The Homeless in Atlanta: A Reflection on controversy

This article recently popped up on my newsfeed, and I thought it would make for an interesting discussion.

The following is my best attempt at an unbiased summary (the source is somewhat biased): The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has regulations forbidding non-employees from accessing certain areas. One of these areas is under an overpass in downtown Atlanta. Some homeless people, apparently somewhat less than 50 and more than 5, were sleeping and keeping their possessions under this overpass. GDOT, citing concerns for motorist and pedestrian safety (the article doesn’t say, but presumably they’re concerned that someone will wander onto the highway and get hit or cause a collision) gave the homeless 24 hours to take their possessions and vacate the premises. Apparently the homeless had been staying there for some time, in varying numbers. When the homeless did not vacate the area, GDOT sent two bulldozers to destroy the tent city that was under the overpass.

Not included in the article, but relevant to the discussion, might be this map, showing that Georgia has 1.71 homeless people per 1,000 residents, and 49.9% of those are “unsheltered” meaning they “live in places not meant for human habitation, such as streets, vehicles, parks, campgrounds, abandoned buildings, etc.”

The discussion I have seen elsewhere boils down to two camps:

  1. By policy, the homeless are not allowed under the overpass, they did not have a right to be there, they were warned to vacate and did not, so GDOT took action to prevent them from staying.

  2. There’s not enough shelter for homeless people as it is, many of them are not homeless by choice, and this is just kicking them while they’re down.

Personally, I can see some of both sides. Sure, some people are homeless due to factors outside their control - then again, some don’t want to put up with societal norms, and are more or less homeless by choice. Destroying their stuff is not pleasant, but then they had warning to move their stuff and did not. They aren’t allowed to be under the overpass anyway, but they need some place to live.

My thought on the matter is that the state needs to do a better job of providing for it’s citizens, but at the same time the homeless need to take some responsibility to use the programs available to them - there’s blame to be cast on both sides. If you choose the homeless lifestyle (and some do), this stuff will be par for the course. If you didn’t choose it because you’re down on your luck, society needs to help you back on your feet - if you aren’t willing to accept society’s help with society’s conditions, see group 1. If you aren’t capable of making that decision due to mental illness, institutionalization is probably the route to go (and I’d be willing to up my taxes to see that happen).

What says the Dope?

They can’t get to the highway above them so that’s not the issue. The last picture looks like they’re next to a road that the overpass goes over. That could be the issue. It’s also visible to the public. They can’t be ignored as not existing. NOW they’re somebody’s liability.

One major interstate goes overhead, while another major interstate goes right past it.

So basically you have a tent city in plain sight on property that a government owns. That makes it a known liability.

If that’s where I think it is, you cannot access it without crossing 6 lanes of interstate traffic. If someone tosses a beer bottle, or if a car flips the wrong way, a lot of people could get hurt.

This is in a different league from chasing someone off a warm heater grate on the sidewalk; it’s a dangerous place for all parties concerned.

Kill them and dump the bodies in the landfill. Simple & straight forward.

How many decades have we been talking about what to do about the homeless? Nobody has or wants to spend the money to deal with this. Nobody wants a shelter or halfway house in their neighborhood. Nobody cares, they just want them gone.

This will just lead to warehousing them, where they will suffer abuse and mistreatment. Been there, done that, doing it now.

With this sort of comment, it is better to do something to ensure that other posters know that you are being facetious.

[ /Moderating ]

That map shows that 62% of the homeless in North Dakota go without shelter. How is it even possible to survive the winter?

I can understand the higher percentages South and West - milder winters would explain that - but N. Dakota?

And I wonder where they came from - people looking for oil jobs and not hacking it, likely.

The homeless population has changed. Many of the homeless are now women, children, veterans, and sometimes entire families. Unlike the homeless of the past, most of these people Do not chose to be homeless. More and more cities want to dispose of the homeless, they do not want them in public view, and sometimes they do not even want people or organizations to feed them! It irritates me to no end that the government continues to cut funds to help these people while continuing corporate welfare to corporations that are outsourcing jobs and making record profits.

Why are the homeless on the highway? It is not a desirable place to camp out - not even within overpasses. I suspect it is because they have been chased off more suitable areas. With the continuing loss of GOOD jobs in the US, the homeless problem will only continue to grow. Many of the homeless do work minimum wage jobs that do not provide enough money to rent an apartment.

Looking at this map of unemployment, I can entirely understand why people would migrate to the Dakotas with nothing but the clothes on their backs. (Which is oil jobs, as you mention). I have also heard there’s a housing shortage in the Dakotas, since houses/apartments/condos haven’t been built fast enough accommodate the increased demand, so those homeless might have jobs, even good jobs, but be living in their car because they can’t find a place to rent.

Hi ktribe808, could you provide a cite for the above claims? I’d be interested in reading more.

They should have made every accommodation necessary to get those homeless some kind of shelter. Kicking them out to fend for themselves is how they ended up homeless in the first place, so they are simply shifting a problem from the overpass to somewhere else.

Instead of bulldozers to the overpass, they should have sent bulldozers to some tract of government-owned land, build some shelters, and then moved the homeless there. Instead, we have a bunch of homeless now wandering the streets. Do they think they will magically not become homeless if there is no shelter? Fucking assholes…

The problem is- about 1/3 of the homeless are that way due to drug or mental problems, and can’t be housed in normal shelters. They will fight, steal, pee their pants and crap in the corner- not to mention refusing to get clean, and they demand to have their ‘stuff” with them, which is unsanitary. They will insist upon smoking, drinking and using drugs.

Homeless camps are a environmental nitemare. Sewage & human waste dumped in streams or just anywhere, trash just dumped, fires without any sort of safety or pollution controls.

ktribe808 is partially right. The rough figures are (and YMMV) is that 1/3 are hardcore homeless as above. 1/3 are by choice- they actually prefer the lifestyle.

And the last third are those who were one paycheck away from being homeless- and then they lost that paycheck. A good % of these are living in cars or couch surfing, but they are still “homeless’. They really need and want our help.

The problem with the “move them somewhere!” idea is that no one wants a homeless camp in their backyard. Or next to their kids’ schools. Or across the street from their business.

I’m librul, but I am sad to say I don’t blame people for these views. The homeless aren’t a pretty sight. Yes, there are virtuous, hardworking, kind-hearted homeless folk, who are just down on their luck and need a helping hand. But there are also a lot of scary and annoying people in that motley crew. People will are truly nuisances, whether because of their situations or something else entirely (like mental illness).

It’s easy to say “move them somewhere!”, but where is that somewhere else? A poor neighborhood that’s already overburdened with needy people and the blight of poverty? A middle-class neighborhood where people care about property values? A rich neighborhood? Yeah, good luck with any of those options.

I recently read an article about Utah and how it seems to be licking its homeless problem by essentially giving every homeless person an apartment, no strings attached. I can hear conservatives weeping about the moral hazard. But if it results in reduced costs (and it looks like it does), then fuck morals.

I’d read somewhere (my apologies, no cite) that the problem with giving away housing is that the junkies would rip out the copper pipes and fixtures they could sell for a fix, the homeless by choice would do the same and just leave with some extra scratch, and the “one paycheck” types would be stuck with a half-gutted and soon to be condemned building. Be interesting to see how Utah solved that problem.

I admit I’m a little disappointed in the kneejerk “they did something mean to the homeless? Those assholes!” reaction. I mean, yes it would be nice if nothing bad happened to anyone ever, but when someone’s illegally squatting somewhere, the idea that forcing them to squat elsewhere might be unpleasant but not necessarily an asshole move.

The problem, as I understand it, is that it is not legal for them to squat somewhere else. In a lot of places, it is de facto illegal to be homeless, because any place they go, it is illegal for them to be. And that’s not right.

It should be legal to squat in alleys, or parks, or under bridges, or, if not any of those places, then somewhere.

add to the problem is that many homeless people get themselves kicked out of shelters for whatever reason of their choosing. The resources are there to help them but they can’t exist withing the minimum requirements of behavior.

“I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasie, or a ragoust.”

/Lighten up, Francis.

Where do you want the crime, filth, disease and litter to be concentrated? Where do you want the feces and urine? The used needles, drugs, etc?

Not in a park, that’s for sure.

Do you own a business with a alley? If so, would you want a homeless encampment using that alley?

So what? It’s not their fault.