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Homelessness in your city?

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20
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I thought it might be interesting to open up a discussion about the homeless situation in the different cities and communities in which we live.

Does your city have a large homeless population? Is your city tolerant of it's homeless population? Have you heard, or are you involved in, any programs that deal with homelessness? Do planners and community development professionals have a responsibility to incorporate this population in their plans? Is that something we couldn't consider, even if we wanted to?

Please be as specific or general as you like -- those are just some sample questions i threw out there. Feel free to post whatever comes to mind. :)

I live in Portland, a city with a fairly sizeable homeless population -- specifically, there is a large number of homeless youth (>18 yrs old). There are lots of homeless people in my neighborhood (which borders an industrial district). This area is quite mixed, but tends to be a little more middle class, single family homes. It's also going through a change: old properties are being bought and renovated, certain streets are scheduled for investment (new retail centers, road repairs and upgrades, etc). I wonder what will happen to the homeless in my area, and if they'll be crowded out.

(take this all at face value -- just throwing some stuff out there.)
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
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10,624
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Last time I heard we found one, the cops drove them to the county line and shoved em off.

edit: I was soooo not street savy, the first time I was in Manhattan after dark and saw a pile of rags on the ground, before I stopped to think about it, I kicked it. It grunted. My bad.
 

Zoning Goddess

Cyburbian
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13,853
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We live just outside a small city with a high crime rate and low incomes. The homeless are all over the central city, altho' not in my neighborhood. The city's response is typical, passing an ordinance that requires big separations between social services agencies, so that all the homeless don't congregate in one area.
 

JNL

Cyburbian
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2,449
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This is an issue that is topical for us this week. We seem to have a few homeless characters in the city, who people know and tolerate, and sometimes stop to chat with. Then this comes out:

WELLINGTON CITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS BYLAW TO REMOVE VAGRANTS

Wellington, July 5 - Wellington City Council is considering a bylaw that would sweep homeless people off the streets and arrest anyone sleeping in public.

The bylaw, now being drafted, bans sleeping, camping and ``residential activities'' in public spaces and means the homeless could be moved if people felt intimidated by them.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the bylaw, to be voted on next month, was designed to make the city safer, healthier and better, ``not just for The Lord of the Rings'' premiere in November but for the future.

Civil libertarians were outraged, describing the bylaw as a draconian and possibly illegal move by the city's ``beautiful people''.

``Poor old Rob (Robert Jones, the Wellington man with the bucket and bedroll who died this week) is not even cold in his grave and they are thinking of calling people like him criminals,'' Council for Civil Liberties acting chairman Michael Bott said.

``It's bullying tactics from the chardonnay set.''

Council officers were reworking the bylaw, drafted earlier this year, that banned camping and sleeping in public spaces, but left the homeless alone unless they were causing problems.

Ms Prendergast said it was not good enough to leave the homeless alone when council surveys showed people were intimidated by them.

``People have a right to do what they want to do but not when it impacts on other people.''

The bylaw was mostly about dealing with offensive behaviour. But she was considering issuing trespass notices to alcoholics living in Glover Park on Ghuznee St.

The homeless people say they are not causing any problems. A businessman, however, said his complaints about the park had been ignored by the council and police.

``You try walking here in the morning when it's knee-deep in urine.''

Downtown Community Ministry worker Pam Whittington, who knows many of the city's homeless, said the Glover Park occupants were so sick they could not live in shelters or homes. Two needed regular stays in hospital. If the council wanted to move them it needed to find them another place to camp.

Mr Bott said their right to roam had been enshrined in common law for centuries. He doubted that the council could pass the draft bylaw as new legislation meant it had to consider the Bill of Rights first.

The initial draft bylaw was useless, he added, as it defined sleeping as camping and could cause councillors to be arrested for falling asleep during boring meetings.

Councillor Bryan Pepperell did not support a ``fascist solution -- the city has to learn to tolerate these people''.

But when behaviour became a risk to other people it needed to be dealt with.

Cuba St retailer Simon Rillstone said homeless people sitting on the street were not a big problem.

``But occasionally when one or two sit at either end of the mall they tend to attract other people and it can become intimidating.''
 
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thanks

thanks for the responses. I volunteer once a week at a school for homeless youth, so this is an important issue for me.

I thought I should post this link:

http://www.outofthedoorways.org/

www.outofthedoorways.com is the website for Dignity Village, here's the intro:

On December 16th of the year 2000, a group of eight homeless men and women pitched five tents on public land and Camp Dignity, later to become Dignity Village, was born. We came out of the doorways of Portland's streets, out from under the bridges, from under the bushes of public parks, we came openly with nothing and no longer a need to hide as Portland's inhumane and Draconian camping ban had just been overturned on two constitutional grounds. We came armed with a vision of a better future for ourselves and for all of Portland, a vision of a green, sustainable urban village where we can live in peace and improve not only the condition of our own lives but the quality of life in Portland in general. We came in from the cold of a December day and we refuse to go back to the way things were
 

Jeff

Cyburbian
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27
Downtown Philly is loaded with them. And let me be un-politically savvy by saying I can't stand them. The majority of them are drug addicts or drunks and the remainder should be in mental facilities.

I went to school in Center City Philly so I had to step over them to get into school as well as get harassed on daily basis for my "spare change" on my way to the el. Since when is money spare? Like I look like Rockafeller.

Not to mention the stench. Oh God, the stench they leave in the subway is disgusting.
 

Cardinal

Cyburbian
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10,080
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34
Mike D. said:
Downtown Philly is loaded with them. And let me be un-politically savvy by saying I can't stand them. The majority of them are drug addicts or drunks and the remainder should be in mental facilities.

I went to school in Center City Philly so I had to step over them to get into school as well as get harassed on daily basis for my "spare change" on my way to the el. Since when is money spare? Like I look like Rockafeller.

Not to mention the stench. Oh God, the stench they leave in the subway is disgusting.
I'm reminded of my comments on Chicago.

There are a group of homeless people for whom I have some sympathy. They are not homeless through their unwillingness to take responsibility for themselves, and I think it is appropriate to offer them assistance to get back on their feet. Others may have mental problems and should be locked up. As for the rest - the drug addicts, alchoholics, and people who do not want to work - I am reminded of a quote. "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?" Maybe out touchy-feely society has moved to far from a hardline approach to this problem.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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I am always of two (or more) minds about this. On the one hand, I think of my mother, who has always worked hard (she delivered newspapers in midwestern winters for years), and its hard to feel much sympathy for a 6 foot tall 25 year old sitting on the street corner cadging for money. I am reluctant to medicalize every aspect of human behavior, so I can't feel as much sympathy as maybe I should for drug addicts and alcoholics who are often unwilling to change. And, it is not "fascist" to admit that there is a problem when the City of San Francisco has to drive a chlorine truck down its SOMA alleys to sterilize them. Elements of this population may "want" their "freedom," but just like public regulations don't allow people to run an auto wrecking yard out of their single family residence, public regulations needn't accomodate the shiftless who "want" to camp out in parks-with all the related sanitary issues.

On the other hand, there are a lot of lost people. Modern society is so alienating, fast paced, and stressful that a lot of people can't cope. Add in ultra-high priced housing and all of the easy temptations available in the modern world, some people do slip through the cracks. So what do you do? Is it really humane to allow people to live in parks and defecate in public?
 

BKM

Cyburbian
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6,464
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29
My own personal "experience": There is a group of about fifteen-twenty guys that hang out in my neighborhood in "downtown" Vacaville. They are harmless, with a couple of a&^%$oles. Except for their colonization of a couple of picnic tables downtown, they are pretty low key-and the Vacaville Police keeps a pretty strict handle on public intoxication.
 

SGB

Cyburbian
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3,387
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25
This thread got me thinking about what data we might have on homelessness in our county.

Our County Housing Council just recently received a socioeconomic and housing profile report it commissioned. I just thumbed through it, and it contains no discussion about homelessness.

We are a rural and relatively poor county, so this amounts to a fairly substantial ommission in this report.

Time to request an addendum......
 

jordanb

Cyburbian
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3,232
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25
I really don't have a problem with homeless people, but I think our homeless must be unusually polite and clean. I can usually wave panhandlers off with a hand motion, sometimes they require a "no change, sorry," but they almost always back down after that. As far as urine and defication, both are pretty rare, especially on the CTA. I don't know if the CTA is much better about policing for that kind of thing than SEPTA or if the homeless just use alleys instead. ;) I've never smelled urine strong enough to gag me anywhere. Of course their BO is nasty.

I think the homeless problem is mostly related to mental illness and drug addiction. My own experience with homeless is that few of them are all there mentally. During the 70s and especially the 80s, the mentally ill were deinsitutionalized, the argument in the 70s being that new "wonder drugs" could keep people sane (they couldn't) and that the hospitals were used inappropriately in the 60s. In the 80s, obviously needed reforms were vetoed under the pretense of "reducing the size of the (non military) government".

Drug addicts often can't get treatment. The treatment budget was slashed in the '80s to free up money for increased enforcement. So addicts out on the street just cycle throug prision every so often racking up a record that ensures that they'll never be able to find work should they clean themselves up.

These aren't problems individual towns can solve. They can try bottle them all up in a 'skid row' surrounded by police and barracades and just hope they all kill eachother like LA, or patrol the touristy areas and arrest anyone who smells bad for "loitering" and then dump them in the wretched neighborhoods (out of sight, out of mind) like DC. Or they can spread social services around the city to spread the homeless population around like a kid trying to make it look like they have less food on their plate than they do.

Jane Jacobs noted that cities have always been places where problems with society are most evident, and consequently where they are solved, but because our nation is so suburbanized most people can effectivly shut the homeless problems out of their minds. Suburbanites see homelessness as a problem for the "inner city" that dosen't have any bering on them. I don't think it is a coincidence that the rise of sprawl has largely coincided with the rise of the social conservitives.
 

Seabishop

Cyburbian
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3,838
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25
madhi said:
I live in Portland, a city with a fairly sizeable homeless population -- specifically, there is a large number of homeless youth (>18 yrs old).
I might be going to Portland in October and if its the well planned utopia that its supposed to be, I just might join the street youth indefinitely.
 

pete-rock

Cyburbian
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1,551
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24
Homeless persons in Chicago seem to stay pretty much in the bad parts of town, at least when compared to other cities I've visited. Lower Wacker Drive used to be famous for its teeming homeless population, but when the road was reconstructed the City made sure to keep them out for good. As for the CTA, they're there in small numbers in nice areas, slightly larger numbers in not-so-nice areas, and usually quiet and not a nuisance. I'm more bothered by the young punks on the street and the "L" that do have some kind of home than the homeless.

The Las Vegas I visited 3 years ago had by far the most visible homeless problem of any city I've visited. Not on the Strip, and not in the vast unincorporated Clark County areas that sprouted up over the last 20 years that we associate with Vegas, but in Las Vegas proper. I saw homeless people wandering in all types of neighborhoods, and a community center serving the homeless that had a line more than a block long.

Vegas will be this century's Detroit.
 
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