Opinion: Crack down on the homeless

What would Jesus do? Marcos Breton seems to know  by Michael Monasky A Catholic priest encouraged Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Bret...

What would Jesus do? Marcos Breton seems to know 
by Michael Monasky

A Catholic priest encouraged Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton “to remain on the side of the angels.” Breton is conflicted and riddled with guilt. He wrote of his disgust towards “the sanctified circle of homeless advocates”, like those at Loaves and Fishes (run, ironically, by a Roman Catholic nun) who “show no compassion for the people who get in their way” [read: large property developers and owners.]

There are real issues regarding homelessness: some are political, others affect public health. In his rant, Breton conveniently forgets about last year's warning letter from the United Nations when its special rapporteur, Caterina de Albuquerque, MD, wrote to Mayor Kevin Johnson.

“I was especially shocked by what I saw in Sacramento, California, where the city decided to shut down or to restrict the opening hours of public restrooms, forcing homeless people to improvise other types of solutions to be able to exercise the right to sanitation. Open defecation, open urination have been criminalised. So what happens is that someone can be criminalised just because he/she does not have a place to do his physiological needs.” (Watch related video.)

The UN independent expert visited the USA from 22 February to 4 March 2011, to assess issues of sanitation, safety, affordability and excluded groups, focusing on the right to non-discrimination and equality. The UN report makes the claim that access to sewer facilities and potable water are human rights illegally denied homeless people by Sacramento's infrastructure.

There are solutions being discussed to resolve the long-standing homelessness under the Highway 160 overpass and the Union Pacific tracks on the American River Parkway. The location is near downtown but isolated and uninhabited except for the homeless. The SafeGround movement has made productive suggestions, including mini-housing options. SafeGround has made these suggestions along with temporary fixes, including water and porta-potty installations. But there has been little forward progress from the city and county government.

It's interesting that Breton says that the homeless squatters are not anything like Steinbeck's Tom Joad of “The Grapes of Wrath.” “I didn't see any casualties of California's wretched economy,” writes Breton. Yet one of every four homeless persons is a US military veteran. Breton admits that there are mentally ill people out there, homeless, but he slams them, too: “It seems they don't want to be in shelters.”

I cannot say that I believe in angels, but I do believe in the necessity of a social order that demonstrates respect and care to all persons, no matter their status, background or beliefs. Instead, Mr. Breton demonstrates hubris towards his fellow man, be they mentally ill, shell-shocked veterans, or ex-convicts. After all, didn't Jesus hang out with tax collectors, prostitutes, and the despised?

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