The City continued its justifications for turning its back on the poor at the Council meeting last night. Mayor Foutch talked at length about the growth in services in the last twenty years. Laura Ware talked about the City's offer to allocate $200,000 to services this year. The City Manager talked about his notion that homelessness is a regional and national issue, and that the tent city had picked the wrong target.
Let's get a few things straight:
1. Tent city residents are not asking for money for new services. In fact, the City is clearly not connecting the dots between the $200,000 it has offered for services and the fact that Tent City residents ARE asking for a service review committee to ensure that service agencies treat their clients with basic dignity and respect.
2. Tent city residents are not asking the city to fund new housing projects. They ARE asking for the opportunity to be self-reliant as a community... an opportunity that will not be found in government funded housing projects.
3. Tent city residents are not asking the city to lobby the Federal or State governments for relief. They ARE demanding to be included in our community, to be visible, and to have the right to exist.
Laura Ware particularly failed to understand the nature of the conflict in our city. She claimed that the opposition to the new sidewalk law and the request for a permanent location are two separate issues.
Yet they truly are one and the same. Tent city residents are demanding the opportunity to exist in peace, to have at least a few spare moments in the day when their lives are not subject to the whims and prejudices of the social service system and the police. Until recently, the sidewalks served as THE ONLY place where that was possible. Now that this opportunity has been taken away, the tent city residents are taking direct action to uphold their basic right to dignity.
Residents of the tent city will likely be arrested today for refusing to disperse. Please come downtown to offer them your support and your witness.