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Standing in Solidarity with the Homeless

This will be my statement to the media and the people attending the event this evening:

Standing in Solidarity with the Homeless
Friday, September 29
For more information: Mike Rhodes (559) 978-4502

We have come to Fresno City Hall this evening to demand an end to the criminalization of the homeless. We want house keys, not handcuffs for those in our community who are too poor to reside in an apartment or home. The collective punishment of homeless people for the simple act of sleeping is not going to end homelessness and we demand an end to the No Camping ordinance.

Passing laws to punish the homeless and make their lives more difficult and miserable has got to stop. There was the anti-panhandling ordinance, a law forbidding the homeless to push shopping carts, the rule preventing them from being on median islands, they are currently shutting down recycling centers and now the Homeless no Camping ordinance is being implemented today. This is not going to end homelessness!

Homelessness is a result of the political and economic system we live in. The lack of affordable housing and social services have resulted in the situation we have today, with people literally sleeping on the streets. Being homeless is not a personal problem, it happens because our political leaders have not prioritized solving the problem and directing the resources needed to end homelessness. We can do better – another world is possible.

What we need, starting today, is a safe and legal place where homeless people can go 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Homeless people need a place to go and the same basic public services that everyone else in this city has – drinking water, a place to go to the bathroom and trash bins. In short, the homeless need to be treated with dignity and respect, because they are our brothers and sisters and in some cases our mothers, fathers or children.

But having a safe and legal place to go is not enough. After we establish enough safe and legal places that are available to the homeless we need to start finding them permanent housing. We also need to provide the resources for whatever social services they need. That might include, but is not limited to job training, education, recovery from drug or alcohol addiction and mental health services. Every situation is unique, but every homeless person can live a healthier and happier life if we pull together as a community and provide the resources needed to end homelessness.

Interestingly, providing homeless people with housing and social services would actually cost less than what we are doing now and we would end homelessness. How is that for a win-win?