- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 28, 2017


Have mercy.

Some good Samaritans in Orange County, California, saw 400 or so folk in a homeless encampment and they offered food. Critics claim their gestures are compounding an already complex problem.

In downtown Atlanta, do-gooders set up a feeding area for needy flocks in Hurt Park, which is owned by the city and Georgia State University. Police ordered the Samaritans to pack up or face citations from the city: Food giveaways must first have a health certificate. (God forbid the jars of apple butter didn’t come from a bona fide, government-sanctioned food pantry.)

In both jurisdictions, local authorities claim the compassionate Samaritans are doing more harm than good because many of the homeless, hungry and derelict people receiving the food are drug addicts, mentally ill people and other neighborhood undesirables.

Instead of feeding hungry bodies, critics say, step back and let the government step in to provide a wide range of services, including shelter.

Anyone who lives in a major U.S. city has seen the government’s take — laws and policies for affordable housing, more shelters, veterans housing, family shelters, LGBTQI housing.

They also are familiar with politicians’ other refrains: Calls for tax increases to pay for affordable housing, drugs to reverse opioid overdoses, mental health services, youth behavioral programs, job training, school-supply giveaways and donations to food banks.

And with the new tax cuts for all becoming a fact of life for the poor and as well as the wealthy, politicians will be stumbling over each other to blame President Trump.

Don’t blame homelessness on Donald Trump.

People become homeless for so many, many reasons it’s impossible to factually, actually, list them all. After all, each homeless person has his or her own story to tell about how, why and when he or she became homeless.

What’s important in the here and now is that by direct government action and passive government action via a third party creates a moral ambiguity where there is none.

By example, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser stood in the sanctuary of a church to explain why making homeless families neighbors alongside nightclubs, men’s shelters and industrial businesses was good public policy. Not everything said in a house of the Lord deserves an “amen.”

And in the case of Atlanta handcuffing Samaritans, thank goodness the hearts of ordinary women, men and children were more giving than city officials, who, more beholden to stricture instead of scripture, prefer third-party gents and ladies grab ladles and strap on aprons so their desk-bound bosses can pose for the media.

Here’s another thing about the homeless encampment of 400 people in Orange County, which, as the Orange County Register has pointed out, is home to five cities ranked among the nation’s 20 wealthiest. It seems the encampment is the perfect spot for the government bureaucrats and social service advocates to set up shop and tout their services — to take names and, if you will, meet the needy people where they are. There’s no moral ambiguity in doing that, is there?

That the homeless and other needy people have to visit welfare offices and social service offices in order just to eat is itself unsympathetic.

Politicians love to characterize any programmatic change as “reform.” Well, on behalf of the homeless and other needy people, let’s hope 2018 is the year politicians reform themselves and by extension, public policy.

Have mercy.

And, for sure, a healthy and happy New Year.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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