LA charities give shopping carts to homeless people FWD

Tom Boland (
Fri, 17 Jul 1998 13:07:38 -0700 (PDT)

Giving homeless people shopping carts:
Good idea?  Bad idea?  Why?
What do you think?
FWD  LA Times  Thursday, July 16, 1998

     By Dave Myers, Inman News Features

Like many other fine charities, the good folks at the non-profit Los
Angeles Catholic Worker and Las Familias del Pueblo wish they could give
every homeless Angeleno a nice apartment, or at least a guaranteed cot at a
shelter each night.

But with money tight, the two charities have joined forces to provide some
of the region's thousands of homeless persons with the next-best thing: New
shopping carts to haul their belongings.

The two groups began passing out the first of 100 sturdy new carts to
L.A.'s downtown denizens earlier this week. And somewhat akin to used-car
dealers, they're gladly accepting "trade-ins."

"A shopping cart can be a homeless person's last shred of dignity, a
vehicle to safekeep what's left of their shattered lives," said Jeff
Dietrich, who works at a soup kitchen operated by Catholic Worker. "We
can't give them all a warm bed at night, but we can at least give some of
them a cart to carry their belongings."

The carts were purchased for $100 each by an anonymous benefactor who asked
Los Angeles Catholic Worker and Las Familias del Pueblo to distribute them
to the needy.

The heavy-duty shopping baskets are emblazoned with "The Catholic Worker"
on both sides. Each cart also sports a sign that declares it's the property
of Catholic Worker and that "unauthorized possession of this cart by
non-homeless persons is a violation of state law."

In part, the cart-giveaway is an attempt to keep the homeless from being
carted off themselves -- to jail.

Possession of a stolen shopping cart in Los Angeles is a misdemeanor,
punishable by up to 100 days in the hoosegow and a $1,000-fine. The city's
district attorney rarely prosecutes offenders, but advocates for the
homeless say police routinely confiscate carts and dump the owner's -- er,
"user's" -- possessions on the sidewalk.

Local cops say they sympathize with the plight of L.A.'s homeless, but
quickly add that many people use their carts for illegal purposes. Some use
the baskets as "portable stores" to sell drugs: Others jump inside and
cover themselves with blankets to elude police or flip them over and use
them as a stepladder to break into buildings.

The cart-giveaway is "a bad idea," said Los Angeles Police Capt. Richard

"We've been going about the effort for years to take the carts off the
streets because of criminal activities," Bonneau said. "The money could
have gone for better uses."


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