City Officials, Homeless Advocates at Odds over Bans

Is "compassion fatigue" driving Philadelphia and other cities to adopt ordinances to crack down on the homeless? Homeless advocates contend that these measures are counterproductive, as they force the homeless into criminal means of getting by.
June 13, 2012, 5am PDT | Akemi Leung
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According to Yamiche Alcindor, more and more cities in the United States, such as Philadelphia, are enacting bans on camping, noise, and food sharing in an effort to combat homelessness. These new ordinances, which have been adopted by some of the largest cities in the country, are pitting public officials and their desire to "improve the lives of homeless people and ensure public safety" against homeless advocates, who "argue that such regulations criminalize homelessness and make it harder to live on the nation's streets."

Philadelphia's recent ban on outdoor feeding of people in city parks is intended to draw the homeless inside where, "they can be connected with other social service programs and possibly speak with officials such as substance abuse counselors and mental health professionals," while also "ensuring good public hygiene and safety."

However, according to Alcindor, "Critics argue that bans on feeding and camping often leave people with no where to eat or sleep because many cities lack emergency food services and shelters. Meanwhile, citing people who violate such ordinances costs cities money when officials try to follow up on such cases and hurts people's ability to get jobs and housing, because many develop criminal records."

Thanks to Akemi Leung

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Published on Monday, June 11, 2012 in USA Today
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