Thursday, July 27, 2006

They're dirty and carry germs ...

... and are public health hazard. The homeless i.e. So, the City of Orlando has banned charitable organizations from giving food to them in parks downtown, and other public property within two miles of City Hall without a permit. (With a permit the public health hazard is reduced? Or are permits just not going to be given?)

I got this via Greg Kreihbel's blog who thinks this was a good idea. The comments there are ... um ... not very nice, IMO. Here's what I wrote there ...
I agree that some kind of real incentive to work is important (though I cannot think of too many employers who’d want to hire someone without an address). Nor do I have any grand solutions for eliminating homelessness (and poverty) (I tend to be suspicious of grand solutions. The 20th century is full of the corpses caused by grand solutions) … but preventing charitable organizations (including, presumably churches who’re carrying out a Coroporal Work of Mercy) from feeding the poor? In the hope that they (the homeless) go … where? Somewhere else? Because they’re dirty? So that the more fortunate can enjoy their clean parks?

These people should be locked up — i.e. fed on taxpayer money instead? What about those who’re mentally ill (but not ill enough to be locked up)?

I’m currently in India. If you thought Orlando was bad, just drive on any Indian city street or walk on the (generally nonexistence) sidewalk. It’s heartbreaking and those of us who grew up here learn how to ignore the children carrying infants asking for money. There’s all kind of admirable charitable organizations (many Christian) ones who try to break the cycle of poverty — but it’s a huge and almost impossible task. In the meanwhile, as a Christian, what do I do when I encounter a fellow human being who asks for help? Ask the city to drive him somewhere else? And go about my uncontaminated life, brushing off whatever horrible germs that dirty Image of Christ carried?

[Anyway I’m sure I’ll be dismissed as a bleeding heart so I’ll stop … ]
This was always a perennial source of discussion in the parish office -- in the heart of downtown -- how to balance charity with safety. That's one thing. Simply turning one's backs -- no matter how inconvenient -- wasn't an option.

To be fair, in that comment above I was reacting more to what I saw on the Crowhill blog than to the Orlando piece itself. However, to prevent charitable organizations from giving out food -- to outlaw charity! -- in a nation where so many pride themselves on being Christian! -- seems to me to be shameful at best. Civic promotion of the idea that the homeless, the poor --- citizens! -- are inconvenient? Dirty? Better out of sight? And don't get me started on the public health thing ... pretty soon the City or the State will be mandate a certain number of showers for all inhabitants.

The late Bishop Kenneth Untener of Saginaw wrote this beautiful Catholic Update: How Should We Think About the Poor? [Oh dear, I can hear the screeches now. "He was a LIBERAL!"] that I read periodically. It's always refreshing.

And there's Mother Teresa's admonition: to see the face of Christ in everyone one meets, especially in the poorest.

And how can one forget what St. James wrote?
If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (Jas 2:15-17)
[And all of the above is in the context of the US. I've had this essay bubbling at the back of my mind about poverty in India. It'll emerge one of these days ... ]

1 comment:

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

From the AP article:

...homeless people were causing problems at a downtown park popular with joggers and dog walkers.

The homeless are the only sanitary problem? So, one guesses that everyone in Orlando cleans up after Fido & Fluffy?

This looks like a case for civil disobedience folks--then the city will doubtless invoke catering and food service regulations.