There is a new and disturbing trend in Great Britain and China. They are homeless-proofing their streets. As disgusting as the behavior is, I guarantee you that there are those in the United States who follow suit – and quickly. I can only assume that slanted park benches and surfaces covered with metal spikes will soon make an appearance in this country.
I suppose the idea is “out of sight out of mind.” Why allow our delicate sensibilities to be confronted with the consequences of the constant increase in world “austerity”? Force the homeless to the margins. I’m sorry. Scratch that. They are already in the margins. Force them to a place where they exist only to each other.
If there’s one thing contemporary society is, at times, all too good at, it is sweeping our problems under the rug, or at least turning a blind eye. When we can’t turn a blind eye, “because that homeless man is sleeping right there under the overpass, for heaven’s sake,” we tidy up our landscape so that our lives can stay equally devoid of any reminders that we are stepping on people as we climb our way into a better life.
Since money seems to be the only thing that matter to many of those with power to do something about this, I’d like to make one simple point: The reality is that further marginalization of the already marginalized homeless will not lessen the cost to society of having homeless people. They will still be there, even if you no longer have to lay your eyes on them. And, it will still be less expensive for society to do the humane thing and provide housing for them.
As a minister, I would be remiss if I did not mention two glaringly biblical considerations for anyone who considers themselves a Christian and is thinking about “homeless-proofing” their corner of the town.
First: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” This was not a trite, clever sounding piece of banter that Jesus constructed to get good coverage in the press. This is central to his teachings and, thus, central to those who claim to be trying to following Jesus.
Second, don’t think for a moment that trying to deter a homeless person with metal spikes because they upset the sensibilities of the powerful hasn’t been tried before. I can think of this one time where it started an entire religion.