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Wednesday, Sep. 17, 2014

Helping the homeless isn't just a handout

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Having never been homeless, I readily admit that I cannot fully understand the obstacles and issues that face the homeless population. But just because I have not walked in their shoes, I can still form an opinion on how to handle the homeless issue. And, as always, I can continue to scratch my head over the weird positions taken by our friends at the American Civil Liberties Union which always has something to say on the liberal side of the agenda.

St. Louis is currently struggling with the homeless issue, as are most urban areas. But just so we understand, experts in the field of the homeless acknowledge that most of their clients are homeless because of alcohol, drug addiction or mental illness. The portrait of a single mother and her three kids being booted by a greedy landlord may be true but it's not the norm in the homeless community.

The first wrinkle in St. Louis actually began in July during the holiday celebrations there. A judge agreed to release a number of homeless men arrested for public nuisance crimes if they in turn agreed to remove litter from city streets during one eight-hour day. About two dozen or so homeless men agreed in return for their cases being dismissed.

Well into the fray jumps the ACLUw this week who branded the practice as "slavery" because the homeless men had not appeared before the judge and been arraigned. And just for good measure, the ACLU wants monetary damages not just a change in policy.

Now to me this practice seems extremely appropriate. Jail time for these homeless would accomplish little but the removal of litter at least serves a purpose. Their decisions were voluntary as well. And as an added benefit, the litter patrol also freed jail space during the busy holiday.

The city has agreed to end the practice.

At the same time, complaints are pouring in about homosexual activity, drug trafficking and loitering outside of a Salvation Army Shelter for the homeless in downtown St. Louis. Nearby residents are flooding the city with complaints and police acknowledge they have made "dozens" of arrests for homosexual acts just outside of the Shelter. There are many questions on the location of the homeless shelter smack dab in the middle of St. Louis downtown redevelopment areas.

There's talk about moving the shelter but few residents are receptive to housing the shelter in their neighborhood.

The homeless are for the most part those unable for a variety of reasons to adequately function in society. Granted, there are exceptions. This is a problem that jobs won't cure and rehabilitation is often ineffective. In short, it's a problem that won't go away despite the best efforts of society.

Society should make every effort to compassionately address this sad population. And the homeless should be made to adhere to the laws of a community to receive this compassion. As with most other issues in life, it's a two-way street.



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