Locking up homeless isn’t the answer

Marcel Scott, Opinion Editor

“I enjoy not having a home, being hungry, thirsty, unemployed, and criminalized for being poor,” said no one ever.

Walnut Creek has a population of 72 homeless people, according to a study conducted at the beginning of this year, which isn’t exactly bad for a city with a population of over 65,000. For whatever reason, the Walnut Creek City Council seems to be having a hard time deciding what to do with what one reader called an “overflow of homeless” in a letter to Beyond the Creek blog.

So far, the council has proposed to open a shelter on Carmel Drive by Civic Park, hoping to use an armory as an encampment for up to 30 homeless a night.

Once the group are inside, they will be locked in and watched by hired guards…which reminds me of something…oh yeah, a debtor’s prison.

In the morning, the 30 residents will be put on a bus and sent to the Trinity Center, where they’ll spend their day, and then shuttled back to the armory at night. Basically prison yard during the day, jail cell at night.

Perhaps City Council members have tried to compromise too much with residents, and have swung their proposal drastically in the wrong direction.

The Contra Costa Times reported Councilmen Richard Carlston as saying, “Many or most (homeless people) cause no problem but there is an element…that engages in criminal, threatening and inappropriate behavior.” Which seems to translate to: homeless people cause no problems, but just the mere fact of having them around seems criminal.

The Walnut Creek City Council needs to take a step back, and look at what they’re creating. They’re dehumanizing a group of people that haven’t done anything wrong; setting up a shelter is one thing, but creating a prison is another.

Being poor in Walnut Creek will become a crime.

What is plaguing the City Council, more than the homeless themselves, is the possibility of declining property values due to the homeless.

What Walnut Creek needs to create is a shelter that helps people through a tough time. They need to make a place where people can find work, learn trade skills, be fed, clothed, and have a place to sleep.

The council would be better off building a commune to house the homeless, where a self-sufficient community would grow their own fruits and vegetables, and each member would be expected to contribute in order to stay.

But perhaps my socialist mind is too drastic for this city. Maybe we just need more reasons to send people to jail…