Lawful but unethical

Daniel Vasilchuk

A sulking homeless man standing on the left-turn lane divider has become a common sight in the city of Sacramento. And while many of us can enjoy a regular warm meal, a nice air-conditioned home and a college education – the homeless have lost it all.

We as a society must focus on helping the homeless regain at least some aspects of their lives, instead of punishing them for living on the streets.

As of now, 1,200 homeless people break the law by camping out on public or private property within cities. For doing this, they are arrested and cited by police officers.

Thankfully, people like Mark Merin are doing their part to fight this ordinance.

Attorney Mark Merin was sued for renting out his property on 12th and C streets to a group of homeless. The homeless vacated the premises last Sunday after meeting with Mayor Kevin Johnson.

At the meeting, Johnson promised to suggest the construction of a “safe ground” to the city council in October. The “safe ground” could provide shelter and basic sanitation services to the homeless.

Because this site does not yet exist, homeless are being crowded into shelters like Sacramento Loaves & Fishes.

Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes Libby Fernandez said that by the time the promises come to fruition it might be a little late.

“We need a safe ground tonight. One month down the road is too late,” Fernandez said.

Unless the idea receives more support, the homeless will have to continue relocating and receiving grief from the police. This is unacceptable.

Sacramento Police Department spokesman Konrad Von Schoech acknowledged that while it is his duty to enforce all laws, including citing people for camping, he may not necessarily agree with the laws.

“Our duty as a police department is to ? enforce the laws, and right now it is against the law to camp for more than 24 hours,” Von Schoech said.

And though it would be more barbaric to ignore the homeless completely, it is still ruthless to keep kicking them out of their safe havens.

“There is a biological need to sleep. They have to sleep somewhere, how can we arrest them for that?” said Joan Burke, director of advocacy for Loaves & Fishes.

While the homeless camp out, the city’s slow pace in trying to solve the homelessness problem is unnerving.

First on the agenda should be providing a legal campsite and regular amenities that the rest of us take for granted, like toilets and sinks.

And yet such a simple request has not yet been fulfilled because of lack of city support.

“What we really want, and what the campers really want, is a simple apartment for a place to stay,” Burke said.

Something else that could combat homelessness is providing new jobs for the unemployed, as well as helping homeowners on the verge of foreclosure.

Providing aid to these people will ultimately put Sacramento closer to mitigating its homelessness problem.

Yes, camping out on the streets is illegal and raises complaints, but giving any kind of shelter to the homeless is a good first step toward putting an end to homelessness.

Sacramento is failing to serve its neediest citizens. Let’s stand up for justice. If we don’t, who will?

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