Moving beyond calling people “bums”, “drunks”, and “dope heads”
Alternatives to demonizing and criminalizing the homeless
Last week (MW), Traverse City City Commission raised eyebrows when they created an alcohol ban in the Jay Smith Walkway in response to a handful of people who were publicly intoxicated and causing visitors to the area to be uncomfortable. As said before, for this pocket park, the ban is probably not a bad idea. The true test will be how the City reacts to the request for further “solutions”.
This morning, NPR is reporting of cities across the country (NPR) reacting in a number of ways to increasing numbers of people un-housed in their communities. Many cities are passing obscure ordinances opaquely directed at people without homes. Examples like strict no loitering rules, no napping in parks, no lying on the ground, panhandling restrictions, and bans on handing out food to poor people are just a few. The latter possibly infringing on people’s 1st Amendment Rights (Epoch Times).
Let’s trust the City of Traverse City can respond with the due care our community expects. In order to do so, they may find the study, “Searching out Solutions: Constructive Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness” (USICH) by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness to be helpful. The three strategies described in the report are:
- The creation of comprehensive and seamless systems of care.
- Collaboration between law enforcement and behavioral health and social service providers.
- Alternative justice system strategies.
Not necessarily areas of expertise for elected officials or the city manager, but as leaders they can seek out the people working on the ground directly with un-housed people in the community who do have the experience. Indeed, if they don’t, those professionals will seek them out and probably already have.
In addition, as citizens of the community, all of us would benefit from learning a bit more about the issue in the context of the region. Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse County (SH), with Goodwill Inn (GI), have provided the following homelessness fact sheet that helps define the issue, explain the causes, and basic ways to work with the homeless.
Thank you to Peter S. for the discussion and forwarding of resources. Ding! Ding!a
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