Thursday, August 3, 2017

What Should I Do About Homeless In My Neighborhood?

Tim, nicest guy ever
When someone sees a group of homeless folks in the local park or a couple living in a van on their street, people are trying to figure out how to get rid of them.  Because, they figure, they don't belong there.  

Perhaps that's true.  Or maybe it's not.  Folks on the street are, more often than not, citizens of our town, of our neighborhood.  They just don't have a place they own.  So local public property is the only place they have.

What if we don't like them in our neighborhood?  We need to deal with them, and ourselves. But calling the police is a bad idea.  First, because we should really be calling the police for criminal activity, that is what they are trained for.  Also because it puts them in the uncomfortable situation of being someone else's babysitter.  If someone is trespassing on your personal property, then you can call the police.  But no matter how much I wish I could, it's not right for me to call someone for parking on the street in front of my house.  Even so, no one should be calling the police because homeless folks are on public property.

Here are some things that I did about the homeless in my neighborhood.
  1. I invited homeless folks to my house, to eat dinner with my family. I listened to them to understand their perspective and their lives. While some disturbed me, others became my friends.
  2. Talking to the city about giving space for them to be. Perhaps I don’t want some of these folks sleeping in my neighborhood (if they were noisy at night or whatever), but they have molecules so they have to be somewhere. So I spoke to city hall and the mayor and worked with them to create a piece of unused property that they could stay, even if only temporarily. I helped a homeless camp organize and establish rules for their camp. They were able to live peacefully for months there.
  3. Some of the folks, after I got to know them well and could trust them, I invited into my house to live with me and my family. I established rules and work for them to do and they lived with us for a while until they could get another place set up. This option isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for every person who lives on the street, but if one gets the right “match” it can work out well.

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