Arresting the homeless doesn’t cure homelessness

Kate points me to this Hour story about the increasing pressure placed on homeless people in this city. Banning dogs from parks. Banning people from parks overnight. Ticketing people for sleeping in the metro.

At the end of the article is mentioned a new tactic being used: forcing people who have been arrested to sign a document promising to stay out of the area as a condition of their release. The problem, of course, is that services aimed at the homeless are right there. (I’ve seen this technique used for other annoyances the police can’t get rid of legally: They tried to make activists Jaggi Singh, Samer Elatrash and Yves Engler sign  agreements that he wouldn’t participate in protests.)

I passed a woman begging at a metro station today. A friend gave her some spare change, despite it being clear from the woman’s behaviour that she was a drug abuser and that the money would probably go to feeding her habit. I didn’t. I don’t give money to beggars for exactly that reason.

But for crying out loud, let these people sleep in peace. If you’re worried about crime and drug use, put more police officers on duty and arrest people who are breaking the law. But nobody should be declared illegal just because you find them icky. And so-called “loitering” laws (loitering means “doing nothing”, which is the one right above all others that nobody should take away) should be done away with.

Our government is failing its poorest citizens. That’s an issue that needs to be tackled directly, not swept under the rug in the hopes it becomes some other borough’s problem.

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