Sticker sold in a San Diego store
Ever since the stored property ordinance (Bill 54) was signed into law here in the City and County of Honolulu, I’ve been reading/thinking a lot about the criminalization of homelessness. The clearest explanation on the fundamental injustice of these ordinances was laid out by legal scholar Jeremy Waldron in his 1991-92 article “Homelessness and the Issue of Freedom”:
Now one question we face as a society — a broad question of justice and social policy — is whether we are willing to tolerate an economic system in which large numbers of people are homeless. Since the answer is evidently, “Yes,” the question that remains is whether we are willing to allow those who are in this predicament to act as free agents, looking after their own needs, in public places — the only space available to them. It is a deeply frightening fact about the modern United States that those who have homes and jobs are willing to answer “Yes” to the first question and “No” to the second.
As someone utterly dependent on the public restrooms of the Seoul subway system (nearly always before the turnstiles and thus accessible to all), I am not sure why people get so huffy about homeless people in Hawaii choosing to live at beach parks. Access to showers and bathrooms ain’t no small thing. As Waldron writes, “Moreover, though we say there is nothing particularly dignified about sleeping or urinating, there is certainly something deeply and inherently undignified about being prevented from doing so.”
A lawyerly way of saying the following, yes, America does sh**ty things to homeless people (full article at Alternet).
1. Outlawing sitting down.
2. Denying people access to shelters.
3. Making it illegal to give people food.
4. Installing obstacles to prevent sleeping or sitting.
5. Anti-panhandling laws.
6. Anti-panhandling laws to punish people who give.
7. Feeding panhandling meters instead of panhandlers.
8. Selective enforcement of laws like jaywalking and loitering.
9. Police raids repeatedly destroying possessions and shelters of the homeless.
10. Kicking homeless kids out of school.