PJ Media

The Jails are Just Today's Asylums

The National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has compiled a a href=”http://msnbc.msn.com/id/10823343/”list of the top twenty “meanest” cities /afor homelessness in the US. br /br /blockquoteFour of the cities are in Texas, two are in California and two are in Arizona. All are locations that a report accompanying the list finds reflect a growing willingness over the past 25 years “to turn to the criminal justice system to respond to people living in public spaces.”br /br /Michael Stoops, acting executive director for the homeless coalition, put it more bluntly: “There’s open war on the homeless population.” /blockquotebr /br /No, it is not a “war” against the homeless. It is poor forethought and planning for the homeless when good Samaritans opened the mental institutions and turned the mentally ill out onto the streets–a large portion of the homeless are mentally ill-a href=”http://www.cityofknoxville.org/development/homeless2004study.pdf”in some studies up to 50%/a. In addition, the gentrification of downtowns by urban yuppies and city planners caused a rush of condeming, closing or knocking down Single Room Occupancy Housing (SRO) which was devastating to the poor who lived in cheap housing. For example, a href=”http://www.cityofknoxville.org/development/homeless2004study.pdf”in New York City in 1960/a, there were 640,000 people living in SRO’s and rooming houses and by 1990, there were only 137,000. No wonder there are so many homeless there. br /br /Here in Knoxville, we had a cheap motel downtown where one hundred people lived called the 5th Avenue Motel–a href=”http://www.wate.com/Global/story.asp?s=%20%20992425″the hotel was condemned /aand the residents forced to leave. Many went to live with friends and family, some were lucky enough to be provided with other housing but some, I bet, are back on the streets. There were a number of news interviews here with the residents saying that the 5th Avenue motel was their home. It would seem that living there would beat living in a shelter or the streets. I have even had homeless clients who commit crimes so they can get in jail, get three hots and a cot and maybe some mental health treatment. So the next time the National Coalition for the Homeless wants to blame states for being big meanies who wage war on the homeless, they should ask themselves why these people are homeless in the first place.br /br /Update: a href=”http://assistantvillageidiot.blogspot.com/2006/01/its-not-just-money.html”Assistant Village Idiot /atalks about the complexities of social problems and why throwing housing and money at the homeless does not necessarily work.