Thursday, July 23, 2009

Criminalizing Poverty

Criminalizing Poverty

It is no secret that California in general, and the City of Los Angeles in particular, are going broke. Right now in the works is legislation by the State to draw away millions from local cities and counties throughout the state to satisfy the unsactiable spending appetite of the legislature.

The County of Los Angeles is even now preparing a lawsuit against the State of California for sucking away their “revenues,” this at a time when the City and County of Los Angeles are maintaining the highest paid city counselors and local judges in nation. Courts are cutting back, business are shutting their doors and the entire landmark is changing its face with streets lined with empty business fronts.

Needless to say, joblessness and homelessness is on the rise. I am personally witnessing the attendance at food shelters fatting and filling out to the walls without places to even sit. Yes, and I believe we are but only witnessing the beginning of the “New Age for America.” If you have a job, count your blessings, for next week you may not have one.

And what do these fat-cat bureaucrat politicians think of all this? They just want this whole homeless stuation to just go away. In pursuit of their effort to eliminate poverty, they are persecuting and oppressing the poor. Recently a North Hollywood Baptist Church I am familiar with was run out of the park where they conducted a ministry among the homeless.

Right next door to the City of Los Angeles, but within the County of Los Angeles, the City of Burbank has just passed a new ordanance stating that homeless miniistries can no longer allow the homeless to transport food out the doors. However, if one can afford to eat at an established resturant, the law does not apply. The customers are free to transport all the food they want out the doors.

A friend of mine whom I have known for years has been cited for falling asleep in his own legally parked vehicle. I guess the answer the City of Los Angeles has for homelessness is citing these homeless and making them pay a citation for their “crime.” Indeed, when the homeless cannot pay, the only other answer is “go to jail, do not collect $200. But the good side of this equation is that homeless are provided “three hots and a cot.” That, of course, will fix the economic problem of homelessness in Los Angeles.

The city is putting up new intersection cameras and more parking meters and increasing the parking fees, stating that this is needed to raise revenue. But parking meters actually damper customers shopping at these businesses, which results in a lower customer base, which means lower revenue to the city. This, notwithstanding that the courts have already determined there can be no hint of revenue-raising by virtue of citations, or else it would be unconstitutional because it is not a tax based upon apportionment where everybody pays the same.

The City of Los Angeles has now earned the well-deserved title as the meanest city in the United States toward the homeless. Consider the words of Prov. 14:31 and 19:17, “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker:” “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.”

Ron Branson

Published on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Reuters

Los Angeles Accused of Criminalizing Homelessness

by Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES - Two major advocacy groups for the homeless on Tuesday ranked Los Angeles as the "meanest" city in the United States, citing a Skid Row police crackdown they say has criminalized poverty and homelessness there.

L.A.'s so-called Safer City Initiative was singled out in the groups' report as the most egregious example of policies and practices nationwide that essentially punish people for failing to have a roof over their heads.

Others include making it illegal to sleep, sit or store personal belongings on sidewalks and other public spaces; prohibitions against panhandling or begging; and selective enforcement of petty offenses like jaywalking and loitering.

Such measures are widespread in the face of a deep economic recession and foreclosure crisis that have increased homelessness over the past two years, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Their report examined laws and practices in 273 cities across the country, with Los Angeles topping the list of the 10 "meanest cities" for what the study called inhumane treatment of homeless. A previous report, issued in early 2006 before the crackdown began, ranked L.A. as the 18th meanest.

According to "Homes Not Handcuffs: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities," the 10 Meanest Cities in 2009 are:

1. Los Angeles
2. St. Petersburg, FL
3. Orlando, FL
4. Atlanta, GA
5. Gainesville, FL
6. Kalamazoo, MI
7. San Francisco
8. Honolulu, HI
9. Bradenton, FL
10. Berkeley

Under the Safer City effort, thousands of L.A.'s most destitute residents have been targeted for harsh police enforcement, routinely receiving tickets for minor infractions such as the failure to obey crossing signals.

As a result, the study says, many are jailed and end up with a criminal record that makes it more difficult for them to find a job or gain access to housing.

A spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa issued a statement dismissing the report as "short-sighted and misleading."

Los Angeles officials have touted their Safer City effort for sharply curbing serious crime in Skid Row, a 50-block downtown area inhabited by the biggest concentration of homeless people in the country. "The city's first priority is to protect our most vulnerable residents from violent crime," the mayor's statement said.

But homeless advocates say a promised strategy to ease homelessness there, including new housing and services to go with the Skid Row cleanup, have largely failed to materialize.

An estimated 40,000 people live on the streets, in abandoned buildings or in temporary shelters throughout Los Angeles, more than 5,000 of them in Skid Row. Another 8,000 make their home in that area's short-term residential hotels, or flop houses as they were once called.

Becky Dennison, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said the homeless population in Los Angeles has ballooned due to a lack of affordable housing, a high poverty rate and "long-standing lack of local resources."

Tuesday's report cited a 2007 University of California study that found L.A. was spending $6 million a year to pay for the 50 extra police officers who patrol Skid Row while budgeting just $5.7 million for homeless services.

By comparison, Dennison said, New York City has a "right to shelter" policy and invests about $200 million a year in housing and other services for the needy, resulting in a homeless population half that of Los Angeles.

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