Opinion — 06 February 2014

Travis Danner

Special to the Express

Hey, I’m back, that was quick.

Anyways, during the break, the city of Livermore passed an ordinance banning sleeping bags and tents.

Well, only if you’re homeless.

On Monday, Jan. 27, the city, by a vote of 4-1 passed an ordinance banning so-called “urban campsites” and specifically barring homeless individuals from possessing “camping paraphernalia.” In essence, the city has banned homeless people from sleeping anywhere other than homeless shelters. Homeless shelters that don’t really exist in Livermore.

So, let’s recap — 5 city council members (who I’m guessing live quite comfortably) just decided the fate of an estimated 60 to 80 human beings who live their lives outdoors and freezing. In essence they’ve told them “you don’t have a home, but you can’t stay here.”

The ordinance will punish first time offenders with a fine of $100 and second time offenders with a fine of $300 and possible jail time. Not sure where the homeless are going to get the money to pay those fines, but OK, I’m sure there must be reasons the city is doing this.

Residents living near where many of the camps are, such as the Arroyo Mocho bike trail, have complained of thefts, garbage and drug sales. Nobody wants those things around their families.

As a lifelong Livermore resident, I can say unequivocally that there is a considerably larger number of homeless people here than in years past and mayor John Marchand says this measure is meant as a means of “protecting public health.”

But think about it, would anyone choose to be homeless? I’ve heard the argument that some people “just don’t want to work” but I highly doubt anyone would choose to be covered in filth and sleeping outside during the winter.

Many people who are homeless have issues which make it hard or impossible to integrate into “normal” society — drug addiction, alcoholism, mental illness, disabilities. Some of these problems are based on poor choices, some are not. The common denominator is, once you’re homeless, chances are you’re stuck there without serious outside intervention.

Obviously, homelessness is a problem here in the suburbs, it’s not just a big city problem anymore.

It’s clear something must be done.

Instead of banning camping, why doesn’t the city council advocate for building Livermore’s first permanent homeless shelter and begin cultivating programs which point homeless human beings towards proper help.

It seems like more a solution than banning sleeping bags and tents.

 

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