Stop punishing the victims of homeless

220px Eddie Bernice Johnson Official Portrait c112th Congress 31
Eddie Bernice Johnson Official Portrait 112th Congress

By EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON

U.S. House of Representatives

 

One of the cruelest policies of the current administration is the demonization of homeless people simply because they find themselves on the margins of life. With growing income inequality and increasing prices for food and transportation, many of our fellow citizens find themselves being victimized.

According to the federal government’s annual homeless statistics, approximately 540,000 people – including children and military service veterans – sleep on the streets of our nation’s cities and towns each night, or in automobiles, wooden crates and in cardboard boxes. This is unacceptable, and we must do better.

Homeless people are being violently attacked on the streets of our cities as they simply attempt to find shelter, rest or sleep. Most recently in one of our major cities, four people were slain within blocks and hours of one another. They bothered no one and posed no threat. Yet they became targets.

With the federal government making it more and more difficult for people to find affordable housing, the number of homeless people continues to rise. Instead of providing for the homeless, the Trump administration persists in demonizing them, making their activities unlawful, encouraging their arrests and sending them down a spiral of hopelessness.

Violent acts against the homeless should be regarded as hate crimes. In our nation’s public schools, the number of children who live in homeless families has increased during the past decade. It is as if we care very little about these children and their attempts to learn and secure a safe place for themselves in the richest country on earth.

As the co-chair of the Congressional Homelessness Caucus, I witness firsthand the problems that homeless people face, and I am committed, as are many of my colleagues in Congress, to compassionate, reasonable and immediate action that will end homelessness.

I am also committed to the restoration of full civil rights for those who are homeless and to promulgating policies that will end their plight as they deserve better than they are being offered.

We must provide them with housing and other social, health and economic programs that will halt their criminalization and demonization. They, like the rest of us, deserve the best that this country has to offer.

 

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas in the United States House of Representatives. She also chairs the House committee on Science, Space and Technology.

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