America's Newest Crime Spree
"If you suffer your people to be ill-educated, and their manners to be corrupted from infancy, and then punish them for those crimes to which their first education disposed them, what else is to be concluded from this but that you first make thieves, and then punish them?" - Thomas More, Utopia
Obviously, I'm just another feeble-minded old man because I have difficulty understanding the newest crime spree to hit America. (If my feeble-mindedness were true, I would probably be elected in a landslide, but let's move on.) Apparently, even the existing laws that are supposed to address (and theoretically, prevent) these crimes are simply ignored by these desperate criminals because, depending on whom you ask, "they simply have no respect for the laws that keep us all safe in an ordered society." I guess that the problem I have with this new crime spree is that those who are actively committing these crimes are doing so simply because they have no other choices.
"Nature has some new plague to run in our streets. History some new wrinkle we are doomed to repeat."
Yes, homelessness has been criminalized in many parts of Texas. According to the Texas Homeless Network, since 2011, there has been a national trend toward criminalizing actions associated with homelessness, including sitting or lying down in public, loitering, panhandling, and even sleeping in a car. The Texas Balance of State region, which encompasses 215 counties, or roughly 60 percent of Texas’ population, has also been facing local criminalization of homelessness. What seems worse to me personally is that in 2021, Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill that bans homeless encampments on public property in Texas. The bill makes it illegal to set up shelter or store belongings for an extended period of time (but does not state the length of that 'extended period of time'). The offense is a class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500. Personally, I think that if someone who is homeless had $500 to pay such a ridiculous fine, they probably wouldn't be homeless, but maybe I'm just being naive.
"No where we can fly away, no where we can rest. The party is disrupted by an uninvited guest."
Let me just put this out there: criminalizing homelessness (or any other societal behavior) is probably not the most effective solution toward its prevention or toward addressing its immediate circumstances. Sure, just like almost every other issue facing a legislative process, homelessness is a complex issue with many constantly shifting parts. So, there is no single solution that will cover even many of its causes, but lawmakers still seem to want to believe that criminalizing anything that they dislike will make it simply go away. So, let me ask this; has criminalizing drug possession (not use, just having it) made it go away?
"Now's the time to make the time while hope is still in sight. Let us not go gently into the endless winter night."
How about instead, we start looking at and addressing some of the root causes of homelessness, such as affordable housing, support services, and even mental health services. These are all areas where the legislature and even private citizen groups (such as Jimmy's Helping Hands and Denton Basic Services) have full sway to address. Otherwise, it seems to me that we are being no better than Ebenezer Scrooge who, when asked to contribute money to a charitable cause at Christmas, asked, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"