155. What do Homeless Sweeps Really Say About Us?

Photo of clean up after a homeless sweep in Seattle by Erica Shultz/The Seattle Times


Sweep is defined as:

a: to remove from a surface with or as if with a broom or brush  table> b: to destroy completely : c: to remove or take with a single continuous forceful action  d: to remove from sight or consideration  e: to drive or carry along with irresistible force

There has been alot of news lately about widespread homeless sweeps throughout the US. Just the defintion of this act denotes the unethical act it really is…. a forceful removal of people without a home. Included in homeless sweeps is the confiscation of personal property. Local governments are going into places where the homeless are trying to survive, ceasing property of those who live in poverty and claiming that they are doing their civic duty….to me this is a sad commentary on the lack of moral focus that seems to be  pervasive in our country.

Governments often cite that homeless camps pose a problem with trespassing on public property and  that the camps are an “eyesore”.  We have become so shallow that we place more value on aesthetics over the fact that we have men.woman and children right in our own backyards that don’t have shelter,running water or basic needs met on a daily basis.  When we go home at the end of the day to our homes and sleep in a bed among our possesions why would we begrudge others less fortunate than ourselves the right to etch out a way for survival? More importantly,why do we feel that inflicting more misfortune on others who don’t have a home though sytematic homeless sweeps is morally or ethically acceptable?

Our local governments are quite good at citing all the reasons for their sweeps and temper their rebuttals with facts that seldom focus on the real problem that needs solving which is that we have a social issue that isn’t being dealt with effectively. A recent  homeless sweep in the Seattle area choose to focus on the strenous clean up efforts and highlighted the debris found at the encampments. Of course there is  the mention of syringes& needles  with the implication that many of the homeless are drug users. ..it seems to make it okay to treat all homeless with such disdain by such generalizations and ignorance. Seldom are there  any solutions offered to assisting the homeless who are misplaced due to sweeps other than providing them with a list of shelters that cannot accomodate the growing number of people without homes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if governments created solutions for these homeless camps by assisting with field work that included helping our homeless citizens with safe areas to camp in ( and by all means deal with the supposed drug users who pose a threat to all citizens) and by providing services that allowed for some sort of basic sanitation services.

Fortunately,there are other people who see  these sweeps as real problem in the way we are dealing with the homeless in our communities.

“Homeless sweeps are not the answer,” said the Rev. David Bloom, co-chairman of the local Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness.

“There’s no place for people to go, and they’re just trying to survive,” he said. “To wipe out these encampments when people don’t have a place to go is ludicrous. It’s not humane.”

These homeless sweeps are indeed a testament to our lack of insight into the fact that the same rights rule among all socioeconomic levels and humanity. Until we view the issue of homelessness with a sense of moral obligation and compassion we will continue to be merely  “sweeping” the issue of homelessness into a place where no change can occur.

Today, more than ever, we need to make this fundamental recognition of the basic oneness of humanity the foundation of our perspective on the world and its challenges. From the dangerous rate of global warming to the widening gap between rich and poor, from the rise of global terrorism to regional conflicts, we need a fundamental shift in our attitudes and our consciousness — a wider, more holistic outlook~ The Dalai Lama




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