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MIA Joe Buscaino Should Follow Pope Francis’ Moral Imperative to End Homelessness

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WALKING THE TALK-Mayor Eric Garcetti recently stood on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall flanked by seven city councilmembers to announce a plan to spend $100 million addressing homelessness as a “state of emergency.” 

Significantly missing from this line up was Councilman Joe Buscaino (photo) of Council District 15, who after hosting his own forum on homelessness just weeks before on Sept. 3, announced the creation of his new “San Pedro Community Homelessness Taskforce.” The forum was a reaction to a very small motion on a Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council agenda that called for “supporting tiny homes” and calling for its own forum on homelessness. Buscaino’s meeting trumped the neighborhood council’s forum date by just 10 days. 

Even though the homeless issue is a citywide -- even county and nationwide -- crisis, Buscaino focuses only on one part of his district: San Pedro, which has only some 376 persons without shelter, even though there are 1,544 in the entire district. His narrow focus refers to the “unintended consequences of the simple act of offering food to the homeless, which may enable an individual to continue a negative spiral of substance abuse and illegal behavior.” This shows a deep lack of understanding of both the causes and the cures, even ignoring Garcetti’s call for treating this as a “state of emergency.” 

The problem with Buscaino’s approach -- outlawing the practice of giving food to the homeless unless “additional services” are provided -- is that it doesn’t address the districtwide problem of providing immediate shelter. The other problem with his approach is that his new panel is made up of political supporters with no background on the issue, with exception of Shari Weaver of the Harbor Interfaith Shelter. 

Like his White Point Landslide taskforce, these select few are not obligated to hold public meetings or to make their proceedings transparent to the public. Moreover, their charge does not include critiquing the city’s existing policy on homelessness. That means it’s unlikely they will question the rationale or logic of the law enforcement policy of evicting homeless encampments. 

The issue of forced evictions, you may recall, is the very crux of why we have so many homeless people visibly encamped in the public domain. 

Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis, made an historic appearance before the U.S. Congress and reminded our national leaders of something most of us learned as young children: The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Matthew 7:12). 

This rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us. 

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With these few sage words, Pope Francis reminds us all of the moral imperative of caring for our less-fortunate neighbors without shelter. This is advice that good Catholics like Councilman Joe Buscaino and others in our community might heed in relation to Francis’ call: “To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny.” 

These are powerful words that just might guide both the San Pedro Taskforce on Homelessness and the Los Angeles City Council to act swiftly and humanely. 

While I do not share Pope Francis’ religion, I do applaud his faith in humanity and his courage to speak that truth in the halls of power and privilege. 

Yet even Garcetti knows the complexity of solving the homeless issue, telling the Congress of Neighborhood Councils at its Sept. 26 conference, “There is no one fix to solving this problem.” However, he does express his belief in the moral imperative to act, promising $100 million in the coming year as a down payment. 

What I find unacceptable is that this country -- the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the history of the world, with the capacity to put a man on the moon in a decade and which has been the leader in technological innovation and agriculture – does not have the money, talent or ideas to solve this most basic human condition. 

We lack the political will to do what is morally, legally and now spiritually the right thing to do. What we do have is a bunch of people who want to blame the victim and argue about the nature of the problem. We have a councilman who believes the problem is a law enforcement issue rather than a true “state of emergency” that needs and demands swift and decisive action.

 

(James Preston Allen is the Publisher of Random Lengths News, the Los Angeles Harbor Area's only independent newspaper. He is also a guest columnist for the California Courts Monitor and is the author of "Silence Is Not Democracy- Don't listen to that man with the white cap--he might say something that you agree with!" He was elected to the presidency of the Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council in 2014 and has been engaged in the civic affairs of CD 15 for more than 35 years. The views expressed here by Allen are his own. More of Allen … and other views and news at: randomlengthsnews.com ) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

-cw  

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 81

Pub: Oct 06, 2015

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