Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Leading The War On The Homeless: Fort Lauderdale Plans to Confiscate Pitiful Possessions
If he's a "personal possession", probably.
Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.
The war on the nation's homeless is ramping up.
Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”
While no one wants to see ragged, unkempt people sitting on the streets with whatever they have left out of a life of poverty, "aesthetics" may be the most frivolous, contemptuous reason to cast a human being aside. However, newborn tech industries seem to be very, very concerned about aesthetics: the Facebook post of San Francisco's Greg Gopman may have garnered outrage in the City by the Bay known for its compassion, but other cities eager to cash in on the gentrification start-ups bring with them (like higher rent and real estate values) have turned a blind eye to "the last of these."
Venice, California used to be a haven for homeless people, but not any more. Even though people were horrified at the beating of a homeless person last December, the attitudes of the new tech residents is less than compassionate:
Recently, a homeless man named Brian Connolly bought food at the Starbucks at Navy and Main, but was told he'd have to eat it outside; he wrote last month that the incident has a creepy segregation feel to it: Starbucks will take his money, but they don't want him hanging around.
And some meanies added padlocks to a homeless storage facility. Park and Rec had to apply bolt cutters to return the stored goods back to their owners.
The above proposed law has not delineated what "personal possessions" are, but one can guess that it may be up to law enforcement to determine it: is a dog a "personal possession"? Aren't clothes personal possessions? Cigarettes? Blankets? Shoes? Will the homeless be strip-searched?
In an effort to consolidate compassion to the homeless, Houston tried to enact a law that forbade any unpaid volunteers for "sharing cooked food with the needy public." Mayor Annise Parker got a lot of flak for it, not for the seeming heartlessness of it, but because the measure was supported by Star of Hope Mission, a large evangelical concern that wanted to get the homeless off the streets and into its city-subsidized shelters. You can go to the Mayor Parker, empress of homelessness Facebook page to see related videos on the issue.
Back To Fort Lauderdale
The measures are just the first in a series to come before the commission. City staff is currently drafting ordinances that would prohibit panhandling and other solicitations at intersections, that would prohibit people from sleeping on public property, and that would restrict when, where and how often groups could set up sites to feed the homeless.
How far this situation will go is anybody's guess.
One could argue, of course, that Fort Lauderdale did not go as far as some police in Detroit who really seemed to declare a "war on the homeless" by rounding up people in certain areas, putting them in vans, and abandoning them miles from the city center (and their lifelines).
But give the idea time: other cities are waging the "war" and there's no telling what new "aesthetics" they will come up with.
There can be no lighter note to this dilemma, but George Carlin made people laugh (i.e. look at themselves) in his own inimitable way: