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Las Vegas: Don't Feed the Homeless

 
 
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 03:23 pm
joefromchicago wrote:
It's not a private issue when it's being done on public land. Gail Sacco is, I'm sure, quite free to invite the homeless to her place for a nice meal or maybe even some carryout. Just because the homeless must be fed doesn't mean that they must be fed in the public parks.

I'm not suggesting that what the city is doing is illegal. I'm just suggesting that it stinks. If I can share a picknick with you in that park, as I understand I could, it's gratuitiously mean-spirited to criminalize Ms Sacco for sharing some lunch with homeless people.
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snood
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 03:44 pm
shewolfnm wrote:
I was homeless for several years.

I know for a fact that if people COULD get a job, the homeless population would all but dissappear.


most people have no clue what it is like to be homeless and why you cant " just get a job"


I was homeless for the better part of a year in a major city on the east coast. People aren't on the street because they want to be - well, a lot of them aren't, anyway.
My sister lived in the Cabrini Green Housing Project in Chicago for longer than she wanted to. She got out when she could. I can never look down and judge people who are down and out, generally - I don't think anyone who's been there, can. Except severe jerks.
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dagmaraka
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 03:51 pm
Thomas wrote:
joefromchicago wrote:
It's not a private issue when it's being done on public land. Gail Sacco is, I'm sure, quite free to invite the homeless to her place for a nice meal or maybe even some carryout. Just because the homeless must be fed doesn't mean that they must be fed in the public parks.

I'm not suggesting that what the city is doing is illegal. I'm just suggesting that it stinks. If I can share a picknick with you in that park, as I understand I could, it's gratuitiously mean-spirited to criminalize Ms Sacco for sharing some lunch with homeless people.


it is quite outrageous. How will this be enforced? Will the city put up signs saying "Don't feed the homeless" just like the signs in a ZOO? It just doesn't seem as a solution.
In Bratislava,the city is trying to help the homeless by slotting some 'public works' jobs for them- roads construction help or cleaning, working in parks and public gardens...etc, and building temporary tent shelters for those that don't fit into shelters etc... it's not systematic, but at least there is an attitude that is somewhat constructive. Banning charity? I dunno. It just makes me cringe, no matter how solid the reasons for it may be.
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nimh
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 04:03 pm
Dagmaraka wrote:
In Bratislava,the city is trying to help the homeless by slotting some 'public works' jobs for them- roads construction help or cleaning, working in parks and public gardens...etc

In Budapest, there are still street sweepers. You see them ploughing down the streets and sidewalks with scoopers and brushes. I assume those are the lowest-paid government jobs, and there seem to be a great many of them.

It is, without doubt, not the most efficient solution. A few of the cleaning machines you see rolling down Dutch streets would do the job of many of these cleaners - even on their probably very low wages, the investment would be earned back rapidly enough. Or you could follow the other tack of the Western example and just leave the micro-cleaning out altogether, as an "inefficient expenditure of government resources".

I'm sure that sooner or later, the city government will be pressured to "implement efficiency" that way. When I look at the street sweepers, I get the feeling that this is pretty much last resort to them, and if it falls away.. god knows. More homeless still, soon enough, I'm guessing.
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joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 04:19 pm
Thomas wrote:
I'm not suggesting that what the city is doing is illegal. I'm just suggesting that it stinks. If I can share a picknick with you in that park, as I understand I could, it's gratuitiously mean-spirited to criminalize Ms Sacco for sharing some lunch with homeless people.

I don't know how Las Vegas deals with picnics in its parks, but I believe that most urban park systems require people to obtain permits for picnics (at least for large picnics involving more than two or three people). And there's a very good reason for controlling the amount of food that is consumed in parks. The consumption of food involves the generation of garbage, which has to be picked up by the city. Furthermore, garbage attracts pigeons, rats, and other vermin that are unwelcome in parks.

If Ms. Sacco decided to open a restaurant or operate an unlicensed pushcart in the middle of a public park, very few people here would defend her right to do so. That she is giving the food away rather than selling it is, to my mind, not much of a distinction. As I said before, the Las Vegas ordinance does not say that the homeless must not be fed, only that they must not be fed in the parks. And I see no evidence to suggest that the homeless can't eat anywhere else.
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CerealKiller
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 04:22 pm
The law seems unenforceable.

How can you look at someone and determine they are homeless ?

If I share my food with a friend do I run the risk of being fined ?

Or only if I share it with someone percieved as being indigent ?
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 04:24 pm
What if you share you lunch with people who are NOT homeless? Is THAT ok? In order to be totally fair we'd have to ban barbecues, family gatherings and anything else that may involve food sharing. Perhaps we should adopt a "No Sharing" law. Teach children to hate thy neighbor.
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Green Witch
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 04:44 pm
I've run private food pantrys in NYC and in upstate NY for 15 years. I have seen all kinds of people that need help Many offer to pay by volunteering their time or donating food when times are better for them, some do nothing but take what is offered.

Many of these people do have mental problems, with one of the largest group being American Vets with PTSD. You can be speaking to one of them and they will seem perfectly normal until a noise startles them and they drop to their knees and start screaming. Funding to help these people has been cut to almost nothing. It's hard to hold a job when you keep thinking you are going to be attacked.

Group 2 - Women with children whose husbands/boyfriends have disappeared. The vast majority work, often more than one job, but they can't afford rent, car costs and food.

Group 3 - The elderly, some with mental problems, almost all with health problems. Usually what throws them into poverty is prescription drugs and treatments that are not covered by Medicare. Sometimes the death of a long ill spouse bankrupts the surviving partner.

Group 4 - The mentally ill - male & female. Long list of problems here. Most have been in treatment, but are thrown out with a little bottle of pills to keep them going for a temporary amount of time.

Group 5 - People who have few marketable skills. They are usually male and homeless. It's hard to get a job when an employer can't reach you by phone and you cannot bath and wash your clothing on a regular basis. Some have addictions, almost all come from abusive/dysfunctional families. Runaways are included in this group.

Group 6 - The working poor. Two minimum wage jobs cannot keep up with the basic bills. Often the problem is finding afforable housing, keeping a car running and paying off debt from when one of the wage earners could not find work.

Group 7 - True Deadbeats. The people Conservatives lump all the above into. This is by far the smallest group, but they do exist. It's the guy who comes in carrying a small child saying he can't afford milk, but he has a new pack of cigarettes sticking out of his breast pocket. So should I deny the child the milk because his father is an idiot? I prefer to give the milk away in the hope that the child will grow up and know that he was once helped by people who cared and perhaps he will return the favor to his community.

I hope they keep handing out the "loaves and fishes" in Vegas - it makes the world a better place for everyone. A society is only as strong as it's weakest members.
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snood
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 05:16 pm
Thanks, Green Witch. A lot of good solid sense you wrote there.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 06:05 pm
<nods> Thank you, Green Witch.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 06:30 pm
Me too to Green Witch.

When I first saw this thread title, I thought instantly that it would be about increase in the rat population because of some kind of fallout of what happened with garbage. I could see that, given that there were alternate distribution sites nearby. And then I'm talking about major distribution of food, not just from one person to another. On the other hand, and I'm not kidding, some of the homeless could be hired to help avoid that, and money could be spent for disposal containers.

I can see discomfort, fully understand it, from the point of view of businesses and nearby residents, that any one place, especially a community park, becomes home of the homeless. That does affect the nature of urban life, especially if drug dealing is associated with the place. Not that I always associate homeless with drug dealing. Just that these things are additive if present together. People need help.
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 06:43 pm
I suppose I could give background for my opinions. My dad died in 1968 while mentally ill. That was just before, as I remember it in the US, a big change, can't remember if it was Reagan's doing, or the Supreme Court, that did a big shutdown of the old psychiatric facilities, which I agree were horrid. Community based help never really caught up to the need, still hasn't.

The other nuance to my opinions is that I treasure a healthy urban community. Some places get overloaded, and some places remain pristine, sans visible human turmoil. Kind of like a tipping tray. I think all communities should be stepping up to the plate.
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Shapeless
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Aug, 2006 08:03 pm
dagmaraka wrote:
In Bratislava,the city is trying to help the homeless by slotting some 'public works' jobs for them- roads construction help or cleaning, working in parks and public gardens...


In Paris, there is a program that recruits the homeless to print copies of crossword and Sodoku puzzles as well as restaurant guides which they are then free to peddle in the subways. At first my instinct was to ignore them, having lived in New York City where it is technically illegal to give money to peddlers on the subway. But when I learned that these Parisian peddlers were acting on a government program, I eventually relaxed my instincts. I don't know how effective this initiative is, but I felt better giving change to them than to random beggars on the street.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:01 am
dagmaraka wrote:
it is quite outrageous. How will this be enforced? Will the city put up signs saying "Don't feed the homeless" just like the signs in a ZOO? It just doesn't seem as a solution.

Why not? There are signs in parks right now that post rules and regulations. I know, for instance, that the park near my home closes at a certain hour and that certain activities are not allowed. What is so different about a sign that informs park users that they are not allowed to feed others en masse?

No one -- not even the Las Vegas city council -- is saying that the homeless may not be fed. What the council is saying is simply that the homeless may not be fed in the city parks. Why this is equated with a policy of forcibly starving the homeless is, frankly, beyond me. If Las Vegas had no alternatives to feeding the homeless in the parks, then perhaps I could understand the outrage, but from all accounts that is not the case.

dagmaraka wrote:
Banning charity? I dunno. It just makes me cringe, no matter how solid the reasons for it may be.

If Las Vegas were banning all charitable efforts on behalf of the homeless, I would not hesitate in opposing such a measure. But it isn't. It is merely making a certain class of public property off-limits to a certain type of charity that is carried on in more appropriate venues in other parts of the city. I see nothing "cringeworthy" about that.
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:08 am
I'm certainly confused as to the "en masse" does that mean that if I bought a pizza and took it to the park and gave it to what might be thought of as homeless people, I would be violating the law?
Actually, I see this sort of thing as unenforceable, is there a legal definition of "homeless" people that can be discerned by sight.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:10 am
joefromchicago wrote:
There are signs in parks right now that post rules and regulations. I know, for instance, that the park near my home closes at a certain hour and that certain activities are not allowed. What is so different about a sign that informs park users that they are not allowed to feed others en masse?


the sign would not say they may not feed others, it will say, they may not feed the "indigent." legally, is there a difference between a sign that targets a particular group of people, as opposed to the public in general?
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SierraSong
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:26 am
There is a similar ban at a public park in Orlando, FL and the way they got around it is by operating out of a van on a nearby side-street. The woman in Vegas could do the same, but it wouldn't have the sensationalism created by the media's headlines.

Whatever. If it highlights the plight of the homeless (which I'm thinking was her goal to begin with), so much the better.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:37 am
dyslexia wrote:
I'm certainly confused as to the "en masse" does that mean that if I bought a pizza and took it to the park and gave it to what might be thought of as homeless people, I would be violating the law?

I have not read the ordinance, and I can't find it on the web. News reports would suggest that giving food to several homeless people would be illegal. According to one city council member: "If you bought a couple of burgers and wanted to give them out, you technically would be in violation, but you wouldn't be cited." It should be noted, however, that the council was not aiming at random distributions of small portions of food. Ms. Sacco has not been sitting on a park bench, offering a homeless person a bite of her sandwich and a sip of her Mountain Dew. She "has been cited twice while feeding the homeless, for holding a gathering of 25 or more people without a permit," and her operation is likened to a "mobile soup kitchen." That, to me, is en masse.

dyslexia wrote:
Actually, I see this sort of thing as unenforceable, is there a legal definition of "homeless" people that can be discerned by sight.

According to the linked article: The city's new ordinance, which officials could begin enforcing as early as Friday, defines an indigent as a "person whom a reasonable ordinary person would believe to be entitled to apply for or receive assistance" from the government under state law.
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joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:45 am
yitwail wrote:
the sign would not say they may not feed others, it will say, they may not feed the "indigent." legally, is there a difference between a sign that targets a particular group of people, as opposed to the public in general?

As a general matter, no. Signs that single out solicitors, for instance, are common in public places everywhere, so there's nothing objectionable about identifying a certain group as the subject of a particular law.

Some of the other things that are not allowed in Las Vegas parks include:
(1) Fireworks, firearms or weapons of any kind;
(2) Fires, except in barbecue facilities;
(3) The hitting of golf balls;
(4) The use of metal detectors, except for surface finds;
(5) The unauthorized sale of goods or services.
Source
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Aug, 2006 08:59 am
joe, the civil rights act only prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, handicap, age, and national origin, so i concede that the vegas law is constitutional. still, it's unusual. in all the examples you listed, it's an *activity* that's prohibited to all, not a particular group. even with regard to *solicitors*, it's generally *solicitation* that's prohibited; it's not as though you can look at someone and conclude that said person is probably a *solicitor*.
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