Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Wrath of KHAN, Again

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 KHAN is demanding that the ordinance be repealed.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.


Anonymous said...

It is interesting that you offer no solution to the problem of homelessness other than that such people should be helped out only to the least extent possible. I find it amazing that with all of your articles on how the economy of this state is in such poor shape that you can so callously disregard a section of the population, which by all accounts is the most affected. Once again the heartlessness of your position shines through and begs the question of how can you claim to be the party of morals?

Matthew said...

You decry the "heartlessness" of Allan's position; is your alternative the "compassion" of giving away money stolen from another's pocket?

Compassion cannot be manufactured by force. Gospel Mission is one completely supported by private donations. It represents true compassion.

Anonymous said...

In looking at the ruling in question, there is something else very striking about the position Allan and Matt adopt. Bronson Park is a public park, correct? In forcing the homeless out of a public meeting place, what you are doing is attempting to hide their existence from the more fortunate. Let's not mince words here. This is what Allan is proposing. Move the poor over to Martin Luther King Jr. Park or the Gospel Mission by the bus station and railroad tracks; far away from the trendier sections of downtown. In your lamenting about the forgotten man Matthew, it would seem those who are equally forgotten in this case are the indigent themselves. Why should they be forced to suffer the humiliation of seeking help at a religious institution if they choose not to? In evicting them from a public meeting place, what incentives are you actually reducing to the point where they would feel that it is time to say get a job? His position does appear rather odious when considering that, in offering no solution, Allan's ranting amounts to nothing more than a call to hide the problem from view. I think the first gentleman was correct...this is hardly something which would make anyone want to become a conservative.

Matthew said...

They are not so much being forced from a public meeting place as they are being prohibited from claiming public ground as their home. The ruling defends the people from those who are abusing the reason for Bronson Park existing in the first place.

Do we have Bronson Park for the purpose of someone living there? Is that why it exists?

The tragedy of the commons tells us how with any common good there is a race to see who can extract as much from it as possible. If common ground is to survive, some rules may have to be made to defend this land from those who would abuse its common status.

Anonymous said...

It is hard to say Bronson Park was being overused Matthew. Before the ruling went into effect, when was the last time you visited the park? Hardin's article, where he speaks of grazing on public lands, is an ill-suited argument to invoke if only because the particular ordinance seems to only apply to Bronson Park, i.e. the central park in downtown Kalamazoo. If you cannot show that others were being prevented from enjoying the park because of the homeless, then you have failed to adequately show how this ruling does more than simply hide the problem of homelessness from public view.

Matthew said...

I was actually at Bronson Park a couple weeks ago for a meeting with the WSA cabinet and a couple of WMU staffers. While there, we were approached multiple times by panhandlers, one of which began screaming obsentities at us. I can't imagine any family wanting to take their children to such an enviornment; or at least, I would advise against it.

I can only imagine that without laws preventing people from living in Bronson Park we would have people living in Bronson Park. While our opinions may differ, I see this as being an overuse of the intentions of the Park with the potential for a slippery slope to further abuse.

Even if you don't agree that this is an abuse or overuse of the public land, I would hope you could see how reasonable people could think that it is. Making that concession, you can see how that public land use can inherently create problems that private land does not.

Anonymous said...

I am not arguing against the tragedy of the commons. I am simply questioning how well it applies here. The reason I questioned when you were last in the park is because I have been down there many times and never once was I approached. Forgive me but given your stance on these issues, I can only imagine some comment or other was made to individuals asking for money to prompt such a responce from them. And Matthew, have you never been asked for change before? Honestly, if that is your grounds for claiming overuse, then the homeless should have no right to even appear in public at all. Hiding the problem is not the solution.

Matthew said...

To my knowledge the individual who made the profane outburst (or any others asking for money) received no rude response. It is unfortunate you would assume the worst from the WSA cabinet. A staff member of WMU whom I would consider to be at a high level within the university actually spoke to the individual for about five minutes in private. I'm not certain of what was said between them, but given the staff member's reputation and my personal experience with her I would assume that nothing rude was said either. A few minutes later the individual was yelling profanity at our group from across the park; anyone within 1000 feet of this individual could have probably heard what was said.

Regardless, this was an isolated incident and shouldn't necessarily be the bases of any laws pro or against any homeless in Bronson.

My point is that with public land things like this can happen. A park designed to be a place where people can get together to meet and relax can be overrun by individuals using that place as a home.

If you own your own property, you can use it as a home, if you want. You could also use it as a place where people can meet and relax. However, in the tragedy of the commons, you have competing interests for the land's use and likely none of the people using that land will be satisfied with how it is ultimately utilized. Bronson Park is a great example of this tragedy. Whether or not the homeless should be banned from entering is another debate altogether; however the tragedy of the commons is an application of Bronson Park and the competing interests for how that public land is to be utilized.

Anonymous said...

If the regulation applies only to Bronson Park and not to any of the other parks in the downtown area, there is little you can say to make it seem as if the point of this is not to keep the homeless out of sight of City Hall and the County Courthouse. Moving the homeless from Bronson simply moves them to these other locations or to situations where they might seek shelter in abandoned houses or even to less attractive alternatives.

Matthew said...

Or perhaps moving them from Bronson Park creates a greater incentive for them to not remain homeless. Or perhaps it creates a greater incentive for individuals to donate to private charities to assist the homeless.

Homelessness is a problem, I agree. I also think that we should be concerned about the problem and many require our compassion and assistance.

However, with that, there is a time and place for this to occur. The purpose of Bronson Park is not to be a home to the homeless. Compassion should be given, but Bronson is not the appropriate venue.