Saturday, January 14, 2006

Michael: Two Arizona Cities Named in Top 20 Meanest Cities

National Coalition for the Homeless issued their annual report 'A Dream Denied: The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities' for 2006 which names Flagstaff (#10) and Phoenix (#17) among the 20 meanest cities in America.

Some of the most serious problems that the homeless face are the lack of social services, the lack of affordable housing, and the outlawing of the very status of homelessness by criminalizing or otherwise restricting 'urban camping', loitering, panhandling, busking, open-air feedings, and other activities associated with homelessness.

Each city named in the top 20 has a narrative account that explains how they were selected to be on the list.

Flagstaff's reads:

Soon anyone camping or sleeping in a car or in public within the Flagstaff city limits may be subject to trespassing and camping violations, totaling up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail time. The current ordinance’s wording only allows prosecution of people arrested in city parks. City Attorney Patricia Boomsma supports the new, stricter ordinance, because “[…] prosecutors need to prosecute the person actually doing the camping.” The proposed ordinance aims to eliminate litter, human waste, and illicit campfires. According to Flagstaff chief of police, J.T. McCann, the ordinance is intended to promote public safety. However, local service providers, such as Stephanie Boardman of Hope Cottage, believe these ordinances are counter-productive, especially to the domestic violence victims that Hope Cottage takes in. Boardman said, “A lot of them are embarrassed to go to shelters. They just want their freedom. You penalize the people in crisis because 10, 15, 20 people are really causing an upheaval.” While Flagstaff law enforcement officials have written 162 citations for camping, all charges were dropped because camping is not yet illegal in the city.

And Phoenix reads:

The Phoenix City Council voted to ban camping in all city parks in order to preserve the parks as “family places” in December 2004. The measure was aimed at keeping homeless people from areas where children and others gather. Even though few of the homeless people caused trouble, “many people are intimidated by the homeless and won’t use the park.” Homeless advocates argued that the ordinance would not solve the problem. According to Jeff Taylor of the Phoenix Rescue Mission, “If you close the parks, homeless individuals will gravitate to another area. This will squeeze individuals into other areas where they may be more invisible.” The Executive Director of the Phoenix Rescue Mission, Jerry Sandvig, doesn’t see any alternative with such an overwhelming homeless population in Phoenix, saying, “There really isn’t any place for them to go.”

Not all the news is bad, however. Several cities around the nation have model programs that are addressing the problems of those who have fallen into poverty and homelessness in the Bush's ever more inequitable economy.

Many communities have formed outreach teams that pair community-policing trained officers with a civilian partner who was formerly homeless and often trained in crisis intervention and psychiatric evaluation to make contact and encourage access to services. Training to raise awareness of the problems faced by the homeless and to teach the most effective ways to address those problems have been made manditory at some police departments.

Some communities have created day centers to give homeless people a place to access vital services such as laundry, health care, meals, hygene, psychiatric care, and legal, employment, and housing counseling, substance abuse treatment and case management. San Diego is now bringing the legal system into homeless shelters. Though often ticketed for misdeamor offenses, many of the homeless, struggling with daily survival, do not have the resources to inerface normally with the criminal justice system. Warrants and accumulating fines compound their legal troubles. The Homeless Court Program brings the court to the shelters once a month to help resolve such issues before they cause incarceration, which can prevent access to needed services and programing needed to escape from homelessness.

Arizona is, for obvious reasons, a favored place to winter for people who are both homeless and peripatetic. Rather than reacting to the challenge that this population poses to public order with criminalization, Arizona cities should be responding in a constructive fashion, seeking to help our fellow citizens to address their troubles and get back on their feet. We should aim to remove Arizona's cities from the list of the 20 meanest in America.


At 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hooray for AZ

At 4:52 PM, Blogger Tery Spataro said...

Hi Michael, I read the report A Dream Denied recently when I reported on the insensitive usage of homeless in the commercial for web dot com: The homeless plight in this country is horrible and so ignored.

Not sure if you know but Waste Not Celebrity Chef Challenge is happening this month to help feed the Valley's less fortunate.

At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jerry Sandvig and Jeff Taylor have misled our community at every step of the way and continue to do so with their proposed Changing Lives Women and Childrens Center. Most of the Board and those that work for Phoenix Rescue Mission live north of Bethany Home and in other Phoenix Metro Communities. We have enough shelters in our neighborhood. In fact we have approximately 80% of the Phoenix Metro's services for homeless in our district. We do not need another shelter poorly planned without proper state permits needed for programs like that are planned at the Changing Lives Center. Please stay in your own neighborhood and let us take care of our homeless in our neighborhood. Thanks. Marshall

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

both phoenix and tempe have municipal homeless courts now though...

At 1:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Great Court Robbery is about to be completed with the Tower for those who can afford highest priced lawyers.
Hope of reduced traffic congestion and orderly growth in the distant future dimmed last week with two revelations. First, our population is expected to double in the next twenty-five years. Sooner if California has another earthquake. Second, the public and growth be damned, they will not decentralize.
Where can we place the blame? Not the financial community, there is a bank branch and broker in every population center. Not the medical profession, hospitals and medical centers have been suburban trailblazers. Its our alleged public servants who enjoy reserved parking places in offices far from their constituents that have determined that all shall travel to an area where few live, other than the homeless to acquire legal relief or be forced to participate in what they refer to as the justice system.
In a reversal of prior policy, Mesa is destined to lose jury trials according to the Chief Superior Court Judge. As far as I can tell the problem is that it is too popular. Everyone wants to go there rather than downtown. People on the West side want the same advantage of convenience, reduced expense, organization and consistency rather than judicial rotation.
That will not do, so the country supervisors bowed to the downtown law firms and agreed only nominal satellite Courts will be established. Like the City of Phoenix that operates one giant Court, although it is larger than some states. Maricopa County is larger than most states will hold all jury trials and house prisoners a few blocks from City Hall in an area where over a billion dollars is invested for entertainment, sports and convention center.
The sheeple (blind followers) just don't bother to question the plan. It is not more efficient, overall economical, convenient, or less likely to be corrupted. The rest of the world is wrong maintaining that smaller Judicial Districts with 5 to 15 judges are better, more effective, in addition to fostering respect, accountability and having the ability to dispense justice. Are they afraid we will lose our number one standings. In the undesired categories. Tent City for example punishes people before they are proven to have committed an offense.

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothin beats Camping period , definetly aint a crime even if its in your car.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous arizona carpet cleaners said...

I am a bit surprised that Flagstaff is on this list. Phoenix? Well, they are the 4th largest city.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger alyssa said...

thank for this posting of all cities name.


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At 2:25 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Surprised about Flag...I'm not...the cops there are di#ks and extremely unreasonable and ridiculous. Cop to citizen ratio 2:1 no joke...How are they going to say camping is a crime...unbelievable...we the people need to be aware that our constitutional rights are quickly being taken away right underneath our noses by our government and we are ust letting it happen. We all should be committed to a rehab center

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Dr. Health said...

The Homeless Court Program brings the court to the shelters once a month to help resolve such issues before they cause incarceration, which can prevent access to needed services and programing needed to escape from homelessness.

At 9:57 PM, Anonymous arizona high school basketball said...

Phoenix is fine but Flagstaff? Was it based on someone getting poor treatment at a restaurant or hotel??

At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Clear Skin Max acne remedy said...

I was there few years ago but I didn't like it too much.

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