Breaking Up Homeless Camps Increases Crime

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I was asked to speak on a panel last night for the group: Big Love Network. They are hosting a series called: “Love on Akron.

The topic of discussion was: “Design of Displacement.”

We talked about the effect of people being displaced in Akron, America and the world.

My line of thinking is always with American homeless. I suspect that’s maybe why they asked me to participate in this.

I work with the poorest of the poor. Most people I work with live on $0/day. These are the most extreme poverty situations in the world. There are countless people experiencing that level of poverty in Akron.

This kind of person can’t afford to take the bus. They can’t afford to by a hot dog.

They steal lunch meat because they are starving.

This last point is strange to me. Even if you can’t find a place at a shelter and you have to sleep in the woods you should still be able to get food every day of the week. Especially in Akron.

Akron has a really good network of dinners and food distribution. (We are new members of the Akron Canton Food bank. We’re starting to distribute food now as well.)

So, the question arises: Why are people still starving in Akron?

The answer is displacement.

If you ever see a tent on any public land all you have to do is make one call to the city and they will be right over to kick the people off that land.

And of course private property owners can do the same any time they want.

We are creating our own refugees. We are constantly displacing people in America.

Camps are ALWAYS being raided and shut down. People lose everything in these raids.

I have never heard anyone discuss the consequences of these raids and camp shutdowns. So let me tell you my observations.

When a group of people get pushed out of a camp it makes them poorer. You would think that a person that makes $0/day couldn’t get any poorer. But I assure you they can.

They lose connections to people they trust. Now they have to start building relationships all over again. This is incredibly risky. You can’t tell a dangerous person just by looking at them. You have to live with them for a while to understand what kind of person they are.

They lose connections to services and organizations that would help them. A restaurant might give them free drinks and food. A church might give them clothes and blankets. A grocery store might give them hygiene items.

All those built up connections are now gone. They have to find a new place to build up those connections all over again.

And then there’s the family. I get panicked calls and emails all the time from people desperately looked for homeless loved ones. They have just disappeared. No one has seem them.

No matter what you think of the homeless, it doesn’t matter. This displacement hurts all of us.

I guarantee if you are hungry enough you will steal. It’s life or death at that point. So theft goes up.

Prostitution goes up to raise money. Drug sales go up to raise money.

You need money now because you have to pay for food until you figure out your new support network in your new camp.  That’s why you have no choice but to turn to crime.

The lack of stability increases mental health issues. The lack of stability increases alcohol and drug use.

Everything gets worse.

The point of this article is to simply point out that there are actual consequences of shutting down these camps.

Thinking there is no cause and effect is naive and dangerous. We all get hurt by this displacement.

I just ask the cities of America to think about these consequences every time they shut down a camp. Ask yourself which is worse: a secluded camp on public land or all the residual effects that come with displacing these people.

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