Homelessness in America is a perpetual problem that can be very easily solved, but Republican legislators all over have taken it upon themselves to make the lives of the homeless even worse. Thirty-three cities across the country have are considering or have already banned the feeding of the homeless.
“Cities think by cutting off the food source, it will make the homeless go away,” NCH community organizing director Michael Stoops said. “It doesn’t.” Some areas are taking their cruelty to extremes: Four municipalities (Raleigh, N.C.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Daytona Beach, Fla.) have recently gone as far as to fine, remove or threaten to throw in jail private groups that work to serve food to the needy instead of letting government-run services do the job. It’s gone so far that even Good Samitarians are being punished for their charitable actions.
Not only are cities banning the feeding of the homeless, but huge numbers are banning sitting or lying down in public places or sidewalks- a study tracking 187 cities since 2009 found that 34% of cities have bans on camping, 24% ban begging and 53% have banned sitting or lying down in public places.
By banning the feeding of the homeless and driving them away from public spaces, cities hope to brush under the rug those beleaguered Americans who have slipped through the cracks of society. On top of that, a heartbreaking number of homeless Americans are our brave veterans- up to 49,933 veterans are sleeping on the street on any given night.
Studies have proven again and again that these punishing policies have no effect on homelessness, but that providing them housing is the easiest way to fix the homeless problem and allow them enough stability to put their lives back together. In America these days, it’s almost impossible to get a job without a steady address, and without a job, how are the homeless supposed to pull themselves out of their terrible situation?
It’s an absolute travesty that our country refuses to deal with the problem of homelessness but instead decides to punish them for circumstances beyond their control. The spirit of Christian charity that Republicans claim to hold so dearly somehow never is translated when it comes to legislative policy. Their war against the poor is unconscionable and a criminal abuse of human dignity.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.