intolerant worldwide response to poverty and homelessness

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Thu, 11 Jun 1998 18:23:39 -0700 (PDT)


Policies and practices that are criminalize and deny survival to poor and
homeless people are indeed spreading worldwide. I agree with Pat and
Virginia, it's no coincidence.

Jailing and depriving masses of people does not occur "naturally".  To me,
it seems to be part of a _plan_ orchestrated by business interests - to
profit irregardless of who may starve, end up in chains or be killed.

Global capital has more and more effect on public policy in countries
worldwide.  The ability of monied interests to lobby legislation and fund
expensive electoral campaigns is eclipsing the influence of other, less
powerful constituiencies, including unions, government emoployees and
nonprofits.

In the USA, to cite one example, _defense_ is amply funded (partly to
assure global access by US corporations to cheap resources and labor in
other countries).  Multinational corporations keeps down wages abroad, and
create homeelssness there.  Their growing infulence in the public sector
leads to corporate tax breaks, plus cuts for social programs, such as
housing and entitlement income.  Plus, USA corporations pay about a third
less in real wages and benefits than they did about two decades ago.  The
result is more homelessness in the USA as well, despite our being the
world's richest nation.

Take the case of anti-homeless ordinances.  Business interests have pushed
such restrictions in dozens of USA communities, and are attempting to
promote them in hundreds of places.  Some of these laws restrict "sidewalk
behavior" such as begging, - specificallly in business districts.

It's a land grab, in essence.  The rich want prized real estate (and
adjacent public property) to themselves, without having to worry about
"unsavory" minorities, poor people and street people scaring off more
well-to-do customers.  That theme runs through the comments of those who
are spearheading the "Sidewalk Behavior" bill in Phillie.  The Greater
Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is among those lobbying that bill
agressively.

I'm encouraged that _more_ mainstream advocacy, faith and community groups
are finally speaking out against limiting poor and homeless people's
opportunities and civil liberties.  I'm also encouraged lhat _some_ federal
and state courts are ruling unconstitutional _some_ laws restricting
panhandling, feeding, camping, sitting or sleeping in public places.

We need to identify the "grass-tips" (fake grass-roots community groups)
through which business interest push their agendas at City Councils and
elsewhere.  One group which is especially active in the push to criminalize
homelessness is:

http://www.communityinterest.org/index.htm
"Center for the Community Interest, a project of the American Alliance for
Rights & Responsibilities, Washington, D.C. and New York, NY....a 501(c)(3)
organization founded in 1989 and supported by foundation grants, law firms,
individual contributions and publication sales."  See especially
http://www.communityinterest.org/backgrounders/panhandling.htm
Backgrounder #1: Aggressive Panhandling.  It includes a model bill and
rationale.

Let's find out all we can about those whose agenda is to erode our civil
rights.  To have any chance of gaining or restoring our rights, we need to
be as informed and organized as those who oppose our freedom and survival.
In short, homeless people need to do "power research" on our adverasries,
and their tactics.

Thanks, Pat, for raising this issue of the globalization of anti-poor
policy and practice.  Seeking peaceful means to homeless people's aims. --
Tom Boland

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