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Should Homelessness Be Considered a Crime in the Community?

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Should Homelessness be Considered a Crime in The Community?

Homelessness affects every community. It can happen to anyone no matter what your status, race, gender, or age. It happens for various reasons. For instance, loss of a job, poor physical or mental health, breakdown in family life, domestic violence, drug abuse, etc. When we talk about the homeless, it is important to remember that often times the homeless are being criminalized for being homeless, but is it justifiable to arrest a person for being homeless? Is arresting homeless people really going to benefit the community as well as the homeless? In an article written by Michael Maskin, a senior at Tufts University, titled “No Safe Place: How cities are making it illegal to be homeless,” Maskin explains the case of Jerome Murdough, a 56 year old veteran who was homeless and arrested for seeking a safe place to sleep. Instead of a safe place to sleep, he died in Riker’s Island prison for not having $2,500 to post bail. “Instead of receiving needed assistance, Murdough was treated like a criminal, and ultimately lost his life by trying to protect it” (Maskin 2). This is a saddening story, but it is often very common. Tickets that will not get paid and time in jail will not change the fact that someone is homeless, so it just becomes one more issues added to the many that they deal with. Another testimony Maskin offers in his article is the story of Sandy a homeless woman seeking a safe place to sleep fined a $400 ticket for public sleeping. How can the government expect someone who lives on the street to pay a $400 dollar ticket? Wouldn’t that result in begging which is also a crime for the homeless. In addition, it has become a crime to share food with the homeless and for some people that law alone goes against their morals. How this can be a crime “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39) is that not one of the commandments, isn’t that what we are taught as a child to share with others, to show compassion for others? Maskin gives such an example in his article when he tells the case of Pastor Rick Wood of Birmingham, Alabama who was told to stop serving bottles of water and hotdogs to the homeless. A pastor who sets examples for the community as well as taking an oath to help others in need is told to stop. There are better ways to handle the homeless. One offered by Maskin is the “housing first strategy which provides housing and supportive services to homeless people and is also much less costly than jail stays and emergency room visits.” Reading his article gave me first hand testimonies from those affected by homelessness. To hear these testimonies are much more impactful than reading an article written by someone just simply stating their opinion. What makes Homelessness such a crime to a community? Many would argue that homelessness is a choice, they only want to do drugs all day, they don’t want to work, etc. In an article titled “California City Bans Homeless from Sleeping Outside: If They Leave, ‘Then That’s Their Choice” written by Bryce Covert. Covert explains how the city Of California is handling its homelessness situation by “allowing the police to tear down any homeless sleeping areas as soon as they appear without having to be invited by the property owner, as was the case previously” (Covert 1). So even though the police are not arresting them, they are forcing them to find others places to seek shelter. In the article Police Chief Nick Obligacion said, “The goal is actually to correct the wrong. So, if the correction is them leaving Manteca, then that’s their choice” (Covert 2). To correct the wrong! Sounds like a cold statement coming from an officer who opposes any sort of shelter for the homeless, but made an oath to protect and serve. Although Coverts article reflects on how California is trying to decrease its homelessness, there is no proof that the measures taken are actually effective or beneficial. How can being homeless be corrected without first having a solution? Bryce Covert and Andrew Breiner present data in their article titled: “Arresting Homeless People for Being Homeless is Unbelievably Wasteful.” The data presented in the article is for the state of Washington on homelessness. Over the past five years $3.7 million was spent in Seattle and Spokane alone on enforcing ordinances for the homeless. 80 percent of enacted ordinances prohibit or limit siting, standing, or sleeping in public, and another three-quarters banned urination or defecation in public (Breiner & Covert 2). What about the means to prevent homelessness and criminalization of the homeless? These laws being made against the homeless only make it more difficult for them to try and get back on their feet and having a criminal record can make it even more of a challenge. If that $3.7 million were spent on housing for the homeless Breiner and Covert project that $ 2 million would be saved and more than $11 million over the course of five years (Breiner & Covert 3). The charts presented in this article offer a valid solution which would save money for the homeless as well as the community. Even though the data is secluded to Washington it provides a base plan that all states can profit from. Being homeless is not a choice so why not try and help those people get on their feet so that they can start becoming a part of the working class and help boost the economy. In brief, homelessness is not a choice and even though it may be unsightly it should not be considered a crime to be homeless in the community. People become homeless for many different reasons. Some due to loss of a job, mental illness, or family issues. Homelessness affects people of all ages, race, and gender. Measures should be taken that would benefit the homeless as well as the community.

Work Cited
Maskin, Michael. “No Safe Place: How Cities Are Making It Illegal to be Homeless.” Talk Poverty Aug. 2014, Web 14 Mar. 2016.
Breiner, A. and Covert, B. “Arresting Homeless People for Being Homeless is Unbelievably Wasteful.” Think Progress May 2015, Web. 15 Mar. 2002.
Covert, Bryce. “California City Bans Homeless From Sleeping Outside: If They Leave, ‘Then That’s Their Choice.” Think Progress Nov. 2014, Web. 16 Mar. 2016
The New King James Version: In The Great Tradition (1989) Thomas Nelson Inc. Second Edition (1993) Thomas Nelson Inc.…...

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