Letters Paint Homeless With Hate-filled Brush
In the Sunday PD, there were three letters about homeless people and one about panhandlers. Two were very well-reasoned arguments against the curfew. Check them out. There was one from a woman from Brecksville who urges the pedestrians to give to agencies instead of giving money to "beggars." The final letter should never have been printed, because it is factually inaccurate and dripping with hatred. The individual paints all homeless people who decide against using the shelters with the same tired stereotypes. He urges Connie Shultz to "concentrate on the fact that this their choice: to avoid responsibility and mooch change to sustain their filthy, disgusting existence." Then he sums it up with a jailing of all those who sleep outside and forcing them into a work camp or concentration camp. Why is it acceptable for a reader to ask that those who choose not to use a shelter be labeled disgusting, filthy and thrown in a work camp? The editors would never publish a similar letter about members of the Jewish or Muslim faith or targeting African American or Latino members of our community with this type of language.
Yes, a few homeless people use the outdoors for their bathrooms. Yes, there are also a bunch of people who come downtown to party and use the outside as their bathroom. In fact, the front page story in the Plain Dealer highlighted a few neighborhoods where people used the street and yards to puke and relieve themselves, and they were not homeless. How about building a public restroom downtown, and I guarantee that you would take care of 80% of the problem with homeless people using the outdoors to relieve themselves. Get rid of all the bars downtown and you would take care of the non-homeless using the downtown streets as a restroom. I would argue that only a small number make it bad for the majority of people who just want to be left alone. I do not understand why the Plain Dealer allows such stereotyping and characterizing a broad and diverse group of people as disgusting.
There are couples who do not want to split up and so stay together outside or in abandoned buildings. There are no shelters for couples in our community. There are those who stay with their pets. There are those who do not want to accept charity. Then we find many who feel the shelters are unsafe. There are homeless people who do not like all the rules and want to be independent. These individuals obey all the rules and laws, but decide to live outside. There are many cleaning up the stadium at night, and are familiar with a hard day's work. In fact, many homeless work harder than anyone else in our community in some of the most backbreaking jobs known to man, like cleaning out waste management trucks or lifting car parts on to the assembly line to be painted.
I am just trying to imagine the kind of heat that the editorial page would get if this letter was directed at any other ethnic or racial group. Any letter based on unfounded stereotypes about a lazy, disgusting or filthy minority or religious group who should be jailed for their behavior would be viewed as hate mail and thrown in the garbage. This is the reason that there are so many hate crimes directed at homeless people. The Plain Dealer publishing these types of letters makes it seem as though homeless people are less than human, and available for attack. I would write a letter, but the daily has a new one letter per month rule.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless Staff and Board.