Treatment of homeless is sign of times

By Helena Rodriguez: local columnist

Are we separating ourselves from the social reality of our country? Are we ignoring the facts that we are a nation with an aging population and that some cannot make a decent living?

I was shocked last week to read that the city of Las Vegas, Nev., has passed an ordinance making it illegal to feed the homeless in city parks.

You can bet the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting this unconstitutional infringement on free assembly and other rights. But the sad part is the reasoning behind this ordinance in “Sin City.” The city government there is more concerned about the $1.7 million it recently invested in landscaping and improvements in the city park and is also concerned about homeless people, who number about 12,000 in Vegas, “ruining efforts to beautify downtowns and neighborhoods.”

When I read this story in The New York Times last week, I thought, “What is our nation coming to?” We seem to be on the verge of becoming a society that wants to eliminate all kinds of eyesores for our own convenience. We’ve become a society in which the elderly are discarded and placed in nursing homes instead of having them live among us so we can learn from their wisdom.

Our society is obsessed with a fear of growing old. Just look at our billion-dollar advertising industry that paints a negative picture of getting gray hair or a few wrinkles, natural processes that were once viewed as crowns of glory.

We’re also trying to do the same thing with hardworking immigrants trying to come to our country to make a decent living. People twist their noses and start trying to find reasons why they should not share our dream, simply because they speak a different language or have different skin tones.

Next it will be the handicapped who are targeted as eyesores. I can just hear this same kind of bigoted attitude we see directed toward immigrants: “Why should we have to give the handicapped special accommodations?” Then the bigots will target others with imperfections.

According to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, that city passed its don’t-feed-the homeless-in-the-parks ordinance, along with an ordinance against mobile soup kitchens, because it wants a long-term solution to the homeless problem and wants to encourage the homeless to seek aid at social service agencies.

My opinion is that social service agencies there are more than likely not equipped to aid Vegas’ entire homeless population.

And then there’s the other outrage this city did a month ago, trying to round up the homeless for 72-hour mental evaluations.

In the Good Bible, Jesus says, “You will always have the poor among you,” but some people now days want to live in denial and put their city’s image above the needs of others instead of seeing what they can do to help with the homeless problem.

One lady in the article I read said, “I’m not saying feeding people in the park is the answer. But I don’t think people in power can just pass an ordinance every time they don’t like something or they’re frustrated by the inability to fix it.”

Although this may seem like one city in another state, other places have or are in the process of passing similar ordinances and my main worry here is a continued trend of imposing on our Constitutional rights.

Last year, Albuquerque passed a strict ordinance against panhandling, which I have to admit makes my visits to Albuquerque more pleasant.
There are all kinds of issues that come up with panhandling because you don’t know what people will do with money you give them. But when you give people a meal, that’s a different story. They are going to get fed, pure and simple.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: