Obamavilles on the Rise
America's homeless are lawyering up to fight for a "right" to live on the street. Your neighborhood and personal safety be damned.
From Fort Lauderdale to Denver to Los Angeles, cities are struggling with a surge in people living in cardboard boxes and doorways. Local lawmakers are trying to ban "camping out" in public spaces, and ordering police to clear the fetid encampments.
But lawyers for the homeless are pushing back. They're demanding that "sleeping rough" be legally protected. In Denver, where living on the street is outlawed, lawyers for the homeless want the law changed to guarantee vagrants "the right to use and move freely in public spaces without discrimination."
Outrageously, the Obama administration is siding with the vagrants against local governments. This month, Obama's Justice Department is trying to block Boise, Idaho's ban on sleeping in public spaces. Cities around the country are worried their own laws may be next.
Not New York. There, lawyers for the homeless are already running city hall under neo-Marxist Mayor Bill de Blasio. Complaint calls about the homeless are up nearly 60 percent since he took office. The mayor dismisses that as "hysteria," insisting the vast majority of homeless "don't bother anybody."
Los Angeles — the homeless capital of the nation — is trying to halt the spread of cardboard shanties. Obamavilles. But the city has lost a string of lawsuits. Amazingly, judges have ruled the homeless have constitutional rights to sleep in cars and store their possessions, including furniture, on the sidewalk. If police move belongings, they have to store them for 90 days. At taxpayers' expense, of course.
"Whole neighborhoods of Los Angeles are already beset with crime because of the inability of police to cope with mentally ill, drug-addled and criminal transients," says Mark Ryavec, who organized business and homeowners in tony Venice. Advocates have gone to the state legislature to promote a Right to Rest bill similar to the Colorado proposal.
Do the homeless have other options, such as a public shelter? In Los Angeles, probably not.
Jail may not be the answer, but allowing street living isn't either. There has to be an involuntary mental health alternative. That is, if the feds allow it.
Boise has spent years trying to ban street encampments it deems unsanitary and unsafe. But on August 6, the Obama Justice Department intervened to stop the city from enforcing the ban. The DOJ argues that depriving people of a "right" to sleep on the street if there are no shelter beds is a "cruel and unusual punishment" violating the Constitution. The fiction is claiming there are no beds. The city insists there are.
The DOJ's intervention is a warning to cities everywhere. Lawyer for the homeless Carol Sobel warns: "They need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to respond to the causes of homelessness and not punish people for their status." That's the wacky ideology cities will be battling in lawsuit after lawsuit — that living on the street is acceptable and deserves legal protection.
Never mind the violent crimes committed by mentally ill street dwellers. In New York City, the mayor has already ordered cops to leave vagrants alone. The result? On June 23, a New York woman was attacked by a machete-waving vagrant in Bryant Park; on July 25, a New York tourist was hospitalized after being assaulted by a homeless man; Police Commissioner Bill Bratton is warning that street dwellers are using a synthetic marijuana that makes them "irrational, impervious to pain, and very dangerous."
Democrats blame "inequality" for the danger and disturbing sights on our streets. Wrong. It's progressive ideology at its worst.
Betsy McCaughey is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and author of "Government by Choice: Inventing the United States Constitution." To find out more about Betsy McCaughey and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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