The best way to grapple with homelessness in Colorado Springs is to
swap supportive services and affordable housing for a one-way bus ticket
out of town, according to Councilwoman Helen Collins.
“A lot of the homeless, the best way to get rid of the homeless is to
give them a bus ticket back to their families,” Collins said earlier
this week during a discussion of the city’s plan for housing and
homelessness programs. She criticized the city’s efforts to provide
housing and stability for homeless people to get back on their feet by
saying that those programs hurt other people. “They go into a low income
housing area,” Collins said, according to The Gazette, and “drag it down and then they move on to the next new low income housing facility.”
A fellow council member pointed out that housing the homeless is
proven to be the most cost-effective way of getting people off of the
street, and added that “to give them a home is the first step” in a
longer process designed to foster long-term stability and a gradual
return to safe, sustainable, and independent living. The city’s proposal
for spending federal grant money combating homelessness eventually
passed on a 6-3 vote over Collins’ objections.
Such homelessness mitigation efforts have indeed begun to focus more
on providing housing than on other forms of aid for the homeless. That
is because it costs roughly one third
as much to simply put a roof over someone’s head than it does to handle
homelessness using the courts, jails, and hospitals. In the best
situations, permanent housing for the homeless allows people to put down
roots in a community, send their children to schools, and re-enter
society after years on the margins. Sometimes even those success stories
get sabotaged by policymaker disputes, as in the case of Atlanta’s Vine
City neighborhood, where dozens of once-homeless residents are set to
be forcibly uprooted to a new location on Friday due to a bureaucratic dispute.
The idea of shipping a city’s homeless population out of sight and
out of mind isn’t new or unique to Helen Collins or Colorado Springs.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana decided to dump its homeless on other cities
by buying them one-way bus tickets last summer. (That program was
originally called “Clean Sweep,” before its sponsors opted for the
shinier “Homeless Outreach Prevention Efforts” or HOPE.) Nevada was sued
by San Francisco after a state psychiatric hospital was found to be
putting hundreds of indigent people with mental health issues onto buses bound for the bay area. In Hawaii, some lawmakers have even tried to buy plane tickets back to the mainland for homeless people who some public officials believe interfere with the state’s tourism industry.
There is a big difference between helping someone get back to family
and friends and shipping someone across a jurisdictional line so they
can be somebody else’s problem. As Michael Stoops, Director of Community
Organizing at the National Coalition for the Homeless told ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes last year,
bus tickets can be a boon in certain situations “if it’s done for the
right reasons and it’s voluntary and people are not being given a
choice, ‘go to jail or we can give you a bus ticket.’” - Think Progress
Labels and name calling - this is how it begins. It's how it began in Nazi Germany. It's how it began in colonial America. It is how it began in Southern Africa. It is easier to dehumanize someone by giving them a derogatory label. Nowadays it's less about race or religion and more about income/social status.
The homeless are regarded as less than human by some people.
I wonder how that logic works. To believe that someone is "not quite as human as me - but they are human". It is a contradiction to say the least, a cruel hypocrisy. How is it possible to not quite be something while actually being it at the same time? Only the twisted mind of a human could put a spin on something like this - to degrade something and make ourselves separate from it while at the same time acknowledging our sameness with that very thing.
It is easier when you are talking about a "hobo" or a "beggar" - it is easier to separate yourself from it by making that distinction. When you think of people in that way you don't really see them as people, each having lived an entire life and still with some living left to you just like you, you see them as their labels.
The reality is that if you really saw each and every person in the world completely - the same way you see yourself - you would never allow some of the living conditions that people are forced to endure. If you looked into the face of every beggar and saw yourself you would want that person to have every opportunity and comfort you have and/or would want. Seeing people as their labels instead of as people makes it easier to accept the world the way it is. I have as yet discovered no justifiable reason why any person wants the world to be the way it is and yet here we are. We are all living in a life we don't really like or want, at least not entirely, but still we do nothing to change it. We are comfortable, and the concept of change is terrifying. Not that this is a good enough reason. There really is no reason good enough.