THE PORTLAND (OREGON) CITY COUNCIL just passed a new suite of Go Be Homeless Someplace Else laws.
Now, when the unhoused camp overnight on public lands, they must pack up and leave by 8 each morning.
Also, according to The Oregonian, the unhoused may no longer camp near “pedestrian plazas, shelter and construction sites, high-speed roads, parks, greenways and numerous other locations.”
Great. Let’s make their life harder. Let’s heap upon them further inconvenience—and further humiliation—by treating them as a blight to be removed rather than as human beings in crisis. And let’s limit where they can sleep to anywhere that isn’t somewhere. That’ll sure learn ’em not to have fallen victim to whatever convergence of misfortune left them unhoused in the first place.
Despite what you may hear from the uninformed and the empathy-deprived, homelessness is not the first resort of the Too Lazy to Work. In fact, homelessness is rarely if ever voluntary. That’s why vagrancy and Go Be Homeless Someplace Else laws don’t make a dent. What they do, and not well, is spare the rest of us from having to look at and reconcile our consciences to a human tragedy that we have the means but, it would seem, not the will to mitigate.
To reduce homelessness, we must address economic factors that converge in bringing it about: a ridiculously low minimum wage, a broken healthcare system, systemic racism and sexism, mindless persecutions heaped upon the LGBTQ+ community, a punishing welfare system, out-of-control housing costs, and mental health issues*, to name a few.
We haven’t a homelessness problem. We have a broken economy problem, an empathy problem, and a NIMBY problem.
*Beware the too-easy out of invoking mental health as the cause of homelessness. It can equally or perhaps more so result from it, as well as from the cited economic factors.
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