The issue of homelessness has again come to the forefront in Kalamazoo thanks to the antics of the Kalamazoo Homeless Action Network (KHAN). This time, the issue is an ordinance that bans sleeping overnight in Bronson Park. KHAN is demanding that the ordinance be repealed.
The ordinance is perfectly reasonable. There are no bathrooms in Bronson Park, so it's not hard to see what will happen when people live there overnight. It is quite right that taxpayers don't want people littering and defecating in the park.
KHAN is one of the radical leftist groups that keep Kalamazoo politics interesting. They claim to speak for the homeless in Kalamazoo, though how much support they really have is unclear. KHAN is one of those groups that gets lots of media attention, but doesn't accomplish anything of substance.
It has been a modest and pleasant surprise that Kalamazoo's liberal commissioners have refused to give in to KHAN's demands. They probably alienated any potential sympathizers last year when they threatened to camp out in front of commissioners' homes. Back then, they were advocating a "human rights ordinance" that would allow them to occupy private businesses even when the business owners didn't want them there.
KHAN seems to see homelessness as some sort of "alternative lifestyle" deserving government subsidies. Liberals in many big cities, eager to be seen as compassionate, have showered aid on the homeless. However, this is effectively a subsidy for homelessness, which only causes more of it.
Homelessness is a real problem that needs to be addressed. But it is a behavior that needs to be changed, not subsidized. Organizations like the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission help to do this. But homelessness can only be changed when the homeless want to change. This is more likely to happen when the government sends the message that the homeless "lifestyle" is unacceptable.
KHAN has called the Gospel Mission a "prison"; in reality it is the way to freedom.