in Japan it is a crime to be homeless (the exact word "kojiki" is equivalent of a "bum" and etymologically closer to a "beggar") but it is just as equally a crime to *cause someone to become* a bum). Hence the law is rarely enforced, since it would cause the police to also prosecute landlords who evict tenants, or those (in the bygone days of lifetime employment) who lay any employee off.

Maybe it should be a crime also to cause homelessness, as well as being a poverty pimp who exploit and build their empire on the back of the vagrants. What is happening in American economy is a travesty, and it might as well help to slap developers and bankers with felony charges.

Sarah said...

found it

軽犯罪法 Misdemeanor Mischief Act
[Law 39 of 1948, May 1; amended by Law 105 of 1973, October 1]

1(1): [左の各号の一に該当する者は、これを拘留又は科料に処する Those guilty of the following shall be punished by jail without forced labor, or fine:] 人が住んでおらず、且つ、看守していない邸宅、建物又は船舶の内に正当な理由がなくてひそんでいた者 (Without justifiable cause hiding in a vacant and unattended house, building or vessel. = squatting).
1(4): 生計の途がないのに、働く能力がありながら職業に就く意思を有せず、且つ、一定の住居を持たない者で諸方をうろついたもの (A vagrant who, having no means of supporting oneself and possessing no intention of gaining employment despite having an ability to work, possesses no fixed residence).
1(22): こじきをし、又はこじきをさせた者 (A beggar, and those who cause a person to be a beggar).