Saturday, November 22, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Bench?

Sit-in will protest removal of benches in Asheville
by David Forbes | Mountain Xpress | 11/20/2008

A group of “concerned citizens” will hold a sit-in at noon this Sunday to protest the city’s removal of two park benches in front of Pack Memorial Library. The city has announced that the Asheville Police Department will remove protesters if they impede traffic on the sidewalk.

According to the protester's press release, “many city officials, residents, and businesses seem determined to treat their homeless neighbors as undesirable garbage that should be promptly disposed of.”

In specifically what way does the removal of a bench treat “homeless neighbors” as trash?

Local activist and concerned citizen Jen Bowen recently commented online: “Taking away our park benches just makes our city appear as if we can’t deal with the these human beings in any thoughtful manner...”

I think Jen is right. But it does not only appear that we can’t deal with the homeless in any thoughtful manner: We cannot deal with the homeless in any thoughtful manner.

The city has spent a lot of time and money implementing it’s quixotic decade plan to end homelessness. (We have 7 years left and I just can’t wait ;) I am unsure how the city can eliminate a lifestyle that, to a large extent, is voluntarily chosen. Government should be protecting individual rights, not violating them.

The government cannot solve social problems. It can only stop causing them. Zacchaeus House was doing its part but the city wanted to shut them down for want of segregated bathrooms.

“...the property must satisfy a host of special building-safety requirements, such as multiple bathrooms, exit signs and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.” - Mountain Xpress

Instead of a chest-thumping protest of the city’s removal of a bench, this could have become a symbolic launching point to reassess our approach to the problems of vagrants, drunks, and miscreants—as well as the genuine homeless. But we have trouble making moral distinctions, don’t we?

I worked for a Task Force for the Homeless in Atlanta. Endlessly collecting statistics on the homeless does not feed or clothe. The purpose of collecting stats is to lobby the government for funding for administration, salaries and facilities for the stat collectors.

Significant and lasting solutions must come from a charitable community. The public sector is incompetent in dispensing charity. In fact, forced charity is an oxymoron. The consequence of government interference in charity is the extinguishing of the charitable sense. Individuals turn regard for their neighbor over to cloistered, grasping bureaucrats. Some charity, huh?

And how are those change boxes coming along? If you see a hungry woman on the street, will you walk over her to put a dollar in a box?


Zacchaeus House
Tim Peck | March 19, 2008
A private home in Asheville doubles as a place of worship and a sanctuary for the homeless. the home-church has been named Zacchaeus House and is operated by Rev. Amy Cantrell.

The Death of Common Sense: How Law is Suffocating America
by Philip K. Howard | Grand Central Publishing | March 1, 1996