Police will soon begin abusing destitute United States Veterans and other homeless people in Fort Lauderdale, a direct violation of the Declaration of Human Rights. Police will confiscate personal belongings of the homeless and jailing the destitute for urinating or defecating in public places or not disposing of body waste “properly,” according to a new regulation the city council is unanimously supporting on behalf of local corporations.
This is “insanity that we are even here discussing whether an individual can put on the ground the few objects that they own,” a local, Gazol Tajalli told Commissioners.
“We’re in a sense trying to criminalize people for things that are beyond their control,” Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale said, criticizing Commissioners for “demoniz[ing]” the homeless.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control. – Universal Declaration of Human Rights
United States Veterans, who have endured war’s psychological strain of following illegal orders to kill innocent people and physical strain make up 12% of those living on the streets. Veterans on the streets are chronically plagued by self abuse, substance abuse, schizophrenia and other problems.
People who are homeless are most often unable to acquire and maintain regular, safe, secure, and adequate housing, or lack “fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.
Corporatism at its best
The Fort Lauderdale City Commission was partially motivated for the law by downtown businesses complaining that homeless people were scaring away customers and making visitors uncomfortable, according to the Sun Sentinel. Another motivation was residents complaining about the community being overrun by poverty stricken homeless people.
Under the new law, that the city council is unanimously supporting for local corporations, police will be empowered to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property after 24-hours notice and jail homeless people found guilty of defecating and urinating in public, unless the destitute can pay a $500 fine.
The same punishments could apply even if a person is found trying to dispose of bodily waste, but doing so “improperly”.
To retrieve their items, the destitute must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city can dispose any possessions not retrieved within 30 days.
According to the Sun Sentinel, “The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable.” The commission is also considering other initiatives targeting the homeless, including stiffer penalties for urinating or defecating in public, prohibitions on panhandling at intersections or sleeping in public, and restrictions on charity groups feeding the poor.
Modern homelessness started as a result of economic stresses in society and reductions in the availability of affordable housing.
Fort Lauderdale city staff is also drafting ordinances to prohibit panhandling and other solicitations at intersections, sleeping on public property, and restricting when, where and how charity groups can feed the homeless.
Ft. Lauderdale is among a list of cities to embrace new ordinances criminalizing the homeless. Scores of other cities have already passed similar ordinances. Columbia, Palo Alto, Miami, Raleigh, Tampa, Harrisburg, and others have enacted measures that render homeless people simply trying to survive as criminals.
‘There but for the grace of God go I’
“Maintaining city streets is a legitimate concern, but simply punishing homeless people for leaving their possessions in public places is not an effective or humane way to address it,” Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty told ThinkProgress.
“Instead, city and business leaders should work with advocates and homeless people to develop alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options for homeless people and affordable housing.”
Cities, like Davis, California, however, are taking a different approach: constructing public lockers where homeless people can safely store their possessions.
The Obama administration wants to spend an unprecedented $1.64 billion in 2015 to end veteran homelessness, four times the amount spent in 2009 and the equivalent of about $26,000 for every veteran on the street. Even if initiated, this program would not be in time to prevent already abused, destitute, sick veterans from possible jail time in Fort Lauderdale.
The Obama administration has no such provision for the other 88 percent of the nation’s homeless, over 600,000 Americans, according to the latest government data.