The Associated Press did a feature on homeless people living in the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. They have trained officers to identify homeless people and coax them to shelter. In the last year they have transported 400 homeless people to shelter, and the United Way outreach visit monthly. I suspect that the 400 involve many duplicates, but it is still a large amount of law enforcement time taken for social services. The article mentions that the City is working to eliminate long term or the offensively labeled "chronically" homeless over 10 years, but does not mention that the City has almost totally destroyed the shelters within the city limits. We are so fortunate in Cleveland to have a strong network of outreach workers to respond to these issues.
The article goes on to describe this effort as too expensive in Atlanta, because the groups are "stretched thin" with their other efforts. City officials always complain about these homeless issues, but they are rarely willing to put funds into solving problems. Law enforcement should never be drafted into becoming social workers.
At Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, the city and homeless advocates sent outreach teams into the airport almost every night for two months in 2006 after police found dozens of homeless sleeping in sensitive parts of the airport, such as in doorways to secured areas, said Brian Davis, head of the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless.
The effort cleared all but the most stubborn handful of men and women, and most of them have stayed away. It took city funds and five outreach teams available for near nightly sweeps to make it happen though, almost unheard of resources even in the best of times.
Tent City in Sacramento
We talked about Oprah doing a feature on the Sacramento Tent City, and this story then drew national attention on MSNBC, the NBC Nightly News, and the New York Times. The Terminator Governor visited the site, and the news went international with stories in the Times of London, Al Jazeera, and the Sydney Morning Herald. Former NBA star and new Mayor, Kevin Johnson, created a task force and wants the tent city closed by the end of March. Johnson was quoted as saying, "I don't like having a third world country inside the city." The City announced that they will begin to move the tents from this private property.
Another example of why Cleveland has set up a better emergency infrastructure compared to other cities. The article states that they will layout a plan in Sacramento on Tuesday to move 150 people to another location even though the estimates are that there are more than 300 people in the camp. Again, we have the outreach in the city who would be regularly talking to the men and women staying outside, and would be better prepared to meet the situation facing Sacramento. City officials are talking about endorsing a plan to establish a tent city in the model of Seattle, Ontario or Portland. Very few of the articles talk about how this got to be so bad? Why didn't anyone respond when 12 tents were gathered together? Has the safety net become so totally tattered that no one notices a group of homeless people living in a tent? How could these refugees of Capitalism be more obvious? They constructed brightly colored temporary structures in the capital of the largest state in the union. I guess the citizens of Sacramento were distracted over the last few years with the games going on within the state capital of California that they did not notice third world conditions invading Sacramento.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.