Yes, we are criminalizing homelessness
December 24, 2015
OPINION by TIM WAAG
Where can the homeless go without getting ticketed?
Cities are judged by how they treat the less fortunate. On that basis, the “happiest place on earth” is doing poorly. SLO County has about 150 shelter beds for the 2,000-plus homeless. We must have an answer to the question posed by the homeless: “Where can I sleep without being ticketed?”
Until our government has an answer to that question, they should instruct law enforcement not to ticket the homeless for trying to sleep.
Across our nation, laws that make it a crime to not have a place to live are spreading. In the city of San Luis Obispo, they are already here. We treat stray dogs better than we treat our homeless. I have had homeless people tell me they would love to live in one of the dog kennels at the local humane society, where they would have a safe, secure, dry, clean place to live.
Clearly, there are not enough shelter beds. Even if there were, our shelters don’t admit those who drink, curse, have a drug addiction or mental illness, or even a pet dog. Many of our homeless are children, veterans or the elderly. In this relatively affluent community, we should be able to find a way to shelter and feed everyone.
There are affordable, un-subsidized solutions out there, as I have written over and over again in other articles. There simply isn’t enough money to subsidize affordable housing for all who meet the criteria (homeless or low income). Unfortunately, the government officials I have met with have ruled out all “common sense” solutions to housing the un-housed and creating affordable housing.
Tim Waag has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1992. He manages a law firm and donates time to multiple homeless services organizations.