I read that the Humboldt County Civil Grand Jury found that recently passed ordinances and policies designed to punish the homeless have been ineffective and counterproductive. No Shit Sherlock! Groups like AHHA (Affordable Homeless Housing Alternatives) have been telling us this for years, with plenty of evidence to back up their claims. Hell, I’ve been telling you this for years, and it’s not like anyone with half a brain couldn’t have figured it out for themselves. Of course, these policies have never been driven by what is true, or right, or even practical. We punish the homeless for completely different reason that have to do with who we are as a community.
First, we should not forget that among us are quite a few sadistic bullies who will beat up on anyone who can’t fight back. These are just mean-spirited people who see homeless people as vulnerable and helpless and as such, present the perfect opportunity to express their sadistic tendencies. We also have a lot of people, who, when confronted with a bully/victim situation, will join-in on the bully’s side. These people are relieved that the bully hasn’t targeted them, so they join-in because they want to be accepted and don’t want to be picked on themselves.
Then we have a lot of people who feel resentful in general. They hate their job. They hate their boss. They hate the rude customers they have to serve all day. They hate cleaning up other people’s messes. They resent how hard they have to work for the meager pay they earn, and they are sick of forking over half of their income just to have roof over their heads. To them, homeless people seem like freeloaders and sleeping outside in the cold and rain just isn’t punishment enough. Unfortunately, these are the people who have the most to gain by making life easier for the poor. The more affordable housing we have, the easier it becomes to find a place to live, and the easier it is to find a place to live, the more competitive rent prices become, but these small-minded people are too blinded by their own hatred to recognize this, and they only see the homeless as someone they can safely dump their resentments on.
Then we have the flag-waving, love-it-or-leave-it, patriots who still believe in the “American Dream,”and still think that this is the greatest nation on Earth, that it is blessed by God himself and run “by the people, and for the people,” despite all of the evidence to the contrary They can’t understand, or refuse to understand, why so many people lack housing, have mental problems, use drugs, etc. It couldn’t possibly be anything structural, or have anything to do with any flaw in our social, economic or political system, because, of course, our system is the best. Therefore, the problem must be those derelicts who won’t get with the program, and they should be punished for it.
We also have a lot of business-people who blame the homeless, rather than their own business plan, for the poor performance of their businesses. Lots of people dream of running their own business, especially a high-class eatery, or a specialty store for luxury items they like. However, most of us don’t have the money to eat out often, nor do we have the resources to buy high-priced luxuries. So these business-owners dream of hypothetical rich people who might wander into town, as tourists, to patronize their businesses, and fear that the visible poverty that surrounds them will turn these tourists off. In reality, their business plans were based on their own stupidity, self-indulgence and wishful thinking, instead of looking for ways to serve the needs of the people who live in their community, profitably.
Then we have the greedy real-estate people who expect to get rich off of the land under our feet. Not only do they want the police to sweep poor people out of site, so they can promulgate the illusion of prosperity necessary to sell properties at ridiculously inflated prices, but they also campaign tirelessly against any proposed affordable housing.
Of course, these real-estate bloodsuckers wouldn’t be successful without politicians, who happily pass these draconian ordinances, and implement these inhumane policies designed to punish homelessness, as a way of distracting people from their own corruption, and to scapegoat the poor and powerless for the problems facing our community that they lack the courage or will to address. And of course the politicians need law-enforcement officers, who happily accept the job of punishing the homeless with nightsticks, guns, jails and fines, for their, very large, taxpayer subsidized salaries. Now that taxpayers have tired of financing the War on Drugs, these overpaid thugs need someone else to beat-up on to justify their existence.
Finally, we have the lazy and cowardly journalists and editors of the press, who care about little else besides filling the space between ads in their publications. They are afraid to say anything that might offend anyone with any economic clout, but pictures of trashed encampments, freak-show mug-shots and stories about “homeless crime” are as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.
So as you can see, even though we all know that punishing the homeless for their poverty does nothing to solve the problem of homelessness, and in fact only makes it worse, for a lot of mean-spirited, small-minded, stupid, cowardly, lazy, greedy and dishonest, citizens, homeowners, working people, business people, cops, politicians, and journalism professionals, punishing the homeless has become a cherished part of life here in Humboldt County.