PDN takes aim at the homeless
Ah, nothing like turning a serious social problem into a series of punch lines and potty jokes.
WEARING HIS trusty gas mask, the Daily News Stinkmeister, voice of the pee-and-poop-plagued public, was strolling through Logan Circle when he saw hordes of homeless men converging on the Ben Franklin Parkway, turning Center City's crown jewel into a campground of chronic despair.
Noting that there was not a single toilet in sight, the Stinkmeister immediately issued an Urgent Barefoot Alert to the at-risk million Live 8 and "Welcome America!" visitors ready to invade the Parkway this weekend.
The city has banned Live 8's hordes from sleeping on the Parkway, but hasn't changed its let-it-be attitude toward homeless, toiletless campgrounds there.
It is true that many homeless people do congregate on the Parkway. Given that hundreds of thousands of people are going to cram themselves there for Live 8, it's certainly worthwhile to raise the question of how these two groups will interact. However, both the author of the article and Councilman Frank DiCicco come across as heartless at best.
"It's almost like they're feeding stray animals. Put some food out and the animal will come back," said City Councilman Frank DiCicco. "They think they're doing good, but the only thing those feeders are doing for the homeless is perpetuating their lifestyle.
Like feeding stray animals? Really? That's a pretty outrageous thing to say. I understand that city officials and business leaders are concerned about the image of Philadelphia when so many out of town visitors will be gracing our streets. However, the solution to homelessness isn't criminalizing poverty or cracking down on people with mental illness. As groups like Project HOME have proven, the best way to deal with the issue is to provide outreach and support. The article does include a small quote from someone from the Street administration who shares this view.
"Last year, Project HOME and other outreach groups got 60 chronically homeless people off the streets, where they had been living for an average of 10 years, and into housing," Hess said. "That outreach was based on establishing trust.
"By allowing the homeless to sleep on the Parkway, we know where they are and our outreach people can work on that trust. When homeless people are living in abandoned buildings where we can't see them, that's when they tend to get hurt or die."
The article ends with a cheeky round-up of the various places homeless people sleep in Philadelphia, called "2005 Homeless Campgrounds of Philadelphia." It's filled with obnoxious descriptions and potty jokes. What's the purpose, besides scoring some points with juvenile humor?