Helping the homeless is now a crime

By Kit Murray

murrayki@mnstate.edu

It’s a personal choice whether or not one would like to provide food to the homeless. It makes sense, rather than providing money that may be used for questionable reasons, one could easily provide a perishable item they could eat.

Apparently in a few cities throughout the U.S., it has  recently become illegal to feed those without a home. Some people find this a bad idea, while others have been able to see the good in it. For me, it took a while to sink in.

I’ve heard by doing this, it helps us forget  homelessness is an issue. People believe that it will just “go away.” It’s a nice thought, that implementing a law such as this would eliminate such a widespread problem. If only it were that easy.

There may be a good side to this, though. Although it is illegal to feed the homeless, this new law may help push them towards services that are available. Many cities strive to provide shelters and learning communities to help those in need.

It may be difficult and embarrassing for many people to admit they are struggling, but if this is one way to help them get started, it might just be effective.

A National Public Radio article, “More cities are making it illegal to hand out food to the homeless,” gave an interesting point of view on this.

“Street feeding is one of the worst things to do because it keeps people in homeless status,” Robert Marbut, a San Antonio consultant on homelessness, said. “I think it’s very unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of recovery programs.”

However, I am unable to see how this solves the problem at hand: homelessness itself.

Services and companies that provide help to those in need may be affected by this as well. It seems backwards to implement laws that prohibit helping those who appear to be helpless. Pretending an issue doesn’t exist isn’t going to make it disappear.

Another source from NPR gave a contrary belief.

“Cities’ hope is that restricting sharing of food will somehow make [the] homeless disappear and go away,” Michael Stoops, director of community organiaing for the National Coalition for the Homeless told The Salt. “But I can promise you that even if these ordinances are adopted, it’s not going to get rid of homelessness.”

Most people felt creating this law could cause more harm than good. At first I tried to look at both sides. It is a great challenge to see how this would provide more pros than cons.

Helping those in need should not be a crime. It’s not easy; it’s not something that people necessarily have time to do. Many people devote multiple hours of their day, if not their career, to give back to those who are not financially stable enough to do so themselves.

It takes a kind soul to do this; and to punish one for being compassionate and generous to another has little to no justification.

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