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Sat Nov 15, 2014, 06:44 PM

Serve the People

Homelessness isn’t an accident. It’s the result of a brutal economic system and conscious state policy.
by Ari Paul ~ 11.15.14

If Jesus of Nazareth ever returns to the earthly realm, he would be advised not to make his debut in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The police would likely cuff him.

Arnold Abbott, age ninety, has made international headlines for being arrested multiple times for organizing feedings of the homeless in public spaces in his hometown, famous for its retirement community and spring break party-goers. The town’s mayor, Jack Seiler, believes the threat of fines and a four-month jail sentence for the elderly churchman is appropriate, telling reporters that Abbott “has decided that he doesn’t think these individuals should have to have any interaction with government, that they should be fed in the parks. We disagree.”

Beyond the David and Goliath nature of the affair, the absurdities of such an injunction abound. Is it not a clear First Amendment freedom for people to convene? Can a state claiming to be democratic really prevent such acts of charity? And how does the state decide who’s homeless anyway? For example, would a couch-surfer be considered without shelter and thus, under this grotesque logic, a public safety risk?

While it might be easy to dismiss this as one more strange occurrence in the Sunshine State, Florida is hardly a callous outlier. Around the country, municipalities have deployed a variety of methods and statutes to harass and criminalize those lacking shelter: banning panhandling, instating “quality of life” ordinances, confiscating personal property, playing booming construction sounds as a deterrent, and even killing a man for camping in the desert.

The goal, of course, is to push the unseemly to the periphery, rather than solve the underlying problem. And the problem is indeed dire: homelessness is on the rise nationally ...

Much more here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/11/serve-the-people/

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