Homeless Campaign Hypocritical Charade

RECEIVED Sat., Oct. 10, 2009

Dear Editor,
    Re: “Faces of Homelessness” [News, Oct. 9]: The social services rhetoric surrounding the latest punish-the-homeless initiative is complete nonsense. The current idea of the Downtown Austin Alliance and other head-'em-up-and-move-'em-out vigilantes is to pretend to create an Austin where everyone who is homeless will be somehow provided with free meals and a place to sleep and treatment options for the drug addicts and alcoholics, and, all that being the case (at least in the DAA's imaginary world), anyone who is still out panhandling is a bad actor and should be jailed.
    Well, there are several problems with this foolishness. First, we are for the most part offloading the problem to charity, which, to be blunt, does not solve problems but rather assuages guilt and, by virtue of being in effect a low-level tax on the good-hearted, helps absolve the hard-hearted of the obligation to pay the rather hefty real taxes that are going to be needed to truly address homelessness, drug addiction, alcoholism, and untreated psychosis, if and when any of that ever happens.
    Second, it is transparently intended to move a problem no one has any honest intention of solving to some other part of town. And guess what part of town it will be?
    Third, it doesn't build any free places to live (I emphasize the word "free" because, remember, the only money the hardcore homeless have is gotten through panhandling).
    Fourth, it doesn't provide the hardcore homeless with alternative sources of money ("of course not, they might spend it on bad things"). It's worth noting that many homeless psychotics are never going to hold and keep a job. A lot of the drug addicts and alcoholics are in the same boat. Let's be realistic. Are you going to hire them, Mr. or Ms. DAA vigilante? I didn't think so.
    Finally, it (thankfully) doesn't even do what most of the vigilantes would secretly like to do, which is put all the panhandlers in jail. There's the small matter of due process, and there's the even greater practical matter of the expense. It would be cheaper to provide them all their own apartments than long-term prison accommodations.
    So this whole business is a hypocritical charade. And yes, I'll personally keep giving to panhandlers as long as the charade goes on.
Jim McCulloch
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