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March 12 2019

How Not to Solve the Homelessness Problem: Legalize Homeless Encampments

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

“Compassion has become the human face of contempt,” social critic Christopher Lasch wrote a generation ago, and that observation is more relevant than ever. “Today we accept double standards—as always, a recipe for second-class citizenship—in the name of humanitarian concern.”

--Christopher F.  Rufo in "When 'Compassion' Is Contempt" in City Journal

The state of Washington is on the verge of making homeless encampments on the streets and other public spaces legal.

The legislation to do this, which has passed through its committee and is thus closer to a floor vote, is based in part on the work of Seattle University professor Sara Rankin. Writing at City Journal, Christopher Rufo describes how her theories have influenced the legislation:  

If passed, the bill, inspired in part by the work of Seattle University professor Sara Rankin, who claims to “advance the civil, constitutional, and human rights of visibly poor people” through “the repeal of laws that criminalize homelessness and poverty,” would represent the most significant extension of “survival crime” theory into American law.

Survival-crime theory has been percolating through academic journals since the late 1980s. In a widely circulated paper, Rankin argues that the “intersectionality of poverty and homelessness” forces marginalized individuals to commit crimes to ensure their basic survival; therefore, state and local governments should abolish prohibitions against public camping, drug consumption, and low-level property crime.

Gregerson’s legislation adopts similar survival-crime rhetoric, stating a goal of preventing local cities and agencies from enforcing “laws that criminalize public survival by persons who are experiencing homelessness” and arguing—contrary to voluminous evidence—that “local ordinances of this kind do not reduce homelessness or crime.”

The proposed law would violate every tenet of local control. It would create a separate legal standard for average citizens and “marginalized individuals.” Under the banner of compassion, it would effectively create a new class of untouchables—those who subsist in public spaces.

Seattle has a devastating problem with homelessness and drug addiction.

Used syringes are everywhere in Seattle's public spaces. Things are so bad that the fabled mussels in Puget Sound are testing positive for opioids.

Social order will break down further if this legislation becomes law.

And it won't help the homeless--it will simply make them people who are held in such contempt that society doesn't expect them to uphold minimum standards.

This is the very definition of an outcast.

The law will make it easier for people who should be encouraged into treatment to opt to remain on the streets.

Compassionate this law is not.

Similar laws are under consideration in California, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

 

 



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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