Return of the Move Along Laws
The Great Depression was a period in American history rife with a rich poverty culture; hobo sign, Hoosiervilles, flour sack dresses, “move along” laws. Novels and iconic photographs
documented for future generations the devastation wreaked by hard economic times on ordinary hard-working Americans, and the vivid stories from our grandparents keep this bit of history alive. We read, see and hear tales of families run out of town because the homeless were not allowed within city limits after nightfall, trains full of children of poor families being shuttled across the country as ‘orphans’ in need of adoption, the carefully accumulated life savings of seniors evaporated instantly as more than 10,000 banks failed and left the majority of America’s elderly completely and unexpected dependent on charity.
Fortunately, in this enlightened era, we have left such abominable behaviour in the past. After years of crafting a culture of tolerance and respect for all mankind, and not merely those who look, talk and shop exactly as we ourselves do, we can look upon the barbaric actions of our predecessors with a discerning eye and the knowledge that such things no longer happen in modern times.
Denver city councilman Albus Brooks has proposed a highly controversial bill outlawing “urban camping”. Though proponents of the bill point to needed tourism dollars from the downtown area and revenue from the popular 16th St Mall, the bill institutes a ban not merely on those specific areas but throughout the entire city limits.
Much of the controversy stems from the bill’s attempt to either change or ignore reality. In the
summer autumn winter spring of our recovery, homelessness is on the rise. The most recent study on Denver’s homeless population puts their ranks at more than eleven thousand people; 62% being families with children. The U.S. Conference of Mayors determined that homelessness increased by 12% in one year alone.
Compounding this problem is the lack of funding to effectively handle it. Denver, with its fatally cold winters, has struggled for years to carve funds away from stadiums and tourism to sufficiently staff adequate shelter beds for women and children. The situation will grow more dire almost immediately, as many shelters are closing or reducing the number of beds available by this summer.
Yet, the sole nod to the essential facts of the situation from Councilman Brooks are that Denver will try to find a safe place for Denver’s poor to sleep at night, and if that doesn’t materialize, well then, the DPD can always house the poor in jail.
If you are not moved, dear readers, by compassion and the knowledge that in this economy there but for the grace of God go you, then you should still be incensed by the sharp demand on the taxpayer wallet – fully expected when a city makes poverty a misdemeanor.
Occupy Denver met at Lincoln Park on Friday to discuss the proposed law, and brainstorm alternatives which might actually do something productive to address the stand-off between wealthy downtown businesses and poor Denver citizens who stubbornly refuse to cease existing. It was suggested that the first priority should be determining a safe place for people to sleep at night, away from those who just want to shop for expensive consumer goods in peace. The Denver jail was dismissed out of hand, as not only a violation of citizens’ constitutional rights but also an undue burden on Denver’s taxpayers. Constructive arguments were raised that, since all citizens fall under the definition of “the public”, then public parks would be the best place to allow people to sleep in a place which was safe and out from underfoot.
Also touched on was the strain this would put on the DPD, an agency not known for the sort of kind and gentle touch required when dealing with mentally fragile individuals or women
The sheer inadequacy of this bill to fix the problem of Denver homelessness is astounding, and yet Councilman Brooks already has nine votes; enough to pass it into law. If anyone is surprised that nine council members are willing to commit to a new law before hearings or public testimony, please submit pictures of your shocked face to firstname.lastname@example.org. These pictures will be artistically assembled into a decorative collage to be presented to Denver city council upon passage of the bill into law.