Efforts to end homelessness in Dallas face a number of obstacles, most of which appear in the form of what I call "unsatisfying half measures." Here's another of those:
In Dallas, and in a number of other American cities, one may observe a growing, strident, mean-spirited legal bias working against the homeless poor. This emerging, swelling bias makes the state of living without the benefits of a home illegal. Many of the practical problems and choices facing homeless persons lead to "criminal acts," as defined by those with the bias problem. Criminalizing homelessness and poverty is an aggressive half measure that gets us no where in terms of solving the housing crisis facing the poorest among us.
Here is a list of typical "criminal infractions" committed by persons who live on the streets:
- Panhandling or begging
- Sleeping outside on public or private property
- Relieving oneself out doors
- Trespassing to access a place to sit down, lie down or simply rest
- Sitting on benches in front of or in proximity to private office buildings downtown.
A friend of mine, who has been homeless for a long time, once told me that his life was like "an endless parade." Up early, he hit the streets walking basically the same daily circuit. Every day he had three fundamental objectives. First, to find something to eat. Second, to find somewhere to use a restroom. Third, locating a safe place to rest. On a daily basis, these three objectives defined his life mission.
It is very difficult from a "life platform" like his to find the traction needed to escape the "parade."
Our bias is killing the poorest among us.
Permanent, supportive housing reduces crime, saves public funds and responds to a huge problem with humanity and moral soundness.