The city of Atlanta, along with the downtown business association, has been accused of conspiring to close the Task Force for the Homeless, a facility that as many as 700 homeless men depend on. The Task Force backs up and takes overflow from other shelters. Criticism of the Task Force includes, in my experience, “They’re not a good neighbor, they enable criminality…”, “They only warehouse the homeless.”, implying that the other facilities do more though, not mentioned, is for fewer and never addressed is what would become of 700 men if the facility closed. Some argue that business interests covet the valuable property. Others emphasize the negative effect on tourism and downtown business of hundreds of homeless men in various states ranging from simply “unsightly” to in-your-face panhandling to mugging, intoxication and mental and physical illness.
The difficulty of the homeless problem is huge. No surprise that some eagerly jump to the solution of pushing it onto someone else’s turf, passing blatantly unconstitutional measures like the so-called Urban Camping Ordinance that gave the police authority to arrest anyone who set their bag down as an illegal “camper”. Business persons in suits who set their brief cases down would not of course have been at risk. Imagine that the city supported the Task Force fully, even expanding it and putting resources into addressing the panhandling, criminal and illness aspects. Likely word would get out and the homeless would gravitate to Atlanta, compounding this intractable problem.
Homelessness is only one of many challenges we face, and given the election results this week, we’ve apparently decided (with a little nudge from wealthy ideologues) our best strategy is denial. Another course would be to look at where we want to be and set about figuring out how to get there. Here’s my vision: we need to devise a way to provide food, clothing, shelter, education and healthcare for the world’s population in a way that doesn’t despoil the life system. This means that instead of getting up every morning and chasing money all day we put our creative energy into that task. Any ideas anyone? Probably won’t happen this week, probably not even before the turn of the year but the alternative is extinction by one or more of three intertwined global threats – nuclear or other WMD holocaust and/or pollution and/or overpopulation, hastened and ushered along by our dear old friend, denial.