Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Police Still Harass Food Ministries

I just got word from the director of a non-profit organization here in Nashville that the police are still attempting to discourage people from feeding the homeless.

I live in a building with 16 other formerly homeless people, part of the Housing First program run by the City of Nashville. Being that some of the people in my building are newly off the streets, they have yet to assimilate to life off the streets, and so still need some assistance. One group that brought food to our building on occasion had stopped coming here, so I emailed them about it. The director told me that the people delivering the food to our building and other homeless people in downtown Nashville were being harassed by the police. This is how I responded to her email:

If money = speech, then food = speech as well. Cops, and really, the people they answer to, are not so interested in other people's rights. And so long as you cave to the pressure placed on you by the police, you, I and everyone else loses their constitutional rights to things like freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion. I would implore you to stand up against "snarky comments" from the police. More over, I would encourage you to press back against this police tactic by taking the police department and city to court so to defend your rights, and the rights of the homeless. Some homeless that you service aren't even in downtown proper. The formerly homeless people living in my building are few, but our needs are just as important as any other, mostly because we are taking ourselves out of the network of regular homeless services and are attempting to be more independent. Food is not as readily available to us, especially for the newcomers, who are fresh off the streets. We need your help more than ever, especially since the police are working against you, instead of with you. Please, don't give in to the pressures of the police and other's who could not care less about the homeless.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this, and for reminding us all that there is still the need, as well as keeping us updated on what is going on..

    ReplyDelete
  2. First, let me say that I do not condone the actions of your obviously power-mad local police. I do, however, understand why they view homeless people in such a poor light. I live in Seattle (where I, too, was homeless for about 4 months while I saved up enough money to move into a motel.) and there are a LOT of homeless people here. We are always seeing them on the corners, with their signs, begging for money. Most are dirty, scraggly looking people who look like they are more than able to work yet they continue to fly their flags (my term for their signs) proclaiming to be "Homeless Hungry Vets", etc. When you offer them work they give you 10,000 reasons why they can't work. Many are just alcoholics or drug addicts who use their begging money to get their "fix". When the cops have to deal with losers like that every day they tend to group ALL homeless people into that category.
    Being a formerly homeless person myself, I have ~as they say~ Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt! My homeless days were spent working temp labor until I found a full time job. I lived in a tent for 4 months, motels for another 3 months, then finally saved enough to move into a townhouse. When I see healthy people begging on the corner I think, "You are healthy enough to work. I did it and so can you.". It is those lazy people who give homeless people a bad name.
    It's wrong to group all homeless people into the same category but, unfortunately, the cops don't really have the time to waste trying to figure out which ones are decent and just stuck in a bad situation and which ones are just lazy crackheads looking for their next "rock" so they just see ALL homeless people as useless wastes of human flesh. It's sad, but that is how the cops see us.
    Kudos for your blog! I hope you are successful in showing the world that not all homeless people are useless garbage to be ignored or disposed of! God Bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear Anonymous, here is the problem with your view of the situation. You admit that the people panhandling are "just alcoholics or drug addicts who use their begging money to get their "fix"." But then you say that they are "healthy enough to work". Don't you see the conflict in your own statement? If they are alcoholics and addicts, then they certainly are not healthy. As such, their addictions, and the issues that led to their addictions, need to be overcome first, before they are able to properly enter the work-a-day world. Also, your dismissive, contemptuous, declaration of "lazy" homeless people, brings into question your knowledge of the causes and cures of homelessness. Lack of activity among homeless people is brought on by many things having nothing to do with laziness. Most often it is brought about by a combination of suffering depression and dealing with sleep deprivation. When homeless it's easy to become depressed, and when homeless it is extremely difficult to get decent sleep, whether you are sleeping in a rescue mission or in an alley way. There are also issues for homeless people with being underfeed or malnourished which takes away a homeless person's ability to generate healthy energy. All of this points to the fact that if the cops,and the people they work for, want to see an end or at least a reduction in homelessness, they need to provide more services, not less. Without help from others, chronically homeless people will never be able to find a way off the streets. As for your particular case, you appear to have never been "chronically" homeless, and thus did not need much assistance. For this you were not the typical homeless person.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Kevin,

    I am not currently in position to do what you suggest, "to press back against this police tactic by taking the police department and city to court so to defend your rights, and the rights of the homeless."

    However, I am willing to send an email or make a phone call. If there are simple solutions available, please let us who read now about them.

    Thanks,

    Jessica

    ReplyDelete
  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There are many things you can do short of going to court with the city. Call your mayor and police chief and give them a piece of your mind. Also, become familiar with the laws that apply. Cops rely on the general public not being familiar with city ordinances, and will use that against people when attempting to intimate them. There really is no law that says one person cannot share food with another person. There are no "food police." But cops will saying things like "I'll have to ask you to leave." That's just a trick. They can ask all they want, but it doesn't mean anything unless they order you to leave. And then they can only order you to leave if your actions actually violate city ordinance. Also, call your city council representatives too. They have more sway over the police than you might think.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm excited that I came across this post.. I was browsing for information on giving out food to the homeless when I came across this. I have 300 hot dogs and buns leftover from a show this weekend. I'd hate to waste them and after reading this it only makes me want to do it even more. I thought we could pkg them up in 3s and distribute 100 to the homeless.. Can you help me with a starting point in the city to handing them out. I don't really know a spot where I could give out a 100? thanks in advance!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I doubt that you will find 100 homeless people congregated at any one location, unless the homeless knew you were coming in advance. More than about 5 hanging out together gets the cops attention. You'll have to drive around a little. But that's ok. I've received lunches and other necessities from people as they hand them out their car window. Distributing food in this manner is much less obvious, ie won't get the cops attention. Good Luck.

    ReplyDelete