Maria Inés Taracena
Steve says he doesn't like being photographed because he is ashamed of being homeless. That's Misty, his beloved dog.
Gov. Doug Ducey signed three bills into law Wednesday that will continue to make homeless people's lives (really, the lives of anyone who is having a hard time making a living) harder.
Two pieces of legislation involve panhandling and the other prohibits a city or county from forcing contractors to build affordable housing—"Also illegal would be requiring any particular housing units 'be designed for sale or lease to any particular class or group of residents,'" an article on the Arizona Daily Star by Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media Services said
Back to the panhandling issue: these new laws criminalize so-called "aggressive" panhandling
(described as begging for money too close to an ATM, repeatedly asking for money or touching someone while asking for money). Area you ready for this one? The other measure makes it a class 3 misdemeanor to "intentionally push a button at a cross walk for the purpose of stopping traffic and asking for money," according to The Associated Press.
Why does the state continue to think that the best way to "get rid" of homelessness is by creating these prohibitions that do absolutely nothing to combat the problem from its roots? Investing in education leads to job creation leads to getting people off the streets. Let's pass legislation that follows that trend and then maybe there won't be "scary" people begging for money or food outside grocery stores, banks, at a stoplight.
Last week, there was a homeless outreach event at Trinity Church on University Boulevard where I met a lot of Tucson's houseless residents. They all had different backgrounds, different reasons for ending up where they are at in their lives at the moment. What most of them have in common is, regardless of their past (felonies, drug addiction, whatever) they're trying to move forward—finish school, find a job, find an apartment they can afford.
(By the way, a U.S. Rep. Martha McSally representative was there, and he couldn't have looked more bored and "get me the fuck out of here" if he had tried. Homeless advocate Michele Ream brought up the issue of shelters requiring an ID to get a bed, and he didn't even know what she was talking about).
Food stamps, shelters, low-income housing—all of these are crutches while they get off their feet. But, for instance, homeless people with felonies don't get food stamps, so how are they supposed to eat? Yes, Tucson has the Soup Patrol and a lot of other angels doing what the city should be doing, but for the times homeless people aren't able to get that help, well they are going to ask you or myself for a couple bucks.
At the event I talked about earlier, I met Steve. He's 60 years old and has been homeless for more than a decade
, or maybe longer. He said he had lost track of time. He's been on a low-income housing waiting list for more than one year (with this new law, the low-income housing options could drop even more). He's tried making a living with construction gigs, but those always fall through, he says. When we spoke, he said he was going to try to have a friend buy him landscaping equipment. He gets food stamps, but he doesn't get Social Security. He was denied a check even though he is SMI, or has a "serious mental illness," which stems from hardcore, incestuous sexual abuse he endured as a child.
"In a perfect world, I would have a little trailer," he told me. "I'm 60 years old, I feel dirty. It's embarrassing. All I have is my bike and my backpack. I'm a good person, I've just been handed down a pile of shit."
He's trying. He lost his job years ago, lost his home and hasn't been able to see the light, yet.
So, how can our "leaders" help with all of this? They should take the time to speak to these people. There's something called REALITY, and poverty and homelessness are part of that reality, so deal with it in a useful manner.
Maria Inés Taracena
Steve's and his best friend's bikes and backpacks.