Friday, August 04, 2006

The Forgotten

This afternoon I’m heading down to visit my mom, who lives easy walking distance from Circle Park, ground zero for the Homeless Wars here in Las Vegas. By now everyone has heard about our new ordinance that bans feeding homeless people in the park. The ordinance is ludicrous, unconstitutional, and mean.

Some important voices are being left out of this debate. The residents around Circle Park – or around any area that the homeless favor – get an occasional letter to the editor published , but for the most part, no one is paying much attention to these folks. Have you ever had a homeless person encamped on the side of your house, using your lawn as a toilet? My mom has. How about had a homeless person relief himself on your living room floor? A friend of mine trying to sell her vacant house on 7th Street did.

We have allowed the debate about the homeless to exclude the people most affected by the action (or inaction) of politicians – and I’m not just talking about the residents who can’t use the park they renovated. When was the last time you read an interview with the homeless? They serve as a backdrop to news stories, but is anyone asking them why waiting for free food in Circle Park is so much more appealing than taking advantage of the services (however few they may be) offered by the city?

Less than a month ago, the city shut down Family Promise, a local agency that helps homeless families. Despite being located in the same neighborhood for a decade, bureaucratic baloney mandated that they get a business license. Suddenly, their work was no longer appropriate for their neighborhood. So, let me see if I have this right…. The homeless aren’t allowed to sleep in a park or be fed in a park, and they don’t want to travel downtown to receive services, but the City doesn’t want neighborhood-based shelters offering assistance to the homeless, either. Over the past few years we’ve seen services to the homeless decrease, but now we want to cite people who feed them. The people most affected by these idiotic strategies – the homeless and the residents of the affected areas – are nothing but cardboard backdrops. Does this make sense to anyone?

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