Sunday :: Aug 9, 2009

Being Poor in America

by Mary

Being poor in America has never been easy, but today the poor are criminalized and victimized just because they are poor.

Barbara Ehrenreich writes in the NY Times about the number of ways it is a crime to be poor. One story concerned how one man was arrested while in a homeless shelter because he had an outstanding warrant for sleeping outside.

It turned out that Mr. Szekely, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs or curse in front of ladies, did indeed have a warrant — for not appearing in court to face a charge of "criminal trespassing" (for sleeping on a sidewalk in a Washington suburb). So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail. "Can you imagine?" asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Mr. Szekely. "They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless."

And when a number of those who lost their homes in the Central Vally of California decided to band together in a tent city where they could look out for each other, they were chased out of Sacramento and dispersed. After all, the homeless are supposed to disappear, and not take up space in our cities or towns.

And once someone is homeless, they are ready targets for thugs. This morning NPR broadcast Homeless Face Increasingly Deadly Violence. Who are murdering homeless people and can these murders be considered hate-crimes? Brian Levin says yes, because the perpetrators are targeting the homeless just because they are homeless.

The majority of hate-crime offenders are young folks who were out for excitement and peer validation, almost out for sport. Next were those protecting turf and lastly, were the hardened hate mongers.

When bankruptcy, joblessness and debt are all rising, it seems that the problems for the poor will continue to grow. But as Barbara Enhenreich says,

Maybe we can’t afford the measures that would begin to alleviate America’s growing poverty — affordable housing, good schools, reliable public transportation and so forth. I would argue otherwise, but for now I’d be content with a consensus that, if we can’t afford to truly help the poor, neither can we afford to go on tormenting them.

Mary :: 5:24 PM :: Comments (3) :: Digg It!