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Cracking Down: Homeless aren't helped by tough laws, nor by endless handouts

Cracking Down: Homeless aren't helped by tough laws, nor by endless handouts

November 20th, 2016 by Gazette Staff in Opinion Editorial

You can see them just about every day in many parts of town, but most noticeably on the streets of downtown Texarkana.

They walk around, sit in the shade, pick up discarded cigarette butts. They gather on the library lawn and other places near the Randy Sams Shelter. From time to time they may ask for change.

They are the homeless. And we have quite a number her in the Twin Cities.

This week the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty released a report saying that more and more cities are making it almost a crime to be homeless.

The report points to laws making it illegal to camp on public property, sleep in cars, sit or lie on sidewalks or to panhandle. The group says those laws are unconstitutional.

The report was especially critical of cities such as Denver, Honolulu and Dallas, which have been too aggressive in trying to keep the homeless off the streets, at least in the organization's view. The solution is more affordable subsidized housing, the group says, rather than laws that punish homelessness.

Here in Texarkana we have the Randy Sams Shelter, the Salvation Army and other organizations that provide shelter, food and other services to the homeless, a number of whom are veterans. Most cities have similar facilities.

But it's often not enough. And, it should be said, sometimes the homeless choose not to take advantage of the help that is available.

We are sure the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty has good intentions. But the group advocates for the homeless and seems to see anything communities do about the homeless as cruel and heartless. That ignores the total picture.

No one wants to punish the homeless. But the rest of the community has rights as well. And it is not uncommon for homeless individuals to act in antisocial ways, for any number of reasons.

There must be more a balanced solution. Just giving the homeless food and shelter doesn't work. It only furthers dependency and entitlement. It does nothing to bolster self respect and self worth.

Here in Texarkana we have Be the Blessing Bakery that trains the homeless in a skill and helps prepare them to earn a living. That's a great program.

We are sure other cities have work training programs as well. But why aren't there many, many more such programs, in all sorts of trades, not only in Texarkana, but across the country?

Would it be enough? Probably not. But it would be a start.

We are probably not going to "solve" homelessness any time soon. But the more help, encouragement and support we give those who want to break out of the cycle the better for them and for our communities.

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