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Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?- “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless.”

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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:09 PM
Original message
Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?- “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless.”
Is It Now a Crime to Be Poor?

By BARBARA EHRENREICH
Published: August 8, 2009

IT’S too bad so many people are falling into poverty at a time when it’s almost illegal to be poor. You won’t be arrested for shopping in a Dollar Store, but if you are truly, deeply, in-the-streets poor, you’re well advised not to engage in any of the biological necessities of life — like sitting, sleeping, lying down or loitering. City officials boast that there is nothing discriminatory about the ordinances that afflict the destitute, most of which go back to the dawn of gentrification in the ’80s and ’90s. “If you’re lying on a sidewalk, whether you’re homeless or a millionaire, you’re in violation of the ordinance,” a city attorney in St. Petersburg, Fla., said in June, echoing Anatole France’s immortal observation that “the law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges.”


In defiance of all reason and compassion, the criminalization of poverty has actually been intensifying as the recession generates ever more poverty. So concludes a new study from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which found that the number of ordinances against the publicly poor has been rising since 2006, along with ticketing and arrests for more “neutral” infractions like jaywalking, littering or carrying an open container of alcohol.

...

That could be me before the blow-drying and eyeliner, and it’s definitely Al Szekely at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington — the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Fu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972. He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until last December, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants.

It turned out that Mr. Szekely, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs or curse in front of ladies, did indeed have a warrant — for not appearing in court to face a charge of “criminal trespassing” (for sleeping on a sidewalk in a Washington suburb). So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail. “Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Mr. Szekely. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless.”

...

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/09/opinion/09ehrenreich....
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WCGreen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. I just finished reading that piece myself...
Edited on Thu Aug-13-09 09:10 PM by WCGreen
It's heartbreaking.
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deaniac21 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:11 PM
Response to Original message
2. This is what bush did to America.
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AuntPatsy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. This is what the GOP had planned for America and their plan is working
out perfectly...I am sure they are patting themselves on the back as they hurry their steps on the way to another vacation in their private airplanes....all is well....we have become our southern neighbor...
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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:18 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. Under Clinton, poverty rates failed to decline, income inequality reached new heights
As to the Polanyi problem, the Clinton years were notable for the passage of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act, a major blow to social solidarity, ending a core federal protection of the poor harking back to the New Deal, and driving large numbers into the low-wage labor market. Under Clinton, poverty rates failed to decline despite the prosperity, worker insecurity remained high, and income inequality reached new heights. The prison population soared, another manifestation of a crumbling social structure, with poor people treated ruthlessly (and with conspicuous racist bias). At the same time the Clinton team regularly bailed out investors, as in the Mexican and East Asian financial crises in 1994-1995 and 1997-1998, and the crash of the Long Term Capital Management hedge fund in 1998. With the small "peace dividend" and budget surplus that emerged in the late 1990s, Clinton used the money to reduce the national debt rather than spend it for pressing educational, infrastructure, welfare state, or other human needs--so much for the promise to "put people first."

...

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1132/is_11_55/ai... /
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Zynx Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 06:57 AM
Response to Reply #8
17. I'm no huge defender of Clinton, but poverty rates did decline by several percentage points.
We can argue all we want about how they are calculated, but that is a simple fact.

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rve300 Donating Member (140 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 11:29 PM
Response to Reply #4
12. When was th last time the GOP had any control of DC city council? NT
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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. Hate to break it to you
but this ain't just a BushCo thing. Inequality is a bipartisan thing. The thought that such problems are to considered to have their roots in the criminal Bush administration actually lessens the probability that the problem can be examined in whole and understood politically or historically.
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:15 PM
Response to Reply #2
6. So what are you going to do about it now?
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gateley Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:28 PM
Response to Reply #2
10. I think it began with Reagan and the ensuing R's carried the torch. nt
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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 11:46 PM
Response to Reply #2
13. Please - this is what the vicious spiteful half of Murka did to America
Bush didn't do this. We've dehumanized the poor so that we don't have to face how vulnerable we are to the whims of our Corporate Overlords.
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:15 PM
Response to Original message
3. And where is the "progressive" outrage?
Does anyone see this as important?

Will this be discussed on Air America? On Rachel? On Keith?

Will there be a mass campaign to change these draconian laws?


...................

..........................

.......................

:shrug:

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AuntPatsy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:16 PM
Response to Reply #3
7. Not really, so many outrages against American citizens as well
as those in other countries..and honestly...so little time..after all...we must stick to the script....but thank God for a few bright spots of caring...Send it to Rachel..
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 04:01 PM
Response to Reply #7
21. Yes, TOO LITTLE TIME for homeless people, but so much outrage for gays, the environment,
Edited on Fri Aug-14-09 04:02 PM by bobbolink
and a host of other causes too numerous to mention.

I'm sick to death of the excuses.

Just be honest, say you don't give a damn, and be done with it.
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slampoet Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:19 PM
Response to Original message
9. It has been a crime to be poor in MANY places since the Great Depression.

Not a crime to be homeless but a crime to not have money in your pocket.


It is called a Vagrancy law and they are anywhere and everywhere.


I had a friend spend a week in jail because he didn't have more than $3 to his name and got caught in the wrong county walking along a road.
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NoSheep Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 09:29 PM
Response to Original message
11. I think it has been a crime to be poor all my life.
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Kievan Rus Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 11:55 PM
Response to Original message
14. Thanks a lot, Ronnie and Dubya
Hands down, the two worst Presidents in American history.
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Orwellian_Ghost Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 06:51 AM
Response to Reply #14
16. See post 8
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bobbolink Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 04:04 PM
Response to Reply #14
22. Stop with the short-sightedness.... IT'S DEMS TOO!
Tell me.... what the hell is OBAMA doing to reduce homelessness?

Hmmmmmmm?

What are YOUR congresscritters doing?

What have you demanded they do?

What are YOU doing to reduce homelessness.

Your blaming is CHEAP.
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Ocracoker16 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 06:40 PM
Response to Reply #22
23. thanks for reminding us that we need to point the finger at ourselves rather than some politician
I have read all the posts so far and I am not convinced that anyone is expressing really genuine concern. Ofcourse, certain politicians have had a role in getting us where we are today. However, I think sometimes we find blaming these politicians to be a convenient way of putting aside the issue and deciding that it is someone else's problem. I think that when we do that we only end up reinforcing the idea that this is the status quo and is going to be how it is. We may not have been the ones who made decisions that created this mess, but by our silence and our failure to act we have allowed these problems to continue in our society. We can't fix these problems overnight, but should we allow that to make us decide that there is no use in trying to bring about change. Nobody needs to be the ultimate hero for the cause and do everything. We need to be vocal with our leaders. We have to tell them that we will not allow them to just maintain the status quo.
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abumbyanyothername Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Aug-13-09 11:56 PM
Response to Original message
15. A friend of mine
(trying to get it together in a recovery program) is a name plaintiff in an ACLU suit against the City of Santa Monica that charges that essentially the city is rousting out the homeless (doh -- it's the annual tourist season sweep) and trying to force them into neighboring communities.

He was arrested for sleeping in a doorway. He was quite concerned about the whole deal because he's got two strikes already. Not that this would be a third strike, but he doesn't always react calmly to being arrested.
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G_j Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 06:59 AM
Response to Original message
18. K&R
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 08:56 AM
Response to Original message
19. K&R
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 08:56 AM
Response to Original message
20. Recommend
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Cleita Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-14-09 06:47 PM
Response to Original message
24. It seems like it has been in the works and more laws are being passed that
will make things worse. I feel it's beating up on the victim. Hopefully, the police and courts won't enforce those laws because they are unjust or at least some activist lawyers will take on the cases to shine a light on the injustice of such inhumane treatment. Have we gone back to the days of throwing a hungry person into jail and executing him because he stole a loaf of bread?
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