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Homelessness is not the new civil rights struggle

By Scott Tibbs, May 17, 2013

Putting advocacy for the homeless on the same level as fighting for civil rights for blacks is absurd and insults the memory of those who fought for those rights. Yet modern-day activists in Bloomington see themselves as the heirs to the civil rights struggle and are determined to stand against "oppression" from "The Man." No one denies that homelessness is a problem and it is compassionate and proper to help, but this attitude (as seen in a May 15 letter to the editor) is silly and childish.

Bloomington is not Selma, and the homeless are not oppressed as blacks were prior to the civil rights struggle of the 1960's. It is telling that one of the primary demands of activists is for a "low barrier" shelter to operate alongside traditional shelters that consistently have beds that are open to people who qualify. While there are legitimate points to be made about low-barrier shelters and traditional shelters, expecting people to be free of drugs and alcohol in order to stay at a shelter is not a violation of their civil rights.

Government in the Deep South enforced an oppressive system of institutional racism on blacks. Local government in Bloomington and Monroe County do not "oppress" the homeless, unless you consider not allowing activists to squat on city property or having law enforcement deal with things like public drunkenness to be "oppressive." Perry Township trustee works with private organizations to provide shelter, Bloomington Township runs an emergency shelter, and city government spends considerable resources trying to alleviate the problem.

But instead of having an adult conversation about whether more can be done or whether efforts can be more effective, far-Left ideologues instead portray what is by far the most "progressive" community in the state as the equivalent of the people who released vicious dogs, fire hoses and baton-wielding police officers on peaceful demonstrators. It is laughable. If homeless are interested in addressing the problem and actually helping people, they need to work toward solutions instead of finding ways to make themselves feel morally superior to "The Man."