Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"The Poor" Are Not the Problem

There's a great debate on CityLink over on Nick Spencer's blog. What I think is being missed is a definition of the type of people being discussed. The term "poor" is thrown around, as is "homeless," and as are other terms. In this discussion I believe we are having the preverbal apples vs. oranges debate.

The problem with OTR, the West End, and other urban blighted areas is not "the poor." When I say "the poor" I mean the people who live in little apartments, collect welfare, food stamps, and need the food bank for help, but generally function in society. I don't mean they lead stellar lives, but they are not living on the street asking you for money, not smashing in car windows, not dealing drugs, and not taking drugs. Am I generalizing? Yes. I am going to be called hatefilled and callous? Yes. I am just talking, what I am saying I think points out an important distinction that is causing the discussion to fixate on macro political issues unrelated to the situation.

The people who are the problem are criminals and those not willing (or unable) to get to a level of "resonable" living. These are your drug dealers, drunks, bums, petty theives, sex offenders, and the mentally ill living on the street. If these people have no place to get help, then we as a society are beyond cruel, we are sick. If these people have the opportunity to gain help, but refuse, then they bare most, if not nearly all of the responsibilty for the choices they made and are continueing to make. One simple thing people refusing to live life without help should to be forced to take is that the location of the social services they need will be moved, likely with their place of living, to areas where the society as a whole can best function. Is that fair? It is fair. I do not believe in bending over backwards for bums and drug addicts. I believe in helping them, and for the government to take the leading in providing that help, but not at the expense of progress for the city.

Does this mean we are kicking out the poor? No. A person who lives in OTR, but who need help should be given a fair chance to live where they want to live. This does not mean they have to pay market rate rent because that is "fair" to everyone. That is not fair to them to have to suddenly battle for housing with people with more means. Fair allows those who are making a good effort to get help on terms that they would prefer. Those not willing to make a good faith effort to live within basic socital norms do not get to pick and choose where they run amock.

I feel sorry for the person forced to beg for money. I don't think making their feelings more important then the rest of society. Pandhandlers, drug addicts, and bums have as much responsiblity to the society as the rest of us, and if their only inconvience is to move to Queensgate to have get help, then they will just have to accept it, or then can just not have any help from the society I consider myself a member.

Compasion does not equal coddling. Hate does not equal toughness. Being liberal does not mean that people can avoid responsibility because they want to. If you want to be a bum, you can be a bum, but don't expect to get helping living that way from the government.

CityLink is not a panacea. It will likely be another tool of evangelicals to feel good about themselves, which can be fine, but at the same time they lock in the poor to exposure to their religius dogma as the ticket to getting assitance.

I have no solutions. I believe that there will always be poor people and there will always be bums living on the street, that is a fact of life in a capitalistic democracy. We shouldn't try to force a common solution on both groups, and shouldn't lump the groups together in our discource nor in our actual policy making.

The issue of the West End develpment is something almost seperate from the CityLink issue. I don't see West End development happening, at least not on the potential scale that OTR has with the school for performing arts plans on Central Parkway. The West End may indeed suffer if this social service center goes in. The NIMBY stance is one that I rarely agree with, and in this case I make no execption.

1 comment:

  1. there will be discussion of this on 1320 am radio on wed. at 12:30


    --jr, tBND


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