8.23.2009

Displacing the Problem of Poverty

Since the topic came up recently, here's a story out of Sacramento that parallels CU's Tent City. Here in Champaign, private trespass isn't the problem since St. Mary's allows the Tent City to stay there. But...it does beg the question: how are we going to proceed?

From Crooks and Liars:
As The Homeless Are Chased from Campground, We Keep Displacing the Problem of Poverty

The problems of poverty keep getting pushed from one place to another (literally). We have so many people out of work and losing their homes. What, exactly, are we going to do about it?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) ―A local attorney opened up his private property for homeless campers to have a place to stay, but authorities are already warning they will have to shut it down.

Attorney Mark Merin is leasing his property on 13th Street and C Street in Sacramento to about three dozen homeless men and women for one dollar a year, which is meant to give them the legal rights of lessees and property renters.

'It's a matter of human dignity, and it's life and death,' said Greg Bunker, executive director of Francis House in Sacramento.

According to Sacramento police, it isn't legal to live in a tent anywhere in the city for longer than 24 hours. The department wouldn't say when, but did say that they would soon enforce the city ordinance and kick the homeless persons out of the property.

The lot is located in a mostly industrial area, with only one home backing up to the property, but the city has received complaints about the campers from nearby residents.

Also, there's an article in Smile Politely by Caleb Curtiss looking at Champaign's antagonistic response to Tent City.
City stance on Safe Haven ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Since first gaining media attention in June of this year, Safe Haven Tent Community has presented the greater C-U community with a real challenge. It has forced us to qualify how we define community members while exposing the inadequate way in which we deal with poverty. Some of us have stepped up to this challenge by promoting an attitude of acceptance. Others have gone a step further by openly advocating for the people who make up this small community of homeless people. But most of us have responded with complacency or even worse, antagonism, when confronted with the questions that Safe Haven’s mere presence has begged.

City Manager Steve Carter, arguably Champaign’s most powerful member, has chosen to respond with contempt. On very shaky legal ground, he has chosen to represent the will of the people by pursuing the dozen or so homeless people who comprise Safe Haven in a manner that is reminiscent of a Dickensian villain. Carter, (the unelected administrator of Champaign’s municipal policies) along with Mayor Jerry Schweighart and the Champaign City Council, have not only chosen to follow Safe Haven all the way to St. Mary’s Church in order to rigidly enforce the zoning laws that ban people from living in temporary structures, but they have done so without what appears to be a complaint on file. It makes me wonder how many complaintless noise violations the city has lying around?

The article has quite a few comments and some good discussion going on.

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