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Should the city pass an ordinance against sleeping downtown and camping in city parks?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on June 18, 2005

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Photo of Alex Russ III

“No. It would at least have to accompany a solution to the problem. It’s as if they are trying to hide them instead of help them.”

Photo of Jared Barton

“No. I think that’s discrimination against the homeless population and getting them out of the downtown area. I think that it’s really the downtown business owners that have a problem with the homeless.”

Photo of Anna Harrington

“No. I don’t think so, because everybody needs a place to stay and relax. We should make shelters more accessible to the homeless.”

Photo of Abbie Hodgson

“Only if the city provides free alternative areas for the homeless to sleep.”

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lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

oh, lawrence (specifically KU) made the national news because KU spammed everyone with that list of "financially and academically challenged" students (to be politically correct -since i'm writing about the university).

we made the drudge report again. thanks KU!

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 10 months ago

Camping in city parks? Not so much. That's what Clinton Lake is for. There's a lot less traffic and there's certainly a better view.

Sleeping downtown? I'm thinking there are better alternatives to a cold park bench or sidewalk. Don't get me wrong, but don't the shelters offer this kind of... shelter?

Hey Lunacy! In what other instances did KU add Lawrence and Kanas to that "drudge report"? I can't think of many. I can, however, cite that we're still debating evolution in this state, not to mention all of the fun antics of the Westboro Baptist Church. They deserve some recognition too!

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

what about a one-way ticket to kansas city? the city could use the "M-T" bus since nobody rides it, and they could shuttle the "do-gooders" who want a shuttle service for their out of town jobs?

that would be environmentally friendly in more ways than one.

linux_chick 12 years, 10 months ago

offtotheright and lunacy: You guys could just take them out back and shoot them.

Ceallach 12 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence is already a mecca for the homeless. So now, because tax paying citizens of Lawrence have dared to express their disapproval at being panhandled and/or verbally assaulted as you try to get into a downtown establishment, we should be given the additional burden or providing more accommodations and programs to serve the needs of the homeless?

I do not believe the "selected" quotes for today's question are in any way representative of the Lawrence population in general. Look over the list, there is a possibility that one of the three (Abby Hodgson) may pay taxes here, one fourth of the group. Yet, the other three have firm resolve as to what this city should do about the problem. (Can I even call it a problem without being accused of being insensitive?)

Well it is a problem for me and for the downtown merchants. On many occasions I have been stopped by homeless men (usually they step in front of you) asking for money. On more than one such instance they have not taken "No" for an answer. Since I am no longer married, I am often alone when this happens. It is very intimidating when a man, usually unclean and smelling of alcohol, follows you saying he is " hungry too" and "would it hurt you to give me a little money." I am not the only person this happens to, and it usually takes several complaints before the person is asked to move along.

What's with the comment about the merchants? They have a right to conduct business without the impediment of transients bothering their potential customers. Give the merchants a break -- they are trying to make an honest living and in doing so merchants contribute to the community. Should they receive less consideration than those who are here for the express purpose of sponging off of the community?

An ordinance, sure, if it will help, I personally doubt that it will. As far as using our police force -- the advocates for the homeless would make it impossible for the police to do much of anything without constantly receiving complaints and being threatened with law suits. We seem to be developing an entire subculture of "sensitive" individuals who are making a living out of providing services for the homeless. You can bet that homeless individuals will receive very little of the $4.7 mil recommended for their care. Might be interesting to follow that money and publish where every dime of it is going and to whom.

ms_canada 12 years, 10 months ago

I quote, "Commissioners will consider two other ordinances: How a person can sit or lie on a sidewalk...." Picture: police officer, "Sir, you must cross your legs when you lie in this doorway. If you want to lie with your legs uncrossed, move to the next doorway." Just a bit of levity before getting down to the seriousness of a problem that is universal. The poor and homeless. Why, in a world with so many rich resources, do we have so many people without a place to lie their heads?This is a very deep-rooted problem and one that will not be solved no matter how many ordinances are passed or how many shelters are built. Seems to me it is a problem that begins with the general condition of any country and it's economic situation. Why are there not enough jobs, why is affordable accommodation not available, why is there not help for these people? They can't seem to make it on their own, they need help and I don't mean welfare or handouts. they have deep rooted needs and problems. I know they are a big nuisance, but have a little sympathy and some kind feeling towards them, please.

happy_me 12 years, 10 months ago

Tom_Foolery: There are jobs and there are affordable housing. Yes there may be minimum wage jobs in Lawrence but Affordable Housing?? Give me a break! The cheap rent is $500 a month for someone only making minimum wage that is their entire monthly income with nothing left over for utilities or food. and getting help from SRS for food stamps is non existant if you make more than $300 a month. No I do not like having the homeless downtown but our cost of living is so high in Lawrence that it happens and most of the programs designed to help people get jobs ect. are a joke! I speak from personal experience. Lawrence is not a city for those in the lower income level. I love Lawrence but it does need better services for those down on their luck!

ms_canada 12 years, 10 months ago

Just a thought - have you ever talked to one of these homeless people. Simon, for instance, what is his story? Perhaps he is one of the numerous veterans returned from risking life and limb to keep your Mass street free for you to walk along. Perhaps he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Yes, a lot of homeless people have serious emotional trouble. All I am saying is try to understand and not be so hard on them. I have served in a soup kitchen numerous times and talked to the "street people" as we call them. It breaks your heart sometimes. My son works with them regularly in a street ministry handing out drinks and sandwiches and a small sermon letting them know that there are people who care. It is only a drop in the bucket but it is a sign that someone cares for their soul as well as their body. Jesus said that we would always have the poor with us and I believe it is a measure of a people, a country how we care for our down trodden.

William_Rothgraeger 12 years, 10 months ago

Homelessness is a problem in Lawrence.

Ceallach- a sociologist, Duneier, put out a book that articulated the same point as you. He was trying to explore the inner culture of street vendors and panhandlers in New York. He wrote that he, too, noticed homeless men being more aggressive with entangling what he noted "middle-class women" in conversation and put forward an interesting theory about why he thought they did that.

Anyway, the book is called "Sidewalk,"

If there is something good about the homeless downtown, I think it would be that at least we know a problem exists so we can talk about how to and whether or not we should be helping.

William_Rothgraeger 12 years, 10 months ago

I spoke with a student who was heading up a homeless AIDS project in Lawrence. She was floored with how large a population she was dealing with. The shelters are often full. Does anyone remember the LJW article where the Lawrence shelter turned away possibly 20 people when the outside temp. was at record lows last winter or the winter before?

I wish there weren't homeless in Lawrence, but before I become too hasty to toss them away in disgust, I think it deserves to be noted that it is extremely difficult for a person to get out of homelessness on his/her own. It's difficult to find employment without a home address, with gaps in employment, smelling bad (if the person has limited resources to cleaning facilities), etc. in addition to resolving whatever sent the person to the streets in the first place.

While I'm not for over-sensitizing ourselves to the situation, I'm open to discussing possible solutions.

Incarceration and/or busing to Clinton Lake do not seem reasonable.

ms_canada 12 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Tom for the clarification, so glad to hear that you offer your services, too bad more don't do the same. We had the same problem, sort of, here a few years back. The powers that be ousted a bunch of the patients from the psych facility and just dumped the poor souls on the street. Smart, eh?

linux_chick 12 years, 10 months ago

ms_canada, I talk to them. I don't see what the big deal is.

When I'm downtown and get one of the oversized servings of food our restaurants serve, I wrap up the rest and give away half a sub in passing. I've never had a problem getting haggled too much. Some of the people are very relatable, and young like me.

Well, I just wanted to say hi to everyone. I've read this board for a long time, but just today got an account.

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

offtotheright, you crack me up - and i bet you're right!! bwahahahahaha!

before shipping off the homeless while giving the "do-gooders" a ride to KC, as a disguise - the city should paint one of those "M-T" buses so it looks like the Partridge Family's. that would be SO groovy!

i wonder if the partridge family would be consider too "square" for our beatnik commissioners. hmmmm

perhaps paint all of the City buses olive drab with a big Red Star on the sides and hood. that would probably go over a lot better.

luv2brude 12 years, 10 months ago


lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

linux chick, that comment fits more in line with a liberal "culture of death" attitude - so it does not apply to us.

linux_chick 12 years, 10 months ago

Maybe, lunacy, but it sounds about as productive as throwing people in jail for being homeless or busing them to KC.

Let them be. If you don't want to give them money, then don't... yell an appropriately condescending remark and move on to Juice Stop to get your Tour de France Smoothie.

It's really not that hard.

Grundoon Luna 12 years, 10 months ago

To say that the homeless people are homeless becuase they are just too lazy to work shows an incredibly LAZY INTELLECT and short sighted thought processes. Most of those folks have very serious mental or other issues and probably should be in a hosipital or some kind of rehabiitative program. Rather than making blanket value judgements why don't you find out the cause of this mess. I'll tell ya when it started, with Reganomics in the 1980.

Oh, and LD, "liberal 'culture of death' attitude?'" You conservatives are the biggest freakin" hypocrits on the face of the earth!!! I can't believe you would say something like that with a straight face with your love of capital punishment and ill-conceived war. You buy what W says hook, line and sinker. You are nothing but lemmings!!

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

The police cannot arrest people for not breaking the law.

The new SA will be too far away and they do not want to deal with street people. The SA is proving to be a flaky corporate welfare organization with plenty of dough at their home office.

Many street people are probaly a result of the state shutting down mental health clinics such as the Menninger Clinic.

Compassionate people make Lawrence a great place to live and raise a family. We are fortunate the compassionate are in the majority.

It would help if corporate america would bring jobs back to the people who made them rich...the american work force.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

A few other thoughts:

Lock them up?

Placing folks in jail will likely require increasing the budget... equals higher taxes. The cost of housing these people in city jails is not cheap. This money would be better spent on a 24 hour shelter. The city jail is an expensive shelter around 200 dollars a day. What will they do after they are released from jail with no job?

We'll be taking up jail space with non violent offenders.

ms_canada 12 years, 10 months ago

linux chick - it might not be a big deal to you but it might just be a big deal to the one you speak to. Keep it up, there's a good gal (or fellow)!

Hong_Kong_Phooey 12 years, 10 months ago

(music) "All we are give peace a chance..." You friggin' hippies. The homeless in this town line the entire length of downtown, begging for money. MS_CANADA - with all due respect, you don't live here, so you don't have the foggiest idea what type of "homeless" we are talking about. The majority, by far, of the "homeless" in this town are just slackers that are in their 20's that either refuse to get a job, don't "believe in the capitalist system", or are trying to "find themselves". There should be a zero tolerance ordinance for pan-handling. The city has a zillion services set up to accomodate the homeless & hungry so there is no reason that I should have to step over, around or through in order to enjoy a walk downtown. Oh, and now they are making their way up the hill to campus. We'll see how well the University likes it when Muffy and her parents come for orientation and some drag-ass hassles them for change.

ms_canada 12 years, 10 months ago

Hong Kong - your right I don't live there but sure as shootin' someone will set me straight and thanks, you did. My daughter lives in a resort town in a warm climate and I hear all the tales about the transients" as they call them there. They create a great deal of problems for the people of that town. So I think I know what you are talking about, but as you say, I did not know what the problem in Lawrence is, but now, thanks to you, (and I say that in the nicest way) I know and it sounds similar to the problem in Kelowna where no. 1 daughter lives. She lives 4 blocks from the beach and park where they hang out. One nite, shortly after she moved there, at 2am, there was a terrible ruckus out in front of her house. She looked out and there were police cars, a fire truck and guys yelling and even her dog was scared silly. She found out later from one of the neighbours that the rental house (hers) was a drug dealers house before she moved in. She thought, mein gott, what have I gotten into here. Lawrence is not unique. Hang in there, maybe the ordinance will do the trick and they will move on and become someone else's problem. :-)

GreenEyedBlues 12 years, 10 months ago

Yeah yeah "Not in my backyard", right? The country isn't safe from the homeless until we begin mass exile and socioeconomic genocide. =S

Carmenilla 12 years, 10 months ago

The tolerance and thoughtfullness of the posters on this board give me so much hope for mankind!

Ceallach 12 years, 10 months ago

William_R: Thank you for suggesting that reading material. I am assuming that you are seriously attempting to help me undertand the very uncomfortable interactions I have had with homeless men in our downtown area. I will check the library for it's availability.

I knew when I voiced a complaint I might be accused of being insensitive and uncaring but felt the need to answer some of the jabs that are often hurled at our downtown merchants. I am neither insensitive nor uncaring -- I am concerned that the problem is increasing and our city leaders seem unable to offer anything more than a bandaid (and a very expensive bandaid at that) to treat a serious condition.

I have lived in Lawrence many years, moved here when I was in high school. I can even remember when the downtown homeless population could be counted on one hand. My family lived in the 700 block of Rhode Island, across the alley from Sam's Produce. We were very familiar with homeless people. At dinner time it was not unusual for my mother to fix a plate of food which my brother or I took out for a veteran who had not been able to live or sleep indoors since he was released from a prisoner of war camp. Many people placed clothing, blankets, etc., near the retaining wall for Sam's, knowing the needy ones could and would use them.

I have regularly contributed food and/or served at LINK (for those not in Lawrence, LINK is our Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen). The Lawrence homeless population has greatly changed over the past 10 to 12 years. Lawrence now attracts "traveling" homeless people, migrating to an area where there is little or no responsibility or accountability required of recipients of services.

I don't want to see a double set of socially acceptable standards in Lawrence. I fear too many people are doing just that. Are we to look the other way, walk around or step over them, take whatever action necessary to an avoid "aggressive entanglement in conversation"? How does that help anyone?

I am aware of the economic situation in Lawrence. I work one full-time and one part-time job. Why? Because I need a home, transportation and food. I also enjoy occasional entertainment and to buy little gifts for my grandchildren. Is it unreasonable to ask that I be allowed to buy a coffee and scone at Wheatfield's without being hassled and intimidated by someone who could get a free breakfast with coffee from one of the services?

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

Pan handler #1: please help me kind sir. i ran out of gas after taking my wife to the doctor's today. you see, i'm from belton missouri, and i don't have enough gas to make it home. could you spare some money so i can get my sick wife back home? i know the Lord will look favorably on you if you can help me out.......i wouldn't be walking around the parking lot (of a bar) with a gas can if i didn't need gas, now would i?

Pan handler #2: please kind sir, can you help me? i was passing through town with a friend of mine. you see, i am on my way to see my daughter who i haven't seen in 2 years because she is living with her mother. it was a messy divorce i don't want to get into. anyway, my friend left me off with a person i know here in lawrence. i was supposed to meet my friend at 3:00 yesterday, but i was running late and i missed him. i am stuck in lawrence and i am trying to get enough cash together so i can get bus fare. if you would happen to have a few bucks to spare, i know the Lord will give you good graces for helping out a person in need.

Pan handler #1, I heard this same story from you 2 weeks ago.

Pan handler #2, this is the third time i have heard a very similar story in 4 months.

ME: .....what to do? ......what to do?....... the first times i gave. the second times i very nicely said i couldn't help. with pan handler #1, i asked him if he remembered approaching me a couple of weeks before. he was shocked and got p*ssed off. i called the police, but the pan handler got some cash from another person in the parking lot and left before any police arrived.

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