For several years now, we have seen article after article being published about the ever-growing homeless crisis in America. Most of those cases, find us in warmer and democratic ran western states like California. But homelessness is an issue that just about every city faces.
But in cities like New York or Chicago, the homeless can’t just plop down on a park bench or fall asleep on a sidewalk. No, because these cities aren’t typically warm. Instead, they are covered in ice, mounds of snow, and freezing temperatures, making anywhere outdoors simply out of the question.
This means places like indoor shopping malls and public facilities are likely to become overrun with the homeless during the winter months. And now eve Grand Central Station is a home for the homeless.
According to CBS New York, “Inside the world-class transit hub adorned with grand chandeliers, you’ll find men and women sleeping at tables, hunched over on benches, using drinking fountains to bathe and walking barefoot feet away from where two dozen business owners are trying to make a living selling food.”
Joe Germanotta, one such business owner, says, “At 5:30 in the afternoon, it becomes a homeless shelter.”
And those business owners are tired of it. They say that nothing they say has caused either City Hall or the MTA to do anything about it. In fact, the MTA insists it’s not really a problem at all.
But they don’t have to eke out a living on the hopes that customers will ignore the man sleeping on a table, the woman giving herself a bath in the nearest drinking fountain, or the several vagrants who come in every day to ask customers for money and threaten them if they don’t.
In the past, city ordinances and laws kept most from staying too long or getting into any real trouble. But change, in the form of Mayor Bill de Blasio, has turned the entire metropolis into a safe haven for the homeless.
In 2016, the District Attorney for Manhattan made a statement letting the city know it would no longer be prosecuting “quality of life crimes.” These are things like public urination or defecation or sleeping on public property, acts that, because of their quality of life, the homeless were often charged with. Before long, this policy has spread throughout most of the city.
But it didn’t stop there. The city then began decriminalizing more behaviors, including all “petty crimes” that might fall into a quality of life category. Manhattan and the Bronx were the first areas of the metropolis to do this.
The desired effect was obviously to ease the burden of the prosecutors’ office but it has only caused more problems.
As the city should have learned from places like San Francisco, where similar laws are in effect, crime doesn’t decrease by doing this. Instead, it escalates. Shocking, I know…
Basically, it’s like ignoring a child who is obviously doing wrong. Instead of teaching the child right from wrong and that there are consequences for their actions, these children learn that they can do whatever they want. Even if they know their actions or words are ill-advised, they know they aren’t going to be punished for it, so why do anything differently?
And as so many children do, once they are in the habit of hurting others or taking advantage of them, their skill in that area only grows. It may start with merely panhandling or asking for money, but soon it turns to threats when their expectations are not met. Then comes stealing, property damage, and even physical violence.
Now, I’m not saying that all the homeless should be locked up. But ignoring them just isn’t working either. That only proves that the city and its leadership doesn’t care, just as no loving father or mother ignores their children.
Instead, the city should be helping its less fortunate citizens. It could work to provide more shelters, beds, places to eat and rest, and more assistance programs that actually work. And yes, that also means giving punishment when it is needed.