Saturday, February 03, 2007

Debate over Orlando's homeless laws
spreads nationwide -- and beyond

"Orlando works hard to conjure the image of a true-life Pleasantville: a safe, welcoming place where visitors can soak up year-round sunshine and devour choreographed experiences at palm-ringed theme parks. But its spotless sidewalks, sparkling lakes and twinkling skyline belie a real city with real maladies -- most notably, a surging homeless population that authorities are struggling to control."
That's the drift of an Associated Press report by Todd Lewan that is being published in newspapers from London to Wyoming.

Among the links (186 at last count): the Boston Herald, the Union Tribune in San Diego, Newsday in New York, the Los Angeles Times, the Charlotte Observer, the Guardian in London, the Kansas City Star, the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Denver Post, the Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho, the Ottawa Herald in Canada, the International Herald Tribune in France, the Casper Star Tribune in Wyoming and the Washington Post.

Chelsea England of Orlando Food Not Bombs serves dinner to Krystal Coleman. AP Photo by Joanne Carole.


At 8:58 PM, Anonymous LaVonne said...

If a country can afford billions on wars and other pursuits, surely it can invest in the lives of its needy citizens. No fuzzy math is required to figure out this problem.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

It's becoming more and more clear that the homeless population is changing from a few unfortunate souls with mental health issues to a vast swarm of bums who are looking for a free ride. By feeding them you are only enabling their addictions. Why should the average citizen have to go and work at some lame job they hate, pay most of their income in taxes, and generally play by the rules, only to find the few public spaces left in their town overrun by bums who have no desire to give anything to society, and in fact only want to take from it? This lot has found a way to get drunk/high nearly all the time,
no need for shelter, it's provided, no need for food or clothing, all that's provided as well.

The rich don't care, they can jet off to Aspen or the Riviera, or whatever. The people you hurt the most are the poor, or I should say, the WORKING POOR, like myself who do not have such options and really need that public park down the street.

So why don't you take these miscreants into your homes, and feed them there? I'll tell you why -- because you loathe them. You are dogged by some misplaced guilt in your conscience; thus you go out and feed them. But spend any quality time with them? No way!! You'd sooner go to a tent revival. But gosh, look at what good people we are, because we go out to feed the bums, while others want to jail them for defecating on their yards.

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Richard Myers said...

"Miscreants" ??

"Loathe" them ?

I have invited the homeless into my home.

I have taken them to the hospital for their black widow spider bites, and given them rides to day labor centers at five in the morning.

I have helped them obtain cardboard from a dumpster for corner sitting when they couldn't "get out," when there wasn't enough day labor for all of those lined up at the center to do.

I have dealt with the adverse tendencies resulting from hunger and starvation, such as the habit of pilfering bananas from the supermarket.

I have agonized over the choices some of them have made to kill the pain, and i've admired the quiet fortitude, resiliance, and courage of others.

I have marveled at how tenderly a homeless man cared for a pair of cockateels that someone left at my house. I have despaired after i helped the same individual -- an ex-carpenter -- celebrate a new construction job by taking many thousands of dollars worth of his own tools out of storage, to later discover that he sold them all that morning for a twenty dollar bill.

There is a homeless person in my home as i type this. It was seventeen degrees below zero in Denver two nights ago, and we do what we can. I've never seen someone so helpful with kitchen work and laundry, so industrious, so intent upon repaying room and board with their labor, all unbidden.

There is something that i will not allow in my home, however. That is blatant ignorance accompanied with obnoxious, accusatory prejudice. In fact i find such a combination of characteristics abhorrent even when expressed through an email such as yours.

You criticize good intentions. By the stars, you've mis-judged some of us, utterly. I believe it is much better to have good intentions than to be bitter, suspicious, small-minded, and to suspect that everyone else in the world has the same revolting personality disorder as oneself.

Explain your accusations now if you can. I suspect you're the most selfish, prejudiced, and despicable person that i've exchanged emails with, ever -- but i'd be relieved to learn that it isn't so.

richard myers
Industrial Workers of the World, Denver

At 2:44 AM, Blogger Homeless Justice said...

No More Red Collar Crime
Homicide Charges For Corporations
One District Attorney with ten reckless homicide
convictions against corporations, nut not the people.

"The Criminalization of Homelessness, A Problem Becoming A Solution"
Violent crime reduced by 90% in Richmond CA with a "Tent City" is linked in..
Notes posted after the story on "Shirking the Homeless With Spin"

Who are the criminals ?

At 12:02 AM, Anonymous ben said...

As a member of Orlando Food Not Bombs, i have a few corrections to make to that article along with some additional information on the situation in Orlando.

First of all, the article made it sound like OFNB is a bunch of outsiders when in fact about 2/3 of the people involved in Orlando Food Not Bombs (OFNB) live INSIDE the city. I wish that the reporter had used our full name in the article: *Orlando* Food Not Bombs. That's important, I feel, since it reflects the fact that we're indeed part of the Orlando community as are the homeless people with whom we share food.

The reporter seemed to accept unquestioningly the claims -- about homeless crime, resident opposition to the ordinance and the residency status of groups that share food -- that were made by City of Orlando spokesperson Brie Turek and City Clerk Alana Brenner, a political appointee and, i believe, former law partner of the mayor. I feel that he should have asked homeless advocates and food-sharing groups for their responses to those claims. For the record, OFNB is not the only group sharing food downtown, and before the City passed its anti-homeless feeding ordinance there were at least 15 groups that regularly shared food in three downtown parks. (This was the claim made by the ordinance's chief proponent, City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, who also claimed that she had spent six months researching the issue. I think her latter claim lacks credibility since she never apparently tried to contact OFNB or any of the other groups to get our perspectives.)

Another aspect of the article that bothers me is that it failed to mention S.T.O.P.--Stop the Ordinance Partnership. This is a coalition (formed in July 2006 around the time that Orlando passed its anti-homeless feeding ordinance). It consists of local political, civic, activist and religious groups and has as its mission opposing the ordinance, opposing other local measures that criminalize homelessness and that hinder the homeless from engaging in life-sustaining activities, and working for constitutional, humane and effective solutions to the problems of homelessness in our community. It is S.T.O.P. that has organized the five food sharings at Orlando City Hall and other city parks downtown that have been held without asking the city for a permit. OFNB has participated in these food sharings (in addition to continuing our regular Wednesday sharings), along with many other groups, including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of Central Florida, East Orlando Food Not Bombs (which shares in the East Orlando and University of Central Florida area), CodePink Women for Peace and the Young Communist League, and with various churches. OFNB has its hands full keeping our sharings going and working on other projects. It is S.T.O.P. that has helped spearhead the community's political and direct-action response to the ordinance and the criminalization and stigmatization of homelessness. One of those other OFNB projects is on Thursdays, when we hold a "free store/free grocery day" in Parramore (a predominantly African American neighborhood near downtown Orlando) to give away produce, juice, clothes and other items. Every other week SDS joins us for the free store. (SDS also organizes East Orlando Food Not Bombs, does its own on-campus free store, organizes anti-war protests and is locked in a free-speech fight with the UCF administration over so-called free speech zones on campus.)

As for the Sylvia Lane site (the parking lot near Orlando City Hall that is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire), the information in the article on that is out of date. It is no longer 24/7 but is now restricted to 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and now groups that wish to use it must register with the City Clerk's office, so city employees will unlock the gates (which hadn't been kept locked previously). These policy changes came in late December after the Orlando police announced plans to evict homeless people who were camping inside Sylvia Lane. The homeless had retreated to Sylvia Lane because in November the police had forcibly evicted homeless people living under the S.R. 408 overpass and railroad tracks (both near Sylvia Lane); at which time, city employees had illegally and callously confiscated the personal possesions of those homeless people -- including clothes, family photographs, personal papers, tools, and prescription medications. (This led to the death of one homeless man, 48-year-old Bobby Jones, who suffered from congenital heart disease. His brother spoke at S.T.O.P.'s latest food sharing and rally, the Souper Supper Summit, on Jan. 30 in front of Orlando City Hall.) As a result of that policy change, the three groups -- two religious and one secular -- that had been using Sylvia Lane have, i believe, all quit doing so, depriving the homeless of food, which is what, i believe, the City wants. It hopes that the lack of food and ommunity support will induce the homeless to migrate somewhere else.

Something else the article failed to mention is that OFNB, as a group, along with four members including myself, is a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed in October against the City's anti-homeless feeding ordinance. The other plaintiff is The First Vagabonds Church of God, a ministry by the homeless for the homeless. This lawsuit is scheduled to come to trial in June 2008.

Ben Markeson,
member, Orlando Food Not Bombs

At 2:11 PM, Anonymous said...

Well, I do not really imagine this is likely to work.

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