Imagine you have no where to go. Not because all of your friends are busy or you’re waiting for Friday to come to get paid. You have no home, no comfortable bed to sleep in tonight. You did manage to collect some money and you are setting up a tent on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant downtown. There’ll be other people like you there, they’ll understand.
Once upon a time you had a home, a job, maybe even a family. That was before you lost your job. Maybe that was before you lost your arm in Iraq or Afghanistan or some far off place most people in your city don’t think about anymore. You think about it over and over, every minute of the day…and wish you could stop.
But then the law enforcement comes and tells you it’s against the law to sleep there, in front of the Panera bread, now dark and empty, but you can still smell the bread as the officer is speaking to you. Smelling it is better than nothing. “Where am I supposed to go?” you wonder.
I occasionally give to the beggar with his cup jingling at the light when I get off the highway. But when I get off multiple highways in a day or a week, I admit I get a little frustrated. How many am I supposed to give? In theory I’d like to help all of them but is that realistic? Shouldn’t they go to a homeless shelter…aren’t they supposed to help them? Small town movies came to mind where perhaps neighbors helped out people who were in need. In big cities we probably don’t feel responsible for helping individuals, I think we expect organizations to take care of the homeless.
I’m not here to give an opinion about where homeless people should sleep or if we should give them money out in the streets, but on the news a few days ago they were discussing a court case about homeless people setting up tents at downtown Miami and it has remained with me. They were discussing the Pottinger Act.
I found this interesting and wanted to find out a little more about it. This definition comes from the University of Miami link listed below: The Pottinger consent decree puts limits on police power to arrest homeless individuals for certain minor offenses, and protects homeless people’s property from being arbitrarily seized. It has been hailed as the gold standard in civil rights litigation to protect the constitutional rights of homeless persons.
Then I saw this video on Facebook showing random people in the mall being asked to share their food with well dressed people and then a homeless man who was willing to share his food with someone well dressed and obviously doing better than him. I’m not here to say whether we should share with someone who doesn’t seem in need but I these two things came at me in the same week and has made me think and I share with with you because in bringing it to our consciousness maybe one of us will do something to make things a little better for even one person.
Below are some links I found informative about this topic.