Last December, I wrote an article for the Press And Journal about two Middletown Area High School students that were helping Harrisburg Homeless Ministry, a group of volunteers that feeds, clothes and befriends the city’s most disadvantaged residents.
They’re not asking for any help from the government; they just want to be left alone to help those that society has failed.
Yet apparently that’s too much to ask. Dauphin County is looking to put a stop to the practice, putting up “no loitering” signs at common gathering places on the Susquehanna Riverfront in Harrisburg and telling the homeless to find some other place to fill their hungry bellies.
“They're kind of entrapping us because they don't have a solution and we don't know what to do,” Liesa Burwell-Perry, outreach coordinator for Harrisburg Homeless Ministry, told the Patriot-News.
Dauphin County Deputy Chief Clerk Scott Burford justified the move by saying that incidents of public urination and heckling have occurred - incidents that had could have been dealt with individually, like any other crime, rather than further unprivileging all of an already unprivileged class.
Burford told the Patriot-News that the county would try to find an alternate spot for the homeless to gather. But frankly, that sounds like an afterthought, and in the meantime, the homeless may lose out as organizations like Harrisburg Homeless Ministry and Bethesda Mission ponder their options.
The real motivation behind the county’s moves are probably summed up in the following quote from Burford: “I don't know that arrests are a good solution for us. We've asked for the least invasive measures, and that's asking them to move on.”
That’s right. Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg would prefer not to deal with the real problems that have cause explosive increases in homeless rates in the past few years, problems that governments helped to create. They would prefer not to have to go through the difficult work of finding real solutions. They want the people they see as problems to “move on.”
Such moves by cities to forbid the feeding of the hungry have been frighteningly commonplace in recent years, and should outrage both the left and the right.
Liberals who express outrage over a flawed American society blinded by the shiny veneer of crony capitalism should see this as a ripe target for their criticism - even if it’s promoted by “city planners” who are Democrats.
As for conservatives, those who criticize gay rights by bringing up the Biblical example of Sodom should remember why the Bible really said that God pronounced judgment upon that city: “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49b).
A society that tells its homeless to “move on” rather than helping them simply does not have a moral leg to stand on.