Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Public Poverty

Much of public policy about the homeless deals with the fact that the homeless is the “public face” of poverty in the city, and the more it is seen, the more the reputation of the city or neighborhood is damaged.  This relates to the “broken window” study, which states that if there is structural damage of a small nature, then it draws ever increasing structural breakdown.  It cannot be said, however, that because homelessness exists in public that therefore homelessness must increase, or that there must be slum around the homeless.

The main issue has to do with reputation, which is why homeless sweeps and enforcement of legislation on the books often occur just before public events.  Homeless legislation has more to do with forcing the homeless to hide themselves, rather than to be in the public eye.  The less effective the homeless are at hiding, the more legislation and sweeps there will be.

Businesses are, of course, concerned about poverty being at their doorstep, for if their storefront looks like a slum, or it has individuals whom others are afraid of near their door, then they lose customers.  Neighborhoods are also concerned, because they don’t want to be known as the “slum” of a metropolitan area.

For all these reasons, homelessness is, more often than not, a battle against poverty out in the open, and the attempt to hide it from public sight. 

No comments: