I can't seem to escape this issue, so I may as well embrace it. Maybe this is the universe telling me that until I've formed a concrete opinion, I can't just brush aside my jumbled feelings and pretend like they don't matter. So, while redundant as this may be... homelessness once again.
Side note: being a news photographer sometimes means redundancy. There are stories that we cover over and over and over and over again. It is all about exploring the same issue from a new angle, and doing it creatively. While I can not really claim to be creative today, I did examine this forever heated issue from a new angle today... outsiders, insiders, and the homeless themselves.
As the clock strikes twelve noon I am standing outside Colorado Springs city hall. A chilly wind is blowing incessantly, but the sun is shining and I'm content. Standing in front of me is a group of benign looking homless people holding signs that say "being homeless is not a crime." Interspersed in the group is a few citizens who represent a Colorado Peace group. They are the ones who have organized this rally, and who are vocally speaking out about the treatment of homeless people in the community. Another news station starts their live hit and that's when things start escalating.
From behind the camera a woman starts to scream. "who are you Eric? I never see you at the homeless outreach meetings! As of yesterday none of these people knew about a rally! Did you just hand out flyers today at the soup kitchen!? You don't care about them! How dare you be here!" The shouting continued, but you get the idea.
Of course Eric, and his compadres, could not be outdone. So, like the grown-ups that we all are, they start shouting back. I meanwhile am rolling on the whole thing, and thinking to myself... My how we are accomplishing so much.
The rally was organized in response to a vote city council is expected to make on Tuesday banning camping along the creek. If I was just an innocent bystander, I don't think I would have ever known that. Wouldn't it be more beneficial to hold a sign saying, "where should I go?" or "if I can't camp, I will die." Anyways, that is beside the point. The point is that when I left the rally, I had a lot to think about.
While they may not be completely put together... Here they are.
I think that everyone thinks that they have the best solution. Some people say let 'em stay. Others say compassion is giving them a bed to sleep in and help getting on their feet. The funny thing is that both of these groups legitimately want to help. They want what is best for the homeless. I guess I just don't understand where screaming at one another helps.
I do believe in compassion. I've said before, and I'll say it again... Everyone deserves help when they need it. I do believe that we all have a right to enjoy public land, whether for camping or recreational use. I don't however, think that letting people live in their own filth, freeze on cold nights, and sleep along a creek for the rest of their lives is compassion. Sometime we need to use tough love. Sometimes tough love hurts. But tough love is not heartless or inhumane.
It isn't about who has the best idea, and shunning everyone else. It can't be. If it is, nothing will ever get solved. Didn't we learn in kindergarten that working together solves problems much faster. Aren't two heads better then one? I feel like our homeless advocates in Colorado Springs are their own little Washington. I don't know if it is partisan because they are all fighting for the same federal funding, or because of personal vendettas... But "helping the homeless" in this community has become a partisan issue.
I can't say leave 'em to die... Or let them pollute our water and scare the rest of the citizens. That is not fair. It is also not fair to accuse city council and the Colorado Springs Police Department of being completely heartless, cruel mongrels who want to brush their problems on to other communities. The group protesting today needed to get their facts straight... They needed to take an adult approach. They needed to bring their concerns to the people they involved and sit down and have a serious discussion. The first answer cannot always be protest. It cannot be anger. When we jump to anger and accusations people don't listen- they shut down. So no... It can not be that.
The first solution needs to be talking. It needs to be listening. It needs to be compromise. The city can compromise and treat the homeless with the dignity and kindness that every person deserves, but the homeless need to compromise too. They need to take the help offered to them. They need to cooperate. They need to make it clear that they are willing to better their lives, not just for themselves but for the good of the community as well. It needs to be compromise.
Listening breeds learning. It breeds understanding. In the end it breeds compromise. I don't see how we (we being church groups, peace organizers, homeless advocates, citizens, homeless people--- all of us!) can go wrong if we try a bit of that.