Consequences Of Criminalization Of Homelessness

  • Monday, March 27, 2023

1. Pass a law making it a criminal offense to solicit a job ("Will work for food") or funds ("Hey buddy, could you please give me a some money so I can feed my kids / eat / pay my child support and court costs?")

2. Exempt governmental employees and charitable solicitors from this law prohibiting unsolicited solicitation ("United Way and IRS unleashed!")

3. Jail homeless violators who are trying to survive at a cost to taxpayers of over $75 per day (instead of giving them food stamps at a cost to taxpayers of only $10 per day.)

4. Those who claim the homeless ought to get a job fail to understand that most are unemployable (due to health issues, age, inability to find a place to shower and shave, lack of transportation, etc.) Which employers will hire an 80 year old college graduate who is in a wheelchair, whose social security check is insufficient to pay for housing and foods and medical copays?  

5. Root cause of Homelessness in Hamilton County? A. Removal of over 12,000 units of public housing so the land could be converted to more valuable commercial or industrial uses, without an adequate plan to house the tens of thousands of displacees. 

6. Failure of the government and churches to establish an adequate number of warming sites and temporary or semipermanent shelters sufficient to house the thousands of citizens (many who are employed) who are sleeping in sheds, tents, vehicles, porches, dumpsters, couches of friends or family, etc.)

7. Failure to use federal funds wisely (ie. Buying an EPA brownfield with targeted homeless grants which are unsuitable for homeless housing, buying motels near "Christian" churches and extending to them "veto power" over exactly which human beings Jesus wants to extend open arms to.)

8. Use of trespass laws to prevent homeless from using their meager social security money to buy food because certain "privileged" restaurant customers don't want to eat next to other human beings who stink (due to no place to shower or launder clothes.)

9. Making it a felony to camp on government property, thereby moving thousands of Tennessee's homeless onto the private property of landowners where it is only a misdemeanor crime to camp.

10. Eviction of hundreds of innocent senior citizens, disabled citizens, employed taxpayers, just because the police were concerned about a dozen motel customers who were known to them to be felons. Are the police willing to allow instant background checks on each of the thousands of citizens who rent a motel room each and every day here? If they hold the motel responsible for screening the past histories of their guests, shouldn't the police offer this service to the hotel owners before their multimillion dollar properties are seized?  And then the government only assisted around a hundred or so of the displacees with alternate housing. What about the others? Did they lose their constitutional rights the instant the DAs seizure petition was approved by the court?

11. The judge and DA and others involved in this seizure are highly educated, extremely intelligent attorneys.  Why have the needs and rights of the displacees been inadequately addressed in court orders?  Could it be that there are systemic failures in our judicial system? Court orders are "drawn" by the "parties" (the plaintiff DA, and the attorney for the defendant motel owners) and approved by the judge with no provision for appointment of a "guardian ad litem" or "trustee" to advocate for the rights and interests of the majority of the victims of this displacement?  The property owners have suffered losses of over a half million dollars in income, plus damage to their credit and reputation. Their tenants have lost not only their housing, but in many cases, also their property and their jobs.  How do you commute from Lookout Valley to East Ridge without bus service. It's impossible to buy a car when your whole paycheck goes to housing and food.

12.  Bottom line: Our government created most of our community's current problems with hoards of homeless citizens living in tents and vehicles, by legislative and judicial and administrative decision making policies and procedures that failed to account for the obvious consequences of their decisions.  Why? Because they fail or refuse in include advocates for our community's most vulnerable citizens in their decision making processes.  (Example:  The monopoly Electric Power Board makes more money by cutting off electric service to destitute senior citizens by way of disconnect fees and reconnect fees, than their profit on the sale of the small amount of profit on the  electricity use of those citizens. Why? Because there is no inclusion of customers on committees where policies are formed. There is no internal advocate or ombudsman to advocate or cut through the bureaucratic on behalf of those unable to afford phones or internet or bank accounts, each of which requires their own gauntlets to be traversed.

Alas. Our most intelligent elected and appointed leaders have failed in their duties to the most disadvantaged of their fellow citizens by their top down management styles as opposed to listening to those affected by their policies and decisions.

It is, as Helen Keller insinuated, worse to have no "vision" than to be blind.  Our leaders lack vision in my opinion.

Mark Regan

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