If You Help the Poor, You Will Prevent Them From Seeking Help

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Via TtP, please don't feed the animals homeless:

The Las Vegas City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that bans providing food or meals to the indigent for free or a nominal fee in parks.

The measure is an attempt to stop so-called "mobile soup kitchens" from operating in parks, where residents say they attract the homeless and render the city facilities unusable by families.

Like all bright ideas, this one's for the children. Oh, and it's for the homeless:

"This is not a punishment; this is to help people," [Mayor Oscar] Goodman said. "The people who provide sandwiches have good intentions, but they're enabling people not to get the help that is needed."

Help, like.. I don't know, food? But worry not, poorly dressed home owners: Goodman knows a bum when he sees one:

Mayor Oscar Goodman, who has been a vocal advocate of cracking down on the homeless in city parks, dismissed questions about how marshals, who patrol city parks, will identify the homeless in order to enforce the ordinance, the violation of which would be a misdemeanor.

"Certain truths are self-evident," Goodman said. "You know who's homeless."

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  1. So if I went for a few days without bathing or combing my hair, and then put on the nastiest clothes in my dirty-laundry pile and just sort of wandered around the park for a long time, would that be a bad thing to do?

  2. Looks like the only thing that “happens in Vegas” but doesn’t “stay in Vegas” is a Good Samaritan.

  3. [Mayor Oscar] Goodman said: “The people who provide sandwiches have good intentions, but they’re enabling people not to get the help that is needed.”

    Let’s rephrase:

    “The governments that provides Welfare have good intentions, but they’re enabling people not to get the help that is needed.”

    Is it not the same? However, politicians do not like it when somebody else steps in their turf, like in this case, preventing potential ballot stuffers from seeking the Welfare office.

  4. If I serve free meals in the park to folks with homes and jobs, that would be OK?

  5. Francisco, your mistake is in expecting people in government to understand there’s no difference.

  6. I don’t really have a problem with cities regulating what goes on in their parks, particularly where it seems consonant with what is usually considered the purpose of a park — to provide a pleasant green space for recreation. It would be different if a city was trying to ban soup kitchens on private property.

  7. I’d like to file an ordinance closing city and state homeless shelters, on the grounds that they attract homeless people that kids might see.

  8. Let’s just make it illegal to be poor! I’m on a roll today.

  9. In a way, I understand the mayor’s concerns. In my city, there’s a big public park that’s much of the time littered with “street kids” and the homeless, sitting on the lawn drinking booze and using filthy fucking language and begging for change from people passing by with their kids. They come there because, a) they don’t have anywhere else to hang out, and b) they know there are lots of people there to hit up for change.
    On the other hand, I guess that’s the risk you take when you create “public” areas … Doesn’t this violate the rights of assembly and association? What if I just handed someone a Twinkie? Am I guilty?
    Seems to me that giving someone food — not booze or money — is the most humane way of immediately satisfying their most basic needs.
    But is that really what is against the law here? The act of giving food to someone? Or is it a ban on mobile food facilities?

  10. In Chicago we have an interesting class of “homeless” – ones with homes. These people beg to pay the rent. Of course, we also have real homeless too. The difference is, like the man says, self-evident.

  11. I don’t really have a problem with cities regulating what goes on in their parks, particularly where it seems consonant with what is usually considered the purpose of a park — to provide a pleasant green space for recreation.

    Maybe playing Lady Bountiful is some people’s idea of a good time.

  12. As a future Samaritan, could I recieve the cities guidelines on how to identify the homeless? I want to give free food only to the poor, yet housed people in the park so as not to run afoul of this law and need the guidelines the city is working with.

    What’s next, I can’t give away free beer?

  13. Bring in the scoops!

  14. How about doing the “Free Beer for the Homeless” gag in Las Vegas?

    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/07/02/1056825441944.html

  15. I don’t really have a problem with cities regulating what goes on in their parks

    Me neither. The city could ban the sale of food/beverages in its parks, so why can’t it ban giving them away?

  16. I guess that’s the risk you take when you create “public” areas … Doesn’t this violate the rights of assembly and association?

    Just exactly right, Jamie. Maybe what’s needed are privately-run parks from which the owners can exclude folk who don’t (or, more rarely, can’t) provide for themselves. Charge membership fees to cover construction and maintenance costs.

    There’s ample precedent in golf courses, zoos and the like, and the competitive landscape looks better with every bum who takes up residence in a gov’t public park.

    I like it! What’ll we call it, and who’s investing?

  17. Just exactly right, Jamie. Maybe what’s needed are privately-run parks from which the owners can exclude folk who don’t (or, more rarely, can’t) provide for themselves. Charge membership fees to cover construction and maintenance costs.

    I believe those are called “Country Clubs”, CH.

  18. What’s needed is a series of tubes to distribute food throughout Las Vegas. That way the homeless won’t all go to the same place because then the tubes would become backed-up.

  19. That Oscar Goldman. I’m not surprised that he won’t feed the homeless. He ripped off my legs! The bastard.

  20. I believe those are called “Country Clubs”, CH.

    And I acknowledged the contribution of country clubs in the genesis of the idea… but I’m thinking of something that’s a lot closer to the ideal of a widely (but not universally) open public park.

  21. Once I was walking accross the bridge in front of Ceasars, which is quite long, and very white. I was in a wool suit. I took off my jacket and toed it around my waist. The reflected light and heat from the bridge just hammered at me. My shirt was soaked, and by the time I got to the other side I was a mass of sweat.
    When I got back down to street level, a homeless guy walked up to me and asked “Hey, did you find anything good today?”
    And I realized he thought that I was also homeless.

  22. As someone that has worked for more than a decade with the homeless (primarily street teens) in a major urban center, I concur. Feed a man for a day, and he’ll just be begging again tomorrow.

    EVERY major city has systems in place to help them, but for whatever the reason (a free-spirit, mental health issues, etc.) too many people chose not to utilize them.

    http://www.youthlinkmn.org/

    http://www.youthlinkmn.org/links.html

  23. A friend posed as a homeless person for Halloween and several people gave him money. (I forget if he was actively asking for it or not, probably not…)

  24. I like the Mayor’s thinking. It’s a good thing, like when Rudy Giulliani (sp?) got rid of the panhandlers and “car window washers” in NYC. I don’t mind people feeding the homeless, but they should do it on their own property if they really want to continue enabling helplessness. Don’t screw up the parks by turning them into soup kitchens.

  25. butterbarrel,

    How about we use the Internet? I understand it’s a series of tubes.

  26. Brian24,

    We’ll put Harry Reid in charge of it. Conveniently, he’s from Nevada and an expert on the InterTube.

  27. Was that YOU i got it on with!?…..the sammiches were yummy! mutt

    ” I went for a few days without bathing or combing my hair, and then put on the nastiest clothes in my dirty-laundry pile and just sort of wandered around the park for a long time, would that be a bad thing to do?”

  28. can’t give away free beer since when can you even drink beer in a public park (legally).

    We have a beautiful state park that was once a Sunkist orange grove and packing house. Soon as it was built, the losers, druggies, and assorted dregs of society moved in making it dangerous and uncomfortable for families to enjoy. Then one day the state began charging a fee to use the park and the former squat-owners moved on because they weren’t willing to pop for three dollars per day to conduct drug deals, gang initiations, graffiti fests, and to smear shit on the walls.

  29. TWC,
    In Fort Walton Beach, FL we had a little park with similar problems to your former orange grove. The city took the rather drastic step of using tax money to build this complex, complete with piano bar, night club, three restaurants and a beach shop. Technically it is still a park, and is treated as such, but not only can you drink a beer, you can buy it right there from the park’s leasee.
    Of course government being what it is, the city allows free parking at the site and maintains the property while leasing it to a holding company at far less than market value. The holding company is making a killing on the 20 year contract. Did I mention that the owners of the holding company are long time friends of the 3 members of the city council?

  30. Most people don’t realize that the majority of The Strip, everything from the Sahara Hotel towards and past Ceasar’s Palace, is not in (the city of) Las Vegas, which Oscar Goodman is the mayor of, but in Clark County, governed (cough) by the Clark County Commission. Las Vegas city regulations (and taxes) don’t apply there–only Clark County, Nevada State, and United States regulations apply.

  31. Just exactly right, Jamie. Maybe what’s needed are privately-run parks from which the owners can exclude folk who don’t (or, more rarely, can’t) provide for themselves. Charge membership fees to cover construction and maintenance costs.

    This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever heard.

  32. So if I went for a few days without bathing or combing my hair, and then put on the nastiest clothes in my dirty-laundry pile…

    Often I look like this at work. What can I say? I got tired of dressing for success.

  33. Steven Crane,

    Why do you think private or for-fee public parks are such a dumb idea? I vaguely recall that most or all parks in London in the 18th century were private; you had to buy a key or pay a fee at the gate. The fee need not be very high, if the main purpose is to keep out creeps.

    From a libertarian point of view, private or for-fee public parks are more just than tax-payer funded public parks; with a public park, you are paying for the park, even if you never go. Shouldn’t the people that actually go to the park pay, and not the people that never go?

  34. Um, isn’t “If You Help the Poor, You Will Prevent Them From Seeking Help” exactly what you people – YOU PEOPLE! – have been saying about welfare for the past half century?

    If someone who is down on his luck is going to decide to say there because he gets a paltry sum of money and a meal, I don’t imagine it will make much of a difference whether they are being paid for with public or private funds.

  35. If someone who is down on his luck is going to decide to say there because he gets a paltry sum of money and a meal, I don’t imagine it will make much of a difference whether they are being paid for with public or private funds.

    It makes a big difference, as a charity is voluntary does not have an incentive to keep people needy.

    Where as the government makes a profit from a continuing or increasing problem. I mean, do you really thing that a government agency charged with dealing with the homeless is going to put itself out of work by drasticly reducing or eliminating homeless. Their budget increases as the problem gets worse.

  36. I don’t really have a problem with cities regulating what goes on in their parks, particularly where it seems consonant with what is usually considered the purpose of a park — to provide a pleasant green space for recreation.

    I think if I were homeless, I would consider a bite to eat to be pretty damn recreational.

    A TV station in Memphis ran (maybe still runs) ads on the theme “being homeless isn’t a crime”*. Apparently they were wrong.

    In a similar vein, a bunch of years back a travelling food kitchen that stopped in Memphis was shut down after *a freakin’ homeless shelter* ratted them out as not having proper inspections or food serving permits or whatever. So of course they moved on to another city. Great move guys. That sure helped out the homeless people. Talk about turf battles.

  37. Um, isn’t “If You Help the Poor, You Will Prevent Them From Seeking Help” exactly what you people – YOU PEOPLE! – have been saying about welfare for the past half century?

    Actually, it’s not so catchy — it’s more like, “If you give the poor help, especially if you teach them that such help is owed them as a right by virtue of being citizens, with no strings attached, then you give them a rational reason not to seek work — or at least not seek help that might have strings attached, such as urging them to improve their situation, which they may be more likely to get from a private charity.”

  38. Actually, it’s not so catchy — it’s more like, “If you give the poor help, especially if you teach them that such help is owed them as a right by virtue of being citizens, with no strings attached, then you give them a rational reason not to seek work — or at least not seek help that might have strings attached, such as urging them to improve their situation, which they may be more likely to get from a private charity.”

    I’ve always wondered – if welfare takes away the incentive to work, why do the vast majority of people still work?

  39. “Certain truths are self-evident,” Goodman said. “You know who’s homeless.”

    Gotta love that one. Just like the cops and the prosecutors:
    “You know who’s a criminal. It’s a gut feeling you develop in this job.”

    Ken Lammers put it well here:
    http://crimlaw.blogspot.com/2004/11/officers-gut-feeling.html

  40. I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created unequal, that some of them are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, and that the rest of them need to stay the Fuck out of the Park.

  41. Rex, “It makes a big difference, as a charity is voluntary does not have an incentive to keep people needy.”

    I get the “voluntary” part, but the question isn’t about the morality of the money supply. It’s about the impact of the aid.

    I would say the people working for the Red Cross, Food not Bombs, and every aid organization in between have just as much of an interest in keeping people needy as those who work for HHS. Their jobs depend on having a needy population just as much as the public sector employees.

    Stevo,

    I’d need to see some evidence that private charities are more likely to include “strings.” Also, I’ll point out that I have never, not even once, seen a libertarian column chiding private charities for failing to include “strings” in their aid programs.

  42. joe, although I think libertarians have objections to government welfare programs in addition to whether they “trap” welfare recipients, you do raise an important question. Just what is the overall effect of private charity? Also of note, what was that effect before the government got so involved?

    In law school, I read Lawrence M. Friedman’s book, History of American Law (great book–I highly recommend it), which discussed in some detail the role of private and/or local institutions for dealing with a variety of issues–insanity, welfare, etc. Friedman is, if anything, a little left-leaning, but he spoke fairly favorably about private charities carrying a lot of the “welfare” weight before the 20th century. He focused a lot on the distinction between the “deserving” and undeserving” poor–which meant that some people were less likely to get help than others–but he did make it sound like the system, such as it was, worked fairly well.

    I don’t think charity prior to federal involvement could be described as “libertarian”. I think it was heavily church-oriented and likely had local and state government entanglements. Also, in a less mobile society, with stronger (and smaller) communities, and with extended families, perhaps the need for outside help was less than it is today.

    I tend to think that we can’t–in good conscience, anyway–just shut off the welfare/aid spigot without creating a vacuum. However, I think that the generosity of people in this country is tremendous (yes, that includes people across the political spectrum) and that we could fill that vacuum rather well over time with private alternatives. But that’s just an opinion–I can’t prove it.

  43. joe, although I think libertarians have objections to government welfare programs in addition to whether they “trap” welfare recipients, you do raise an important question. Just what is the overall effect of private charity? Also of note, what was that effect before the government got so involved?

    In law school, I read Lawrence M. Friedman’s book, History of American Law (great book–I highly recommend it), which discussed in some detail the role of private and/or local institutions for dealing with a variety of issues–insanity, welfare, etc. Friedman is, if anything, a little left-leaning, but he spoke fairly favorably about private charities carrying a lot of the “welfare” weight before the 20th century. He focused a lot on the distinction between the “deserving” and undeserving” poor–which meant that some people were less likely to get help than others–but he did make it sound like the system, such as it was, worked fairly well.

    I don’t think charity prior to federal involvement could be described as “libertarian”. I think it was heavily church-oriented and likely had local and state government entanglements. Also, in a less mobile society, with stronger (and smaller) communities, and with extended families, perhaps the need for outside help was less than it is today.

    I tend to think that we can’t–in good conscience, anyway–just shut off the welfare/aid spigot without creating a vacuum. However, I think that the generosity of people in this country is tremendous (yes, that includes people across the political spectrum) and that we could fill that vacuum rather well over time with private alternatives. But that’s just an opinion–I can’t prove it.

  44. I’d need to see some evidence that private charities are more likely to include “strings.” Also, I’ll point out that I have never, not even once, seen a libertarian column chiding private charities for failing to include “strings” in their aid programs.

    joe, I’d read a book about this several years back — a historical look at how private charities operated before the welfare state. One of the themes was that private charities were more likely to encourage aid recipients to improve their situation, or to give aid to those who showed signs of trying to do so.

    I’m also likely to have a difference in attitude, as a recipient of aid, if I’m receiving help from someone who doesn’t necessarily have to help me, as opposed to getting a check in the mail from the government because it’s my “right.” In the former case, I’m more likely to feel a sense of obligation to the voluntary giver, and part of that is that I may try harder to keep the period during which I require their aid as brief as possible.

    If the title of the book comes to me, I’ll come back and post it.

  45. Clarification and addendum to my second paragraph: The “strings” attached to private aid might not be explicit, but implicit as part of the deal where someone is helping you voluntarily, engendering a sense of obligation in the recipient.

  46. Stevo, could it have been the same book I referenced above? Your point is quite similar to one of the points that I was trying to make. Old charities did a whole lot, but they focused their aid on the “deserving” poor–i.e., on people who were temporarily down on their luck or who were in classes that had trouble overcoming their problems (in some places that would include blacks and Indians, for instance). Widows, the recently unemployed, the disabled, etc. made up the deserving poor as I recall. I’m not sure that charity entirely excluded the “undeserving”, either, but I don’t really know.

  47. ProLib — A lot of what you’re saying sounds familiar, but the book I read wasn’t anything as broad as A History of American Law would appear to be. The book I read focused specifically on the topic of private charities — “relief” was the term usually used. The title was very approximately: The Something of Something: A History of Private Relief in America or Maybe Britain Too or Something Like That. So far, Google turns up nothing that sounds familiar.

  48. Stevo,

    As long as the book has a colon in its title, it’s got to be good. Private Charities: The Hermeneutics of Giving Until it Hurts so Good.

  49. I like the beginning

    “If you help the poor, you will keep them from…”

    a) “seeking proper help with the Government”

    b) “rising in revolt and overthowing the Government to put is in power>”

    c)” accepting Jesus and joining our Church… and voting as we tell them to.”

    d) “working in the fields in punishing heat for as little as we can pay them.”

    e) “Selling us their daughters to our brothels”

    Somehow, I wonder which response you find most repulsive…

  50. Stevo,

    Some private charities attach strings. Others just ladel the soup and roll out the cots. My point is, I haven’t seen any libertarian criticism of the latter sort of private charity, either. And, of course, welfare programs were notorious for the buttinsky social workers.

    But the argument you make about the sense of obligation vs. sense of entitlement is a fair point. I’ll groove on it.

  51. What many people do not realize is that the mayor of Las Vegas represents fewer than one-third of the residents of the Las Vegas Valley.

    Clark County ? which is the jurisdiction holding sway over much of the area, including all of the Las Vegas Strip, the airport, the convention center, the university (those areas where the vast majority of tourists frequent) ? has no intention of entertaining similar proposals banning the feeding of the homeless.

    For those of you who take exception to the mayor?s new law, please understand that many of us in the Las Vegas Valley also disagree with the mayor?s position.

    Addressing homelessness in a meaningful way requires a multifaceted and sustained approach since the needs of homeless individuals are varied. The mayor?s anti-feeding ordinance is not part of Clark County?s or the region?s approach to this complex challenge.

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