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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Are Landlords and Politicians Contributing to Homelessness?

The first great wave of homelessness inarguable occurred during the 1930s. Fueled by a combination of economic collapse and climatic disaster, millions abandoned their homes and lands in the American mid-west, fleeing to the west coast or east of the Mississippi. This mass migration overflowed communities already suffering the effects of economic collapse. Homeless shelters, operated much as they are today, were filled beyond acceptable limits. Families bunked refugee relatives commonly to twice their normal household capacity. Massive tent cities (dubbed Hoovervilles) sprang up in city parks and vacant lands in almost every city of the United States.

Fast forward to our modern society. We are at present suffering the second worst economic crisis in the past 100 years. Yet the survival tactics used in the 1930s are no longer there to catch the economic refugees of the United States. Homeless shelters have become the target of perpetual attack from neighboring residents and businesses, attempting to either shut them down as nuisances or to banish them to the most remote and inhospitable regions of the community. Landlords typically include clauses in apartment and house leases demanding to know exactly who is living in each residence and (frequently) proof that each adult residence qualifies financially to live in the residence (at a time when record numbers of citizens are out of work due to the economy). Politicians seem to be tripping over each other in their rush to ban outdoor camping from their communities to stem the potential of modern day Hoovervilles developing. Hand-in-hand with this are frequent raids of homeless encampments with police throwing personal belongings in trash dumpsters and in some cases slicing tents and sleeping bags, making them useless to the homeless.

Has our society truly become so cruel? Even attempts to protest these conditions have been met with animosity and violence from city officials and, sadly, the police departments charged with keeping citizens safe. Our cities are no longer safe, not because of crime rates or pollution (though those issues are still a problem) but because of the unconstitutional attacks executed under color of law. I leave these facts for you to ponder, along with a single question ...

... is this the America we want to leave to our children and grand-children?

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