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Helping the Homeless

by Taro Porshke

San Diego's controversial camping ban took effect this past weekend, and police have begun to enforce the ordinance. In various downtown locations known for homeless encampments, the city has posted signs, No Camping SDMC 63.0404. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

As homeless populations rise, so do the ambitions of cities to get rid of them.


Increasingly, across the US, we’re seeing more creative ways to not prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place, but rather, prevent the homeless from having any further chance at living.

 

The latest addition in cities’ arsenals of anti-homeless methods is anti-homeless, or hostile, architecture. This involves adding certain obstacles and distortions to public areas like benches, low walls, and ledges – places where, before these modifications, you probably would have had a fair, flat surface to lay down on. With the addition of these modifications, even with nationwide efforts to add more public and green spaces, areas for the homeless to reside in are going down.

 

To many, these additions seem warranted and just – homeless people intrinsically have a sort of negative stigma around them, and stereotypes that present them as the worst of the worst, people to look down upon with reason. But ethically, all we’re doing is making it harder for homeless people to live their lives, to ever have a chance at rising out of their status and fulfilling what many call the American Dream. We are attempting to solve the homeless issue by eradicating all homeless populations. And we’re not letting any homeless have a chance at ever bettering their lives. When put that way, it seems an egregious act, something that we should never do.

 

With over half a million people suffering from it, homelessness is at an all-time high right now – with the intersection of negative economic effects caused by the pandemic and the affordable housing crisis, this has left more people than ever on the streets, without a job. Instead of trying to alleviate these problems, though, we see that cities are simply pushing away and neglecting even those who want to work, those who were past workers and are homeless because they cannot afford housing.


Of course, not all those homeless are innocent, having gone homeless through no fault of their own. The decriminalization of drugs in places like Portland, Oregon, has led to great amounts of substance abuse, especially by the homeless. Where such policies were implemented to help solve addiction, the homeless often do not have access to therapy or rehabilitation that would make such efforts any use in fighting addiction. Even still, they should receive a chance.


There are risks associated with too great a homeless population, too. We see greater counts of violence within homeless groups and greater opportunity for disease spread. However, resolving such threats does not just come from relocating the homeless. If we just move them somewhere else, we just kick these risks to the next block, or city, where they are moved.


Instead of using funds to aggressively target the homeless and drive them elsewhere (which is nowhere), cities should perhaps invest in expanding opportunities for the homeless, to get jobs, improve their lives, and improve society while doing so.

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