|Google Images w/caption by Rev Dan|
"The measures are just the first in a series to come before the commission," reports the Sentinel. "City staff is currently drafting ordinances that would prohibit panhandling and other solicitations at intersections, that would prohibit people from sleeping on public property, and that would restrict when, where and how often groups could set up sites to feed the homeless."
All of that in spite of recent federal district court rulings that such laws are unconstitutional. The City of Houston, Texas got worldwide negative publicity last year for criminalizing the feeding of homeless people. An irony in this story is that many of the people who support such harassment of the homeless profess to be staunch supporters of the Constitution. They undoubtedly support today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that essentially supports Michigan's ban on affirmative action because it's not unconstitutional to do so. Yet those same folks don't give a rat's butt that last August the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Michigan’s 85 year ban on panhandling, saying it's an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
One of the issues confronting Ft. Lauderdale is public urination and defecation by homeless folks. I'd have to agree that such behavior is wrong, and should be discouraged, but what the hell is someone supposed to do when they're about to soil themselves? This, by the way, can apply to anybody, homeless or otherwise. If you're able to duck into an alley and pee on the side of a dumpster, before you wet yourself, where's the harm? Would we rather have fellow citizens running around with big wet spots on their trousers and smelling of pee - or poop?
But another issue is not so clear cut: "The commission's actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable — and residents feeling the community is being overrun by homeless people," reports the Sentinel. "We're losing customers and we're losing staff as well, because it's getting out of control," said restaurateur Tim Petrillo, who's also on the board of the Downtown Development Authority.
I can address that issue from first-hand experience as a panhandler in Houston, Texas. I sometimes "fly a sign" at a busy intersection, at which two other homeless men operate. Do we scare away customers? We do not, actually. When we're not standing on a median strip (yes, homeless people need to take breaks, too), we sit in front of a convenience store whose owner is kind enough to let us do so.
But that store owner is also smart, because he realizes that we spend money in his store. We never panhandle in his store or his parking lot and we cause no trouble. Thousands of cars drive through the intersection, most of which pass by without going to his store. The panhandlers, however, are given money by some of those people. We, in turn, spending a good portion of that cash in the store on food, toilet paper, sodas, and other basics. I estimate that I spend around $300 per month in his establishment; my fellow panhandlers probably each spend an additional $600 per month, for a total of approximately $1,500. That's income that the store would never have had if there were no panhandlers working that corner. No wonder he lets us use his bathroom. We're some of his best customers. Think about that, Mr. and Ms. Fascist Idiot Business Owner.
The blog "Wonkette" has a particularly harsh opinion of Ft. Lauderdale's pending persecution of persons without homes. Here's an excerpt:
"The not allowing people to set up sites to feed the homeless is the nicest touch of all, really. Man, Fort Lauderdale is going to be so fresh so clean after passing all these laws that will magically whisk the homeless people off to a magical land full of ponies and honey. And hey, if the ordinances don’t work, they could always bring in that sleazebag Democrat Hawaii state representative Tom Brower, who just stone cold smashes homeless people’s belongings, because this is also a super-effective and long-term way to deal with the problem of homelessness. Congrats on reaching new depths of suck, Fort Lauderdale.The rest of the Wonkette piece is worth reading, but note that it has some rough language. But it's okay, because in this case, it's entirely appropriate.
- Fort Lauderdale's Plan to 'Criminalize' Homeless Under Fire NewsMax
- Fort Lauderdale may now lead the Country In Heartlessness... OpEd News
- Court Rules Michigan’s Anti-Panhandling Law Is Unconstitutional MintPress News
- Court agrees New Orleans anti-begging law unconstitutional KHOU
- Laws Banning Peaceful Panhandling Are Unconstitutional ACLU
- Police Charged Panhandlers Under Unconstitutional Law New York Times